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Hardemans in Dallas



In a Dallas city directory from 1948, there is a listing for Hardeman’s Barbecue. In fact there were two at the time, both of which were located in what was known as Freedman’s Town. It was a segregated African-American neighborhood just north of downtown in what is now Uptown. Those barbecue joints are what built the foundation for a barbecue family that flourishes today – a family whose longevity in Dallas barbecue is eclipsed only by families named Bryan or Dickey. Chester Field Hardeman’s surviving family isn’t sure which barbecue joint came first, or precisely what year it opened, but the photo above (with the 1948 plates on the Cadillac) and the Dallas Negro City Directory 1947-48 confirm that the Hardeman family was running two joints by 1948. As far as his family knows, this was the genesis of the Hardeman’s Barbecue legacy that endures with three current locations in South Dallas. Chester’s granddaughters, Sarah and Gloria, run their own restaurants on Scyene and Kiest respectively, and Gloria’s son, Jameon, is at the helm in Oak Cliff on Westmoreland. There are no published profiles of Chester Field Hardeman, so his history before the 1930 census is unclear. He was born in Texas in 1901, probably in Travis County. By 1930 he was living and working in Dallas as a landscaper. From a Dallas directory published in 1942 and the unprecedented detail in the 1940 census we know that he rented a house at 1726 N. Central with his wife Annie. By then his occupation was listed as “expresser”, which was probably a delivery truck driver. His family isn’t sure what prompted him to become a restaurateur, but Sarah wasn’t surprised that he jumped into it. “He was always doing something. If it wasn’t barbecue, he’d be selling watermelons, used furniture; he was just a businessman.” He would also have noticed the booming popularity of barbecue in the neighborhood. In the Negro City Directory 1941-42 for Dallas there are advertisements for Alabama Barbecue’s “Hickory Cooked Meats” and Foster Barbecue who “Slow Cooked with Hickory Wood.” There were 23 barbecue joints in the directory (the cuisine even had its own heading in the slim book) at a time when the black population of Dallas was just over 50,000. Today, the city of Dallas has a population just under 1.258 million and about a hundred barbecue joints within the city limits. Barbecue might be hot today, but nowhere near as popular as it was with the black community in the forties.