Kechi is only a few miles north of Wichita. But if you’re not paying attention, it’s easy to miss it.
It’s centered on North 61st and Oliver, and during the mile stretch of road that makes up the town center, there are nearly as many signs imploring you to “shop Kechi” as there are businesses at which you could heed this encouragement. With the apparent shuttering of a place serving bierocks, there is now only one restaurant in Kechi, and though it’s become the de facto best restaurant in the town, it doesn’t need the qualifiers because Geno’s Bar B-Q is among the best barbecue I’ve had in the area.
There are plenty of options for barbecue in Wichita, though many of them aren’t successful. You need to be able to balance flavor, moisture, and – most importantly – connective tissue’s conversion from tough collagen to lip-smacking gelatin. My experiences in Wichita have often resulted in being let down with the later two parts of that triumvirate. It’s left me a little cynical, which is why I wasn’t expecting much from the homey and knickknack-laden confines of Geno’s. I kept an open mind though as I ordered four different meats piled onto a sandwich.
The more barbecue restaurants I visit, the more I realize that the concept of a “smokestack” sandwich permeates subconsciously from one place to the next. It’s a good idea, and one that allows you to try three different meats at the same time, allowing for a gluttonous taste of pulled pork, brisket and sausage in one bite. Though in my case, I took it to the next level and added a rib to the party.
No matter where you go, you should be able to find a decent sausage, and Geno’s was no different, supplying a snappy casing with a finely textured filling studded with red pepper flakes for a little bit of heat. If there is a successful meat on a Wichita barbecue menu, it’s usually from the pig, and at Geno’s, this assumption holds true. The smoky and moist pork had excellent bark (the wonderful blackened caramelization of proteins and spices on the meat’s exterior) plus a little something extra. I tasted some cumin and chile, though when I pressed the owner about it, she admitted to adding some chicken seasoning. It made for a pulled pork that was different enough to stand out without upsetting purists.
To my surprise, even the brisket was executed successfully. The lean cut of the cow is a challenge for pitmasters outside of Texas, but the cuts at Geno’s straddle that line between tender and moist well, though as a result, you’re not going to see much of that wonderful pink smoke ring around the meat’s cross section. For that you can look to the ribs. Anyone claiming the meat falls off the bone is being disingenuous; the meat has the right amount of cling so that it provides a bit of resistance when you bite into it but pulls away from the bone so cleanly that it warrants taking a picture and sharing with your friends.
Or maybe not. In the age of social media and online promotion being a cornerstone to most modern businesses, Geno’s has managed to keep its weekend-only operation going strong despite a lack of much online presence. It’s a testament to the food. Geno’s deserve more recognition than it’s received.
Ratings reflect the critic’s judgment of the food, service and atmosphere in relation to the price. If you would like to nominate a restaurant to be reviewed, call 316-268-6327.
Geno’s Bar B-Q
Where: 140 S. Oliver, Kechi, 316-744-1497
Hours: 5 to 8 p.m. Fridays, noon to 7 p.m. Saturdays, noon to 3 p.m. Sundays
Type of food: Barbecue