Okay, here's the quick rundown of the Kansas City, Missouri, experience. More details and photos are at the link below.
(1) Arthur Bryant's (Brooklyn Ave.). Nice atmosphere. This was one of the few KC joints where the pits weren't totally hidden from view. I got a sliced beef sandwich, fries, and burnt ends. The beef in the sandwich wasn't bad at all--fairly moist and with good smoke flavor. It wasn't tender and flavorful enough to be enjoyable straight, but in the sandwich format, it was pretty good. Some of the better beef I had in KC. The burnt ends were a flop. Mostly interior meat (i.e., no crust) that had been tossed in their tangy orange sauce which overwhelmed the flavor of the beef. These were the weakest burnt ends of the trip. The fries were okay, but didn't live up to their billing. Overall, I thought it was a pretty good barbecue joint.
(2) Filling Station (Lee's Corner). Kind of quaint in a yuppified sort of way. Ribs were too tender and had a squishy exterior (probably from having been stored a while, possibly overnight). Burnt ends were crusty and smoky, but far too dry to be enjoyable. The soupy beans weren't among the better ones I had in KC, but were still very good. Not a bad place, but not good enough that I'd go back.
(3) Wabash (Excelsior Springs). Train station turned barbecue joint. Beans had a pronounced chemical taste (liquid smoke?). Steak-cut fries were pretty good. I'd heard great things about the ribs, so I ordered a short end. Great smokiness and pork flavor, but comically over-tender. No joke...when I picked up the ribs by the tip of the bones, the meat slid right off in one piece onto the plate. Had the pork not been cooked down to baby food texture, they could have been outstanding.
(4) Snead's (south of Martin City). Cool presentation of the beans in a mini-crock, though they were a little too sweet for my taste. Ordered a "brownie" platter, half beef, half ham. The beef brownies (or burnt ends) were among the better ones I had in KC. A little tough, but good crust and smokiness and not totally dry, as some had been. The ham brownies were just cubed smoked ham--nothing brown about them. Forgot to get the "log sandwich," till it was too late. The place had promise, though. I'd go back.
(5) LC's (Blue Parkway). One of the better vibes of any of the KC places I went to. I always like to see the pit front and center, as it was here. I got there a while before they opened, though, and the pit wasn't working. They didn't fire it up till about 20 minutes before opening time, which meant that the meats I was served weren't at peak freshness. Got a short end of ribs. Meat was firm, but not tough, and very, very smoky. Good flavor, though the texture would have been better had they been fresher. Beans were outstanding--among the best of the trip. Burnt ends (pictured below), for which I'd had high hopes, were a dud. Crusty, but in a very carbony way, tough, and dry. I've seen pictures of burnt ends from LC's before and they looked much, much juicier than what I was served. I must have hit them on an off day. I wanted to go back and try again, but time didn't permit it.
(6) Fiorella's Jack Stack (Martin City). Lamb ribs were moderately smoky and with a slight gaminess; not very meaty, but pretty good. Brisket was of a good sandwich-grade--moist and fairly smoky, but rubbery in texture and lacking intensity of flavor. Burnt ends were the best of the trip--juicy and with a pretty good crust, though the fat hadn't quite reached that point of perfection where it instantly dissolves in your mouth. Cheesy corn was interesting and much better than I expected--silky smooth and very rich. The beans absolutely knocked my socks off; they were the best thing I ate on the entire trip. Spare ribs were very good--smoky, not over-tender (like many had been on this trip), and with a very good pork flavor. The spare ribs here were probably the best meat I had in this trip to KC.
In all, it was a lot of fun. Some of the meats didn't live up to expectations. But a lot of the joints had history and character to burn. And those beans...man, I wish we could get barbecued beans that good in Texas!
Thanks for everyone's help!