Oh Boy. Jones Bar-B-Q. What a wonderful visit to a very special barbecue joint. Or diner, because they actually call themselves Jones Bar-B-Q Diner.
But if you are expecting the usual diner experience, booths, tables, pie case, you are mistaken. There are two tables in this diner, and one of them is mostly blocking the window through which you order. So, think takeout. But oh man. What great takeout it is.
Here’s a picture of the order window and menu.
Let’s start at the beginning. It turns out the restaurant has been here in one form or another and selling BBQ for 100 years, even though their road sign says they’ve been serving it up since 1964.
This is James Jones, but everyone calls him Mr. Raymond. He let me pester him with questions. In 2012, Jones Bar-B-Q Diner was awarded an American Classic award by the James Beard Foundation. Which, as you know, is a VERY BIG DEAL. When I talked with Mr. Raymond about it, his take was that it was an award for all of Arkansas, “for everybody,” as he said. A humble man, indeed. Oh, but he was pleased to have taken the trip. He said it was his first vacation in 45 years, and they treated him like a king. Well deserved.
So let’s talk food. It’s great. I started out buying two pulled pork sandwiches, two pounds of pulled pork and a bottle of his homemade sauce to take home.
The sandwiches are composed of two slices of thick white bread, a handful of pulled pork, a scoop of mild green coleslaw, and a bit of barbecue sauce. What is especially special about the sandwiches is just how perfectly balanced the sandwich is. None of the elements outperform another. The sandwich is lightly smoked from the pulled pork, lightly sweet from coleslaw and lightly tangy from the barbecue sauce. Just a perfect win-win-win. I went back inside and purchased a third sandwich for the ride home.
This is the pitmaster. After eating two sandwiches on the hood of my car, and buying a third for the ride home, I snuck around the back of the restaurant, following the smoke, and knocked on the screen door. I asked if I could come in and take a few pictures. He said, “why sure!” and I was in! (I took a whole lot of photos. To be sure, I am always like a kid in a candy store when I get to look at another man’s smoker.)
Jones’ firebox is well separated from the smoker. I didn’t ask why, but maybe it was for fire safety, or perhaps since this is a house, the fireplace was where it was historically. (Mr. and Mrs. Jones live upstairs from the restaurant.)