Hearing very sad news from Marianna this morning that the iconic Jones’s BBQ has burned. I don’t know any details.
— Davy Carter (@DavyCarter) February 28, 2021
A fire at the fabled Jones Bar-B-Q Diner in Marianna? Sad news indeed. I got the word first via Tweet from barbecue aficionado Davy Carter, a reliable source when it comes to food as well as a Marianna native.
A quick Facebook search turned up this video.
In 2012, Jones became the first Arkansas restaurant to receive a James Beard American Classic award. Its chopped pork sandwiches have won national acclaim as a result.
The diner’s Facebook page gives you the flavor of a place that does one thing but does it very well.
Hours are 7 AM until the food runs out.
There is NO MENU. All Jones BBQ Diner serves is a pork BBQ sandwich on Wonder Bread.
Actually, you can buy meat by the pound, cold drinks and chips, too. The sandwich comes with homemade slaw.
No word yet on the extent of the damage, but the Facebook video suggests it was extensive.
Arkansas.com relates this history:
Jones’s barbecue has been a part of the food culture in the Arkansas Delta for more than a century. The Southern Foodways Alliance, an organization “dedicated to the documentation and celebration of the diverse food cultures of the American South,” believes Jones’s to be the oldest African-American owned restaurants in the South and possibly the nation. James Harold Jones, the current owner and pitmaster, says it started with his grandfather’s Uncle Joe. His grandfather and father followed Uncle Joe into the smoking business, selling barbecue out of their homes. It was Jones’s father Hubert that started the diner in 1964. Jones started working in the restaurant when he was 14. He told me the only time his father would let him skip school “was when I was working in the diner.”
UPDATE: Marianna Fire Chief Terry Sandefer tells me the fire, reported about 10:45 a.m., caused about a 70 percent loss to the business, but firefighters were able to keep it mostly contained to the pit area and out of the kitchen and shop area in the front. He said a fire in one of the pits “got away” from Jones as he was preparing this morning to cook pork for the coming week. The business is closed on Sunday.
Sanderfer said no one was hurt and Jones had told him at the scene that he was “going to try to get things back in order.” Between the pork and well-seasoned elements of the pit, “It was a good fire,” Sanderfer said.
Marianna native Buckley O’Mell of Little Rock provided a similar report from Steve Higginbothom, who provided the photo of the burned pit area and also reported, as the chief said, that the front portion of the business appeared intact. Jones also told him he planned to rebuild.
UPDATE: James Jones has set up a Gofundme page with a goal of raising $10,000 to get the business going again. It raised more than $4,000 in the first four hours.