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September 01, 2009

Best Bites: AJ's Country Pantry Restaurant

Summer 2009 165 It's always a little scary when new owners take over one of your favorite restaurants, particularly when the place specializes in old timey food at old timey prices. Would the Country Pantry in Fairfax be as good now that it belongs to A&J? Oh my, yes.

In fact, the things that were already great about the place have gotten even better. Waitresses have always been over-the-top friendly, unerringly referring to guests as "Hon." On my latest visit I was also called "Love" and "Sweetheart." If that kind of thing makes you uncomfortable, you can console yourself with french toast – all day.

I spent years trying to master the breakfast schedule at the Country Pantry. Now I can roll out of bed at one, stand behind elderly farmers (whom I collectively Summer 2009 164 call "The Walts"), and still get perfectly over-medium eggs. The best way to have them is with the French Toast Breakfast ($6.25), featuring cinnamon flavored slices of tender battered bread with free maple syrup and choice of meat. I recommend the sausage patties. When I'm feeling like a heart attack, I opt for the Southern Charmer ($6.25), a huge platter of sausage and biscuits with egg and meat on the side.

When I miss my native New York-area diners, nothing satisfies my craving like the hot turkey sandwich ($7.25). The moist turkey smothered in creamy yellow gravy is the only version of the dish I've found in Vermont that really gets it right. With AJ now at the helm, fries are handcut, though I liked them just fine out of the bag. Want something else fresh? Go for a slice of chocolate or coconut cream pie, baked daily.

I recently visited AJs in Fairfax to see if the food and service was still what I had come to enjoy on my trucking route. Let's just say I will not be stopping again. It took 15 min just to place an order the waitress was rude and too busy with her cell phone to refill a drink. The food was so so. More greasy and not that appetizing looking when served. After this experience I will not be returning. Another guy that runs a similar route to mine said he will not be stopping either after his experience. It's too bad I looked forward to this place when up that way.

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