Jasper's Bar-B-Que

At the corner of Clifton Street and Elm Avenue is Jasper’s Bar-B-Que, Waco’s oldest-operating barbecue restaurant. Although East Waco has undergone many changes, Jasper’s has never changed locations and remains a place where residents today can expect to be served the same fare that brought their hungry predecessors to the counter at its opening in 1915.

Jasper’s began as a humble pushcart fruit stand operated by Italian immigrant Jasper DiMaria. In its early days of operation, the cart’s customer base was largely comprised of passengers from the interurban railway. Waco was the last stop on the rail line to Dallas, and travelers would frequent DiMaria’s cart to purchase refreshments for the remaining long haul. Recognizing the profitability of offering more substantial foodstuffs from his cart, DiMaria started selling barbecue. He would go to a nearby meat-packer and purchase a quarter of a cow or a bull. Soon customers were lining up for dishes like chopped beef and gravy or neck bone.

As demand for his takeout barbecue increased, DiMaria abandoned the cart for a permanent structure.  Requiring nothing fancy, DiMaria set up shop in a building with a dirt floor, a table he brought from home, and a few picnic benches. Customers were not put off by this humble establishment, and word of mouth spread about the menu at Jasper’s. Soon locals flocked to Jasper’s as well as travelers. Legend has it that when the restaurant’s lines would sometimes stretch down the street, DiMaria would walk to the place in line where he estimated the food would run out and pronounce it to be the end of line. Everyone past that point would have to try again the next day to get their barbecue order.  

When his son Tony became old enough to join the family business, DiMaria renamed it Jasper DiMaria & Son Bar-B-Que. The restaurant remained family-owned until Tony’s retirement in 1990.

Although the DiMaria family is no longer involved in its daily operation, Jasper’s Bar-B-Que has remained true to the cooking practices and flavors of its namesake. The original boiling pit is still on premise, allowing the tradition of boiling the meat in a large vat of au jus to continue. Jasper’s most sought-after items continue to be neck bones and its signature gravy. The chopped beef is still served with slices of white bread on butcher paper, and the gravy is made according to the original recipe.  

Jasper’s Bar-B-Que stands out for more than just its time-tested recipes. Its longevity has allowed the restaurant to also function as a community hub for East Wacoans. Tony Thompson, a server who has been employed by Jasper’s for more than two decades, notes that it is not unusual to see multiple generations of East Wacoans dining at Jasper’s. They come not only for the food but to discuss sports, politics, and life events. Thompson is proud of the fact Jasper’s is located in East Waco and considers it a privilege to serve the community he was raised in.

By preserving the recipes of Jasper DiMaria and serving as a community gathering place, Jasper’s Bar-B-Que remains true to its roots.  

Images

Restaurant Exterior

Restaurant Exterior

Jasper's began as a small pushcart fruit stand that catered to interurban rail passengers on their way to Dallas. After the initial small building with adjacent pit was constructed, increased patronage required the restaurant to expand. | Source: Image courtesy of the Institute for Oral History, Baylor University | Creator: P. Bird View File Details Page

Early Days (1947)

Early Days (1947)

Though the layout of the original space (since added onto) was simple, Jasper DiMaria had everything he needed to sell takeout barbecue to hungry customers. Within easy reach from the counter was his meat, a scale for weighing portions of chopped beef, and three mounted bottle openers. Note the pennant that reads “God Bless America,” a patriotic statement not out of place in the immediate postwar years. | Source: Image courtesy of Jasper's Bar-B-Que View File Details Page

Jasper DiMaria & Son Bar-B-Que Restaurant

Jasper DiMaria & Son Bar-B-Que Restaurant

As a young man Tony DiMaria made the decision to join his father behind the restaurant counter. Together he and his father operated the restaurant for seventy-five years. Though it has since been sold, a remnant of the original hand- painted sign denoting this father-son partnership has been preserved at the back of the building. | Source: Image courtesy of the Institute for Oral History, Baylor University | Creator: P. Bird View File Details Page

No Frills Barbecue

No Frills Barbecue

Since its opening, Jasper's has served its barbecue on butcher paper. This simple form of presentation allows the cuts of meat and homemade gravy to be the stars of the restaurant. | Source: Image courtesy of the Institute for Oral History, Baylor University | Creator: P. Bird View File Details Page

Faithful Pitmaster

Faithful Pitmaster

Longtime Jasper's employee Eugene Pullun faithfully started the pit fires each morning. He then placed the meat in the broiler and later brought it out to be cut and served. Whether he was in the kitchen or behind the counter, customers could count on Pullun to sport a smile and his signature western hat. | Source: Image courtesy of Jasper's Bar-B-Que View File Details Page

Tools of the Trade

Tools of the Trade

Contemporary patrons of the restaurant can see Jasper DiMaria's original wooden butcher's table and meat saws on display. DiMaria used to purchase a quarter of a cow or a bull from a meat-packing place down the road and then butchered it himself. | Source: Image courtesy of the Institute for Oral History, Baylor University | Creator: P. Bird View File Details Page

Texan Delicacies

Texan Delicacies

Jasper's two longest-standing popular dishes are chopped beef served with white bread and house-recipe gravy, and beef neck bones served with gravy. Although ownership of the restaurant has changed hands several times, Jasper DiMaria's method of boiling the meat in a large vat of au jus has remained. | Source: Image courtesy of the Institute for Oral History, Baylor University | Creator: P. Bird View File Details Page

Loyal Service

Loyal Service

Jasper's takes barbecue so seriously even its cooking utensils receive due honor upon retirement. Pictured here are two steel pots that likely boiled cuts of meat or Jasper's signature gravy for more than sixty years in the restaurant's kitchen. Retired in November 2010 and August 2011 respectively, the pots bear the inscription "Thank you for your Loyal Service." | Source: Image courtesy of the Institute for Oral History, Baylor University | Creator: P. Bird View File Details Page

Community Hub

Community Hub

To East Wacoans, Jasper's is as much a place to congregate as it is to eat. Given the fact multiple generations frequent the restaurant, it is not surprising that longtime employees like server Tony Thompson (bottom far right corner) consider their work to be as much about community service as satisfying the hunger pangs of patrons. | Source: Image courtesy of Jasper's Bar-B-Que View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Prisca Bird, “Jasper's Bar-B-Que,” Waco History, accessed July 22, 2017, http://wacohistory.org/items/show/82.
Tour navigation:  Previous | Tour Info | Next

Share this Story