A Century of Barbecue | By Elizabeth Arnold

Nearly 100 years ago, Jasper DeMaria set up a fruit stand on the side of Waco’s interurban railway station, the last stop before Dallas. Weary travelers came to fill their hungry stomachs before continuing their long journeys.

About three years after opening the fruit stand, Jasper expanded the business. He put up a building and started selling chopped brisket and bologna he purchased at a local slaughterhouse a few blocks down the street. Today, Jasper’s Bar-B-Q proudly stands as the oldest restaurant in Waco.

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Photo by Alyssa Rummel

Though Jasper’s has changed ownership at least six times in the last century and grown a little each decade, the food stays the same. They still serve meals on butcher paper, the way Jasper did when he first opened the business in 1915. Even the original seasoning recipe and cast-iron smoker are still the same.

“It’s upgraded, you know, from a little old barbecue place to a nice one,” said 67-year-old Tony Bones, who has worked at Jasper’s for 21 years. “It’s been around so long, and it’s the only thing I know to do, food service.”

Cooking the meat is a lengthy process, which current manager J.D. Bost has now perfected. He cooks the meat for four hours in the afternoon, then continues to cook it at a reduced temperature overnight. When he rolls into the restaurant at 6:30 every morning, he raises the temperature back up to finish the cooking process.

According to Bost, Jasper’s is one of only two restaurants in Texas still using the original “Texas BBQ” technique. Rather than serve chopped beef from leftover parts of the animal, Texas BBQ uses cow meat cooked specifically for chopping, resulting in the Texas equivalent of a French Dip. It’s much of what keeps customers coming back year after year.

“We have a really diverse crowd of people,” Bost said. “They want to walk in the door and step back in time.”

Many of these customers have been coming to Jasper’s since they were children and watched the establishment change with the times.  A chopped beef sandwich that used to cost a quarter now costs $4.25. The menu, too, has added a few new specialties, like the popular “Crazy Balls,” smoked bacon-wrapped jalapeños stuffed with chicken thigh, and “Jasper Rolls,” bacon-wrapped chicken breast stuffed with cheese and jalapeños.

No matter how many other things change in the years to come, Jasper’s intends to continue serving good ol’ Texas BBQ.