JB's Barbeque celebrates 50 years
Last updated 6/7/2022 at 7:23pm
Noon is still a half hour away on a June morning, but pickup trucks are already pulling off Old Highway 90 into the parking lot of JB's Barbecue. The drivers don't even get out after seeing the "Closed for Repairs" sign. They will have to wait another week before getting the famous juicy, tender, smoked brisket dripping with JB's unique sauce.
And when the landmark barbecue restaurant opens on June 15, it will be a special day. JB's is celebrating its 50th anniversary, making it one of Orange County's oldest businesses.
Expect to see J.B. Arrington himself at the restaurant, probably chewing on a cigar. The World War II veteran is still going at the age of 97, though grandsons have been stepping in to operate the family business.
JB's Barbecue is off Interstate 10 and at Old Highway 90 in Orange and has drawn faithful customers who live here and motorists who have made it a must-stop on their travels along the highway. Though Arrington could not have imagined the internet half a century ago, reviews online rave about the brisket.
Arrington was born in Orange County in the rural Tulane community in the area where Tulane Road is. His parents were J.B. "Red" Sr. and Maggie Lafleur Arrington. And like his father, J.B. once had red hair.
He grew up farming and ranching, but like others of his generation, he went to fight facism. He joined the U.S. Navy in during World War II and traveled the world. His jobs included teaching communications and that led him to want to become a school teacher.
After earning his college degree, he taught agriculture classes for some 20 years at the old Stark High School before consolidation. The school had an agriculture farm and he taught butcher classes.
The butcher skills and meat knowledge helped him know what to barbecue. He knew that "choice" or "prime" graded beef gave the best results and he stuck with it.
After breaking a leg while riding a horse at the ag farm, Arrington decided to start a barbecue place where he could sell the smoked meats and sauce that he created to feed friends and relatives. The restaurant opened in June 1972, the same month as the historic break-in at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C.
The restaurant was a hit in Orange with meats resting with a dry rub before going in for a long, slow smoke. He made his own barbecue sauce known for no fat and no cholesterol. The sauce became so popular that he bottled it. Customers have taken the sauce all over the world.
Jay Matthews, Arrington's son-in-law joined the team in 1978 and has since retired. That was the year Arrington expanded by buying the landmark Capistrano Cafe on Green Avenue in downtown Orange. It was called "JB's Capistrano" and sold barbecue along with classic American diner fare. He sold the downtown location in 1987.
Arrington has also been an elected official, serving as a commissioner on the Orange County Drainage District. He also spent more than 20 years working with the Sabine-Neches Soil and Water Conservation group.
Like his barbecue, J.B. Arrington is a local icon. If he's in the restaurant, drop by his table and chat. You might find his storytelling is a juicy as his brisket.