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Popular Dallas barbecue restaurant celebrates Black History Month with shoebox lunches

Smokey John’s Bar-B-Que & Home Cooking is packaging a piece of history with its take on meals served during the Jim Crow period.
0223 WFAA Shoebox lunch

DALLAS (WFAA) — A popular restaurant in North Texas is serving up a special history lesson along with its barbecue this month.

Smokey John’s Bar-B-Que & Home Cooking is celebrating Black History Month by offering shoebox lunch specials.

“During the Jim Crow era, African-Americans were banned or refused services in white-owned establishments,” co-owner Juan Reaves said. 

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The uniquely-packaged lunch therefore became a staple for many families traveling across the south.

Reaves describes the shoebox lunch, and what’s in it, as the restaurant’s way of reminding its patrons about a unique part of the past. Oral and written tales suggest some people would pack snacks, sandwiches, fried chicken and other staples in a shoebox, especially when traveling long distances.

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“They’d always have their things tied up with a string so that they can carry it easily. And that’s what the concept is here,” Reaves said.

Patron Marsha Carther said she is very familiar with the shoebox lunch. Her foster family packed shoebox lunches when escaping Mississippi decades ago.

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“Sometimes they were being harassed or they were being chased, their things would be thrown out of the vehicles, onto the ground, into the mud. Their food and things. But the shoeboxes were unassuming. You never thought anything about a shoebox,” Carther said.

Smokey John’s take on the shoebox lunch includes a sandwich of your choice or fried chicken, a side, a sweet potato pie or slice of pound cake and some other treats. Each box is attached with a note detailing the history of the shoebox lunch.

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”This is very empowering,” patron Towonda Beatty said.

The restaurant is offering the meals for individual orders during business hours and special catered events. The staff at Smokey John’s Bar-B-Que & Home Cooking would like to make the shoebox lunch a special offering during Black History Month every year.

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Want to try one out? Smokey John’s Bar-B-Que & Home Cooking is located at 1820 W. Mockingbird Lane in Dallas.