Rural Missouri - March 2020 - 16

Unique smoked creations in eclectic setting
by Paul Newton | pnewton@ruralmissouri.coop
photos by Paul Newton and Jim McCarty

I

t's easy to be overwhelmed. There's a menu with four
dozen smoke-inspired items from which to choose. The
aroma fills the air.
The eclectic decor tells you this place is different
from other dining destinations. The drink station is inside
an old Pac-Man arcade game. The table in the old truck
bed is flanked on both sides by enormous blue velvet
radius booths. The centerpiece is a two-story back bar
containing more than 400 bottles of bourbon, scotch and
whiskey. Oh, and a 35-ounce Tomahawk Rib-eye just got
dropped off at the table next to you. Mary Jane bourbon +
smokehouse is not your run-of-the-mill barbecue joint.
"I've always loved barbecue and smoking meats," says
smokehouse executive chef Matt Ruessler. "But we're not
just a barbecue place. We wanted to be known for having
food a little elevated; we use the term 'smokehouse.'‚ÄČ"
The team at the Cape Girardeau restaurant creates
unique small-plate dishes, succulent smoked meats, sandwiches, steaks and signature cocktails across the street
from Southeast Missouri State University. From libations
such as their Louisville Smoked Old Fashioned to their
BLT Salad featuring smoked bacon, Mary Jane's menu

revolves around smoke.
For co-owner Carisa Stark, the smokehouse is an offshoot of her successful venture at Mary Jane Burgers &
Brew in downtown Perryville. She had zero interest in just
copying and pasting the restaurant in Cape.
"It would've been way easier," she says. "But, Burgers
& Brew is a destination restaurant that pulls from an 80mile radius every day. I felt it would be silly to take away
from that concept and try and duplicate it just 30 miles
away."
Some Perryville regulars approached her about a different concept at a building they owned in Cape. One step inside the two-story former dry cleaners building with curved
windows facing Broadway Street and Carisa was sold. Chef
Matt started work on the menu while Carisa went to work
on the full remodel of the building.
The transformation of the location was a family affair
for Carisa and her grandmother, the restaurants' namesake. Her cousins helped with the custom booths, located
the truck bed, did the back bar metal work and painted
the murals on the outside. "Myself and all of them that
helped are all Grandma Mary Jane's grandchildren, so it's
neat for her to come here and see the family influence."
Creating the smoky menu was a two-year process. Matt
featured daily specials in Perryville to test out new dishes

Co-owner Carisa Stark and executive chef Matt Ruessler transformed an old dry cleaners into a memorable dining destination in Cape Girardeau.

16

RURAL MISSOURI | MARCH 2020

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2/7/20 3:28 PM



Rural Missouri - March 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - March 2020

Contents
Rural Missouri - March 2020 - Cover1
Rural Missouri - March 2020 - Cover2
Rural Missouri - March 2020 - Contents
Rural Missouri - March 2020 - 4
Rural Missouri - March 2020 - 5
Rural Missouri - March 2020 - 6
Rural Missouri - March 2020 - 7
Rural Missouri - March 2020 - 8
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Rural Missouri - March 2020 - Cover3
Rural Missouri - March 2020 - Cover4
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