I’m probably prejudiced when I say every Missourian should visit the Truman Library in Independence, MO. My parents were living in Independence when I was born during the Truman Administration. Furthermore, coming out of a family of Democrats (who worshipped FDR because he made sure teachers got paid during the Depression), it always seemed to me as a kid that Harry Truman was a sort of surrogate grandfather. My parents and grandparents reminded me of the Independence link and that he, too, had a little girl, although she was a big girl by then. One of my earliest memories is the photos in National Geographic of the White House’s big interior remake during the Truman Administration.
For the first time since a couple of years after it opened, I recently went back to the Harry S Truman Presidential Library and Museum, enjoyed it immensely, and will return the next time I’m in town. It’s a good reminder of what Missouri politics could be like, in the very best sense of the words. That Thomas Hart Benton mural – Harry and Tom got to be quite the pals – is pretty swell, too.
There’s a good lunch place very close by, and easy to find, which will only enhance things. A Little BBQ Joint (that’s really its name) is just across the street. The entrance in the photo is not what you see from the road; that door is from the parking lot behind the restaurant. The darkish interior as well as the spacious multi-level outdoor area (most of which is covered), is themed to recycled vintage automobiles, many of which are in less-than obvious locations. It’s obvious that the place has gradually expanded with a certain what-the-hell flow of ideas, and while that wouldn’t work at some white-tablecloth spot, it’s surely fun here.
Followers of serious barbecue know that Kansas City is the home of burnt ends, a dish that’s evolved from its origins when they really were the chewy-crisp ends of brisket or ribs, and presumably either scorned or sought-after, the way corner pieces of brownies are. Nowadays they’re cubes of meat – in my experience, usually pork, but I admit that could be a statistical blip – that are rubbed and cooked. They’re boneless, so they sometimes show up in sandwiches. But they are mostly very good eating, and A Little’s burnt ends are exemplary, so good that sauce is superfluous. Tender and smoky and flavorful from their rub, it’s a downright dreamy dish. A pulled pork sandwich, generous in the amount of meat, was juicy, but not so flavorful as the burnt ends.
The house sauces here are sweet, spicy and hot, named Sweet Sister, Mad Housewife and Mean Mother-in-Law. (Yes, sexist. Proceed.) I squirted on both spicy and hot and got things just right for me.
Sides include some standard stuff – fries, beans, cole slaw, a mayonnaise-based potato salad that was fine – and some not-standard stuff. That includes a hot potato salad, which is not German style, but was described as more like potatoes au gratin. It’s not – it seems cheese-free – but it’s a sort of nicely seasoned scalloped potatoes, pieces rather than slices, notes of garlic and thyme, and very tasty despite being a surprise in a barbecue spot. Another uncommon side was cheesy corn. At least it’s uncommon in St. Louis, and elsewhere, but it seems to be a Kansas City thing. Whole kernel corn arrived in a thick white sauce. The savory sauce and the corn, sweet and still slightly crisp, were a good contrast, although I didn’t find the sauce very cheesy at all, unless they’d thrown some cream cheese in it, which was possible. Other versions around town are gooier and use cheddar or another yellow cheese, but this was an easy initiation to the dish, and one can imagine seeing it on tables at a family Easter dinner or such.
Live music on the weekends, and a Wednesday special of smoked meatloaf that intrigues. Pleasant servers, too.
1101 W. Highway 24, Independence, Mo
Lunch and Dinner Tues.-Sun. (close 7 p.m. Sun.)
Credit cards: Yes
Wheelchair access: Fair
Sandwiches & Entrees: $6 - $24