Time is an amazing thing. Especially living in any decent sized city. What time makes new today it will bulldoze tomorrow. We see that a lot in the food industry. Everyone is entranced with the next new thing. South on Main, Cache, or whatever Donnie Ferneau and Lee Richardson are coming out with.
We often get caught up in whatever the new thing is that time has given us that sometimes we forget to look at some of the places time forgot. So when it came to making a food voyage we were excited to make the trip east on I-40 to Marianna.
Jones Bar-B-Q is certainly not unknown. Last year Jones became the first and, unless the Hive pulls it off this year, the only restaurant in Arkansas to receive a prestigious James Beard Award in 2012 for an American Classic restaurant.
Time, it seems, keeps her most amazing magic tricks for those few lucky enough to survive her gaze. She makes them new and interesting again. Not that any of that matters to the third generation owner Harold Jones.
Driving past the run down, and boarded up buildings of Marianna gives you a sense of how special Jones really is. Time has been hard on the delta area. Family farms have been replaced with large corporate estates. Most local family owned businesses gave it up years ago and sent their younger generations in more prosperous directions. Yet as you turn down a residential street there is Jones. Looking the same as it has for the last 50 years.
Jones began selling BBQ over 100 years ago in the same general place they sell it now. Walter Jones along with his brother Joe Jones. They built the current building in 1964 and have smoked and served their legendary pork ever since.
A step into Jones’ smokehouse shows you just how little has changed. The three room building has a small room to the right with a fireplace where they originally smoked meats. They quickly built a third room with several large pits for smoking pork and any other animals the locals want to throw on to cook. The main room contains a mix of furniture, bottles for slaw, and wood for the fire.
Inside Jones’ white cinderblock restaurant stands 2 small tables with an assortment of chairs and clippings on the wall. The menu is simple. Pork sandwich or pork by the pound, plus a listing of how much each additional pound costs for those who do not add so well. Time seems to have forgotten the prices as well. $3 for a sandwich, $6 for a pound. Most of these hot new restaurants will not even serve you water for that price.
The food is exactly what you would expect. A quality that has allowed it to stand the test of time. They do one thing and do it damn well, something many up and coming restaurants could learn from. There is not much to review about a pork sandwich other than it is good. But if you are into that thing check out what our friend Dan has to say who went with us on the journey.
Above the corner of the menu, hung in a slightly crooked shadow box, sets the most prestigious medal in food. The Beard award.
For Harold Jones it is just something else to hang on the wall. Jones’ has been around long before the first Beard award was handed out, and it feels like it could outlast the last one. It may outlast Harold, me, and most of you reading this. I somehow think time smiles a bit at the thought.