Jones Bar-B-Q Diner

Jones Bar-B-Q Diner

Black-owned small business since 1910

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The History of Jones Bar-B-Que Diner: Arkansas's Oldest Black Family Owned Business

Jadaijah Scaife

May 13, 2022

Jones Bar-B-Q Diner, a nationally known eatery in Marianna, Arkansas (Lee County) is the oldest continuously operating restaurant in Arkansas, as well as the oldest continuously operating restaurant in the South owned by a black family, currently 111 years old. The business started out as a whole in the wall operated by Uncle Joe {date unknown}. In 1910 nephew Walter Jones cooked at his house located on Florida Street using his homemade underground pit. After the retiring of Walter Jones his son Hubert Jones continued the tradition of cooking delicious barbeque. He would serve the public on weekends in downtown Marianna. In 1964 Hubert & Ruby Jones had a business built on 219 W Louisiana Street. They stayed upstairs in a one bedroom house called the Tree Top. Upon retirement in 1983 their 7th oldest son James H. Jones Sr. along with baby brother Gerald Jones took over the family business. The two worked side by side for several years until the younger brothers death, leaving leaving Mr. Harold as they call him to work alone. He added a couple more people to help man the cooking pits, Sylvester and Theopolis. The son James H. Jones Jr. and wife Betty would often work after school, on weekends, and during the summer. His brother Davie Jones started his own Jones branch providing Catering Services. The Business is currently in its 4th Generation under current Owner/Pitmaster James H. Jones Sr. His son James H. Jones Jr. who is an Educator in the Pine Bluff School District located in Pine Bluff, Arkansas will be the 5th Generation owner upon his Dad's retirement. In 2019 Mr. Jones was able to established another Jones location in Jacksonville, Arkansas under the management of Kevin Arnold a friend of the family who has studied under the legendary Pit Master. Jones has also elevated his barbeque game and is now shipping meat and sauce product across the country through Goldbelly. Jones is in process of trying get the family business recognized as an Historical Landmark.


Hickory, Oak, and Pecan Woods are used to smoke meats daily.

Cook “Spanky Theopolis Binion with a great big smile. Behind him is a stack of wood that is used to cook the meat.

Older brick cinderblock pits are where Jones cooks his whole pork shoulders and customers meats. Pictured here is employee Theopolis “Spanky" Binion who helps Mr Jones with the cooking. He is showing a news reporter the daily cooking operations.

The famous pork chopped sandwich on white bread served with the famous vinegar based sauce with or without homemade coleslaw.

Jones slow cooks his pork shoulders for 8-12 hours on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday of each week.

The price is $4.00 per sandwich. You can add a bag of chips, soda, or snack cake as extras.

Other items include fresh pork skins, bologna sandwiches, and hot links

Daily Preparation: Mr. Jones wakes up each morning at 3:00 AM in preparation for the next business day.

Storyline: In the early part of 2012, Jones Bar-B-Q in Marianna became the first (and to this day, only) restaurant in Arkansas to receive a prestigious James Beard Award. Jones was honored by the Beard Foundation as one of its “American Classics,” and praised for their commitment to quality and respect for their heritage. In their press release, The Beard Foundation praised Jones as a “beacon of community pride and continuity.”

The Devastating Fire of Feb. 2021:

The fire was caused by grease from the pork shoulders, and spread to the roof of the smoking room at the rear of the restaurant.

Storyline: A grease fire that started in the barbecue pit of Jones’ Bar-B-Q Diner spread to the roof and burned 70 percent of the restaurant.

Smoke doesn’t normally concern James Harold Jones. It was the flames he saw in the barbecue pit at Jones’ Bar-B-Q Diner, his family’s restaurant in Marianna, Ark., that made him worry on Sunday morning.

“I don’t usually have no flame,” Mr. Jones said of his time-honored technique for cooking pork shoulders over low heat. “I have coals.”

The fire, which started in the two smokers, burned 70 percent of the century-old restaurant, one of the oldest continuously operated Black owned business in the country. No one besides Mr. Jones was inside, and no one was injured, but alarm quickly spread across the state and beyond over the fate of a historic place that serves just one dish — pulled pork, on Wonder Bread or by the pound — in an Arkansas Delta town with a population of 4,100.

The Rebuilding of Jones Bar B Que:

It would be a long journey to get back in business. It took a total of five months for everything get pieced back together. But with all the donations from the public and assistance from GoFundMe Mr. Jones was able to began the rebuilding process.

Jones Bar-B-Q reopens following massive fire 5 months ago

The GRAND REOPENING: MARIANNA, Ark — It's been almost five months since James Harold Jones was last able to do what he does best – serving BBQ at the restaurant he's worked at for decades.

Over 70 people showed up from all over Arkansas and the country at the diner Wednesday for their grand reopening.


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