f you have visited our restaurant, you may have noticed the photo of a beautiful lady on the wall. That is Michelene, the late wife of our owner John Toomey. She is also the reason why John decided to pursue a law degree at the University of Houston Law Center in 1950.

John was born and raised in Houston, and he wanted to stay close to his family and his sweetheart Michelene. He followed his father and brother’s footsteps and enrolled in UH Law Center, which had just been founded. He was part of the second graduating class, and he joined his father and brother’s practice Toomey, Toomey & Toomey.

John’s law degree proved to be very useful throughout his career. When his father-in-law passed away in 1959, he took over the management of his wife’s family’s hotels and real estate in Houston. He also opened several restaurants in empty buildings on the properties, including Coney Island Off the Square, the Green Room Restaurant & Pub, and Houlahan’s Hamburgers.

Credit to Chloe Cole - UH Impact

John always had a passion for barbecue, and he decided to open another barbecue restaurant in 2022 on the Leeland block that he and his wife received from her family’s estate. He named it J-Bar-M Barbecue, after their first names. He hired a talented pitmaster, Daniel Villarreal, who uses four custom-made smokers from Moberg Smokers of Dripping Springs to create mouthwatering brisket, ribs, sausage, turkey, and more.

J-Bar-M Barbecue is not only a place to enjoy delicious food and drinks, but also a tribute to John’s life and legacy.

The restaurant features various tokens from his past, such as animal busts that he hunted himself, a Labrador puppy named Smokey as the mascot, and a banana pudding recipe from his mother.

We are proud to share that John was recently featured in UH Impact, a blog by University Advancement that showcases inspirational stories of UH alumni and donors. John credits his law degree from UH for laying a great foundation for his success in every field of business he has been involved in. He also appreciates the connections he made at UH that helped him along the way.

You can read the full story here.

We invite you to come by J-Bar-M Barbecue and experience John’s vision for yourself. We are open Tuesday to Sunday at 2201 Leeland St.

We hope to see you soon!