A Special Daily Resource Shared by Kerry Ruff
Monday, February 15th, 2021
Jones Bar-B-Q Diner is a barbecue place in Marianna, Arkansas. There are no real records of when Walter Jones began selling barbecue from the back porch of his dogtrot house but the earliest year is at least 1910. Walter’s original place was called “The Hole in the Wall” since that is all it was; a window in a wall where they sold the meat from a washtub. Walter would sell his barbecue on Fridays and Saturdays and there was nowhere for anyone to sit, you would take your barbecue to go. If you wanted some of the famous sauce Walter created, you would bring your own pint bottle and Walter would fill it up for you. Walter’s son, Hubert Jones would move the business to its current location in 1964 and changed the name to Jones Bar-B-Q. Hubert Jones built the building with his own hands; it is a two story white cinder block shotgun house on a corner lot. The current owner, James Jones who is Hubert’s son, runs the business with his wife of 40-some years, Betty. James smokes about 10-20 pork shoulders over oak and hickory in a pit for at least ten hours three times a week. He then simmers the cooked meat in a sauce in a slow cooker and the sauce is thin and vinegar based and contains paprika and cayenne. The menu only offers chopped pork either by the pound or a sandwich on white bread with or without mustard based coleslaw. The diner opens at 6am, six days a week and closes whenever all of the meat is sold out which could be as early as 10 am or as late as 11 am. James follows the same family recipe as his grandfather and the recipe for his sauce and slaw are top secret, even his wife does not know it. It is believed Jones Bar-B-Q Diner is the oldest continuously operating restaurant in Arkansas and at least the oldest black-owned restaurant in the South and the nation’s oldest restaurant owned by an African American family. History shows that integration arrived early in the South when it came to barbecue. “Before schools, churches, sports teams and even other restaurants in the South got around to lowering the barriers of racial segregation, many of the region’s best barbecue pits maintained a thriving interracial trade” “Whites figured blacks were good at barbecue. Same as they figured we could sing and dance. A lot of black barbecue shacks offered whites early entry at the back door, out of sight, racial barriers were relaxed and white dollars were welcomed.” The diner was named an American Classic in 2012 by the James Beard Foundation and in 2017; it was inducted into the inaugural class of Arkansas Food Hall of Fame. In 2019, Jones Bar-B-Q was named by Food & Wine the best barbecue in Arkansas. Today we honor Walter Jones who wanted to share barbecue with people and created a living legacy for his family by opening a business that still thrives to this day. Thank you Walter Jones, Thank you Hubert Jones and Thank you James Jones. Happy Black History Month.