The Best Places to Visit, As Told by Rail Cars: Exploring the Best Spots for BBQ

Take a virtual ride along one of our favorite rail routes through Kansas City, St. Louis and Memphis

Medium Retina | Exploring the Best Spots for BBQ

If rail cars could talk, what would they tell you about their journey and the best places to visit along the way?

Take a virtual tour of one of our favorite rail routes — Kansas City to St. Louis to Memphis.

From the East Coast to the West Coast and everywhere in between, trains are traveling across the U.S. all day, every day. With so many sights to see along popular rail corridors, we started to wonder: If freight cars could talk, what would they tell you about their journey and the best places to visit along the way?

While Class I railroads do not ship passengers, in our series, “The Best Places to Visit, As Told by Rail Cars,” you have the rare opportunity to take a virtual ride with some of the most seasoned rail travelers (aka rail cars) as they share their favorite destinations along popular train and road trip routes.

In this installment, Boxcar Barry, a rail car who rides the rails across the Midwest and Southern U.S., shares his favorite spots to visit when he travels through Kansas City, St. Louis and Memphis.

Meet Boxcar Barry

Favorite rail corridor: Any stop where I can find good BBQ, especially KC, St. Louis and Memphis.
Words to live by: May you always be surrounded by good friends, good music and better barbecue.
What he carries: When it comes to moving freight, I am a straight shooter – no people, pets or other living things allowed. What do I carry? Just about anything else – including many ingredients for great barbecue, including sugar, tomato sauce and paste!

1) Kansas City, Missouri

Original | Kansas City

Kansas City, Missouri

Why it’s hot: This city is serious about barbecue. With more than 100 barbecue restaurants to visit, it is my personal goal to try each and every one of them. The secret to KC-style barbecue is that it’s slow smoked for up to 18 hours, usually over hickory. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.

Did you know?
This city is also known for its swingin’ jazz, with a rich history that began all the way back in the 1920s. On any given night, live jazz can be heard at more than 20 area nightclubs where you can hear bands break it down into the wee hours of the morning.

Favorite spot: As a train lover (no surprise there!), one of my most favorite spots to visit in Kansas City is Union Station. It’s the second-largest working train station in the nation, right behind New York City’s Grand Central Station. Not only is it a hub for rail travelers, it houses a science center, rail museum (another one of my favorites), theater district and restaurants. 

2) St. Louis, Missouri

Original | St. Louis

St. Louis, Missouri

Why it’s hot: Many folks might overlook St.Louis as just another place to pass through, but don’t let this Midwestern city fool you. Known as the “Gateway to the West,” where pioneers began their journey to conquer the Wild West, St. Louis is home to the iconic Gateway Arch, now a beloved U.S. monument, standing 630 feet tall. But that’s not all. From museums, to amusement parks, botanical gardens and amazing blues clubs, you’ll find something for everyone here. And don’t forget about the barbecue! And the best part – many of the attractions in this town are very affordable. Some are even FREE.

Did you know? Being a seasoned rail traveler, I love the fact that this town has its own trolley. Traveling along a 2.2-mile, fixed-route track, you can reach the country’s “#1 City Park,” Forest Park, and “One of the 10 Greatest Streets in America,” Delmar Boulevard. The trolley route includes ten stops and links up with two metro transit stations along the way.

Favorite spot: The more BBQ, the better! And the people of St. Louis know it. More barbecue sauce is consumed per capita here than any other city. So, when I roll into town, it’s hard to pick just one — Pappy’s, BBQ ASAP, The BBQ Saloon and many more, are on my list of joints to visit.

3) Memphis, Tennessee

Original | Memphis

Memphis, Tennessee

Why it’s hot: Oh, M Town. This is a city after my own heart, it’s the pork barbecue capital of the world! Rated number two by Condé Nast Traveler magazine as “America’s Best Barbecue” this city is famous for its dry ribs, rubbed with a delicious combination of seasonings, slow-smoked over hickory wood. Even barbecue pizza, nachos and barbecue spaghetti were invented here — genius. With over 100 barbecue restaurants in this town, I am in heaven — hog heaven, that is!

Did I also mention all of the delicious side dishes that accompany that scrumptious barbecue? I am proud to say rail plays a big part in delivering the onions and carrots for coleslaw, potatoes, and rice and grains for corn bread, mac and cheese — and much more.

Did you know? Known worldwide as the "Home of the Blues & Birthplace of Rock 'n' Roll,” not to mention gospel, jazz, R&B, rap and soul. Close to 20 percent of the earliest inductees (24 of the 97) in the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame have come from within a 100-mile radius of Memphis. And don’t forget, Memphis is home to Graceland, home of Elvis Presley, the second most visited private residence in the United States next to the White House in Washington, D.C. Thank you, thank you very much.

Favorite spot: If you want to immerse yourself in Memphis culture, make sure you take a trip to Beale Street, one of the most iconic streets in America. This area features three blocks of blues and jazz nightclubs, restaurants (Yes, more barbecue!) and shops right in the heart of downtown Memphis. Soak it all in as you walk down this historic street where blues was born and legends, like B.B. King, Alberta Hunter and Isaac Hayes, were discovered. Be prepared though. This area can get a little crowded, but the amazing music and unbelievable barbecue are well worth it.

I hope you have enjoyed my top picks for barbecue and much more. If you are ever traveling through these famed barbecue cities, make sure you stop and take some time to savor the sights, sounds and most of all — that unforgettable barbecue flavor!

If you're interested in learning more about the key locations and markets trains travel to across the U.S., give us a shout

Want to take another virtual ride? Check out the first installment in this series — The Best Places to Visit, As Told by Rail Cars: Cruising the Pacific Coast.

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