Some longtime participants in the Network for Educator Effectiveness know I happen to frequent local BBQ establishments while making my way to NEE schools. I’m not ashamed to admit my desire for a good BBQ meal has influenced the paths I take to my destinations.

As we celebrate 10 years of NEE service, we have developed several NEE-related “top 10” lists this year (#NEETurns10). In this blog, we’re going to have some fun as I share with you 10 of my favorite BBQ locations along the NEE trail. I’m sure there are other fine providers of quality BBQ you might offer as additions to this list, but these are known locations of good-to-excellent BBQ near a NEE school. This list is not in a top-to-bottom order; I’m simply offering this list so if you are ever near one of these locations, you have a good BBQ meal option.

So here we go.

  1. Wabash BBQ in Excelsior Springs, MO: Located in the old Wabash railroad depot behind the historic Elms Hotel in Excelsior Springs (just down the block from Lewis Elementary, a NEE school), this spot provides both a great meal and a neat historic structure.
  2. Jack Stack BBQ in Martin City, MO: There are several quality KC options, and my list includes three. Leading off this trio is Jack Stack BBQ in Martin City, MO. While there are several locations in KC, I favor this location because it has been there for decades serving great BBQ meats and the best sides on the planet. It’s not especially close to a NEE school (yet), but it’s close enough to Lee’s Summit, Independence, Harrisonville, Pleasant Hill, and Midway R-1 (all NEE districts) to squeeze in a visit when I’m in the area.
  3. Dexter Bar-B-Q in Dexter, MO (with other locations in Sikeston and Poplar Bluff): A solid entry in the southeast Missouri region, this spot has good value and it’s worth the effort to find one of their locations. I’ve been to all three locations multiple times and get my BBQ fix each time.
  4. Sugarfire Smoke House in St. Louis and Springfield, MO: I’ve been to two of their STL locations, and they serve great meats. There’s a good variety of sides that are solid (but not JSB quality). I have not been to their new Springfield location, but I plan to get there soon.
  5. Smokehouse Barbeque in Independence, MO: They have a nice convenient location just off I-70 with good BBQ meats and sides. It’s my favorite when I’m in the east KC metro area for NEE training in Independence or Lee’s Summit, or when I’m on my way up to Liberty 53, Park Hill, or Smithville.
  6. City Butcher and Barbecue in Springfield: This is another convenient location in south Springfield, just off the freeway looping around the south part of SGF. They have good meats, but I’m not a huge fan of their sides. Maybe you will like them better than me.
  7. Hog Tide Bar-B-Que in Aurora, MO: Their award-winning smoked meats are outstanding. I have been to this place more than any other on the list since it is in Aurora (a NEE school) right on Highway 60, which is my primary east-west path to cover the multitude of NEE schools in southwest Missouri. When it opened, this place was near impossible to get a table in less than an hour-wait. It’s better now, so you should be seated quickly except on weekend evenings. People come a fair distance to eat here.
  8. Woody’s Smokehouse BBQ in Joplin, MO: This spot is under the same roof as a gas station. But so is the original Joe’s location in Kansas City, Kansas, so don’t discount the concept. It’s a good meal if you’re in the area. I always time my visit to Carl Junction (a NEE school) so I can grab lunch at Woody’s.

The final two locations are outside Missouri but in the NEE territories of Kansas and Nebraska, so I’m adding them to the list.

  1. Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que in Leawood, KS: This is one of Joe’s three locations that each offer the same award-winning meats and great sides (nearly as good as JSB). Expect long lines. I often call in my order for pickup so I don’t stand in line for an hour or more. I’m a big fan of their Joe’s sweet BBQ sauce. It’s the best.
  2. Hog Wild Pit Bar-B-Q in Lincoln, NE: This spot is not fancy but offers a good BBQ meal. I stop there on my way through Lincoln to visit our Nebraska NEE schools. It’s on the north part of town along Cornhusker Highway (Route 6). It’s worth finding if you are in Lincoln.

There you have it — my list of the 10 best BBQ spots along the NEE trail. It has some good geographic coverage with a driving distance between Dexter, MO, and Lincoln, NE, of 600 miles. That 600-mile distance is not NEE’s entire footprint; that would be the 802 miles between Hayti, MO, and Merna, NE. I’ve been to both very different rural NEE schools with their strong agriculture-based economic areas. One has cotton as far as you can see while the other sits in a broad valley landscape of the best corn on Earth. In both locations, and at every school in between, NEE works to support their dedicated teachers and school leaders as they provide the best possible education to the children of their communities.

Dr. Marc Doss is co-founder and Expansion Director for the Network for Educator Effectiveness. He has 30 years of experience in the classroom and education administration at the building and district levels.


The Network for Educator Effectiveness (NEE) is a simple yet powerful comprehensive system for educator evaluation that helps educators grow, students learn, and schools improve. Developed by preK-12 practitioners and experts at the University of Missouri, NEE brings together classroom observation, student feedback, teacher curriculum planning, and professional development as measures of effectiveness in a secure online portal designed to promote educator growth and development.