Summer in Oxford is a unique experience for locals and students alike. Warmer weather, fewer students on campus and Square parking is better than any other time of the year. With a majority of the student body away on summer vacation, I decided to seize the oppurtunity to explore local eateries. This summer in my column “Oxford Originals” I will be visiting several of the local restaurants and hot spots around town, while keeping you informed of my adventures.
Located on the Square, Ajax Diner is one of Oxford’s most popular restaurants. Serving Southern favorites, such as macaroni and cheese and cornbread, Ajax caters to the college students and Oxford natives who want a good home-cooked meal.
According to The Local Voice, Ajax was voted “Oxford’s Favorite Burger,” “Oxford’s Favorite Soul Food” and “Oxford’s Favorite Restaurant.” Most University of Mississippi students seem to agree with the awards.
“Ajax is an Oxford restaurant that has the perfect Southern cooking that rivals any mom’s mac and cheese,” said Mary Margaret Sanders, sophomore psychology major. “Their soul food brings the warmth and comfort of home to every student.”
And while the battle of the best burger in Oxford will continue on, many have found their champion in the Ajax burger.
When asked how much he loves Ajax’s burgers, junior bio-chemistry major, Ta’Boris Osbourne answered, “A lot!”
“Best burgers in Oxford,” Osbourne said. “The size fits the price and they’re always fresh. I have nothing negative to say about them.”
Much of the Ajax menu is familiar Southern comfort food, but the diner provides several home-style twists in their dishes.
Matty’s Mom’s Meatloaf is stuffed with jack cheese, egg rolls are stuffed with red beans and quesadillas are made with pimento cheese at Ajax Diner. Another original idea, the Ajax Hot Tamale Pie is made with spicy cheese grits and pork, with Creole-mustard vinaigrette. The restaurant also serves Hot Jerk Pork Steak, courtesy of the cook’s Jamaican heritage.
The atmosphere of Ajax also draws attention. Po-boys and The Big Easy, a sandwich layered with country fried steak and mash potatoes and named after the Manning’s home city of New Orleans, come with toothpicks. Diners shoot the toothpicks into the ceiling, giving the restaurant a colorful look and a laid-back flare.
Ajax owner, Randy Yates, established the restaurant over 15 years ago and has watched the diner grow into an Oxford staple. Ajax hopes to be “upscale, down-home” for visitors and locals alike.
Michele Brasher, a resident of coastal Mississippi and the mother of an incoming freshman, was visiting Oxford for her daughter’s orientation and took the time for a stop at Ajax Diner.
“The food is great, but the atmosphere is so welcoming and comfortable,” Brasher said. “It is nice to take a break from the busy orientation schedule and just enjoy a nice lunch with my daughter.”
Even visitors from other countries have strong feelings toward Ajax.
“Growing up in Chile, my family never experienced Southern home cooking, so eating at Ajax is a great way to try the traditional food of the South,” said Ellie Harbaugh, a junior communication sciences and disorders and Spanish double major. “Their food is delicious and they have quality service. I really enjoy their chicken and dumplings and would highly recommend it to anyone!”
Oxford is known for great food, friendly people and a cheerful setting. When looking for these, Ajax Diner might be just the place to get all three.