AJ’s in Macon, Mo
If you’ve spent much time in Northwest or Mid-Missouri, you’ve probably heard of that tiny little amazing restaurant called The Pear Tree. And if you’ve been lucky enough to make the road trip to “don’t blink or you’ll miss it” Bevier, Missouri for a special-occasion dinner then you know what everyone else is missing.
Well, today’s post isn’t really about that storied little place at which people travel hours to eat. It’s about another spot just down the road, unlikely on your regular route, that’s worth finding BECAUSE with the same owners as the Pear Tree it offers some of the same popular but less fancy fare.
I was headed to Macon Mo for a work meeting, and my colleague suggested we meet for lunch at AJ’s. Although it sounded like a corner diner that had been the local “meetin’ spot” for 20 years or so, I agreed. I figured it was slim pickins in Macon.
I arrived to the oddly shaped building just a few blocks from the intersection of the two main highways in town. What I found when I entered was definitely a surprise. Rather than the worn, old booths and formica-topped tables you normally find in a small town diner, I walked into a homey, airy space that looked like someone’s recently decorated family room. A mix of hanging small Tiffany spot lamps over the bar and old metal signs on the wall.
A quick glance at the menu presented a more interesting selection than expected. My friend arrived and suggested we order the onion rings. Surprised that she would suggest a high-calorie option, she immediately started in on the story of the place. It was owned by the same people as the Pear Tree. And EVERYONE knows about their onion rings.
And at that statement it all went out the window. I had promised myself to “be good” that week, in hopes of dropping a few of those holiday pounds I so easily found. But if these were THE onion rings – the ones I just couldn’t believe were ever so perfect the first time I tried them, and had been just as pristine each time I had returned to The Pear Tree – then all bets are off! I’m having these marvelous circles of pure fried perfection.
The large round onion rings quickly came out in a shallow basket lined with white paper. They were thinly cut but generously breaded with a solid, golden perfectly crispy ring around the soft onion within. Almost surprised that my friend was correct, I told her how I couldn’t believe they were JUST like the ones at The Pear Tree. Too often you find onion rings either dripping with grease or carrying a strong “fryer” after taste. Not these….they were marvelous perfection.
For lunch, we selected a burger and a pizza to share. Both were very good. The black and blue burger came with blue cheese and a seasoning so light, I don’t think I consider it “blackened”. Made with 50% ground beef and 50% ground brisket, these patties are a source of pride for AJ’s. The pizza was my favorite. A moderately thin crust was dressed with marinara sauce, bacon and the most delicious grilled chicken I’ve had for a very long time. Apparently, the house dressing is another secret borrowed from The Pear Tree. It’s a wonderfully flavored vinaigrette seasoned with a good amount of basil and salt.
All grilled chicken at AJ’s is marinated in the dressing and the pizza seemed to have a little extra on the diced chicken that topped it. The combination of marinara, bacon, cheese and chicken was just right for a rich and satisfying slice.
After a deliciously filling lunch, we were ready to throw in the towel. The server asked if we wanted any dessert, of course mentioning that they are all made fresh at the Pear Tree just down the road. Taking the bait,I asked which was her favorite. She responded “Gooey Chocolate Butter Cake” and I was sold. It didn’t hurt that my friend’s eyes lit up with mine and we knew we HAD to try it!
The rich scoop of the moist dark cake had a crispy buttery topping and was served with melting vanilla ice cream. The top of the cake almost seemed like a baked meringue – light, sweet and a little melt-away crunch. It was marvelous.The perfect way to end our unexpectedly wonderful lunch.