Jones Bar-B-Q Diner – Marianna, Arkansas - Gastro Obscura
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Marianna, Arkansas

Jones Bar-B-Q Diner

The most acclaimed eatery in Arkansas is a two-table diner on the ground floor of a family home. 

Jones Bar-B-Q, a two-table eatery in the town of Marianna, is the only restaurant in Arkansas to ever receive a James Beard Award. The owners, James and Betty Jones, hadn’t even heard of the awards before winning in the 2012 “America’s Classics” category.

The small diner takes up the ground floor of the couple’s home. The sign out front reads “since 1964,” but the operation dates back to at least 1910. James Jones’s family recipes are the same ones that his grandfather used when he sold barbecued meat out of his home and that his father used when he opened up an earlier iteration of the restaurant, known as “the Hole in the Wall” (so-called because his father served everything through a window).

Today, James runs the pit and restaurant, while a man named Sylvester chops wood and operates the attached smokehouse, which is a shed. Oak and hickory logs burn in a cinderblock barbecue pit, where pork shoulders—the only meat they sell—smoke for 12 hours at a time. Aside from pork by the pound, the menu also includes sandwiches.

The simplicity of the sandwiches reminds diners that perfect barbecue needs no smoke and mirrors, only smoke. Jones dresses the pork with slightly-sweet vinegar sauce and serves it between white bread. Beyond slaw, sides are nonexistent. As for what makes the ’cue so special? Jones’s sauce and slaw recipes are top-secret, not even his wife knows what’s in them.

Know Before You Go

The restaurant opens at 7:00 a.m. and closes when it sells out. This could happen at 10:00 a.m., so come early if you want to ensure that there's smoked pork with your name on it.

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