LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – It has been a year of ups and downs for the team at Jones’ Bar-B-Q Diner, but a new honor has put the Marianna restaurant on an elite list.

The New York Times recently released its 2021 edition of The Restaurant List, showcasing the 50 spots in America the editors said they were “most excited about right now,” with Jones’ Bar-B-Q as the only stop in the Natural State.

The honor bookends a roller-coaster ride of 2021 for the longtime barbecue joint. A fire in one of the pit houses in February shut down the business after more than 70 percent of it was lost.

Harold Jones has been behind the pits for more than 50 years and told WREG-TV that he just started for the day when the fire hit.

Photo courtesy WREG-TV

“I was cooking six Boston Butts, and I fired it up and I went inside for a minute…turned around and come back and it had caught a fire. And it burned from that,” Jones said.

Even with such a setback, the restaurant rallied, bolstered by a massive outpouring of support from the community and fans of barbecue.

Tens of thousands of dollars poured in to help fund the rebuild, and by July, around 100 people were there when the country’s oldest Black-owned restaurant reopened its doors.

“With all the finances and all the help, we sitting on top of the world right now,” Jones said.

That support from friends and neighbors was one of the things the Times editors cited – along with the pulled pork “sold by the pound or as a Wonder Bread sandwich, slathered in tomato-and-vinegar based sauce,” – as a reason to highlight the 111-year-old food destination.

“The support he received to reopen it is a measure of the affection Arkansans have for him — and a testament to the power of that sandwich,” New York Times food writer Brett Anderson noted in the list.

For more on Jones’-Bar-B-Q Diner, head to their Facebook page – or better yet, just get up early and head to Marianna for one of the best sandwiches you will ever eat.