I’m not quite ready to compare Auburn, AL to Franklin, TN, but in one respect, they are similar. Every time I visit either one, I find new places to eat. Some small. Some large. Some casual. Some gourmet. Some trendy and sleek. Some very plain. On a recent weekend on the Plains, I tried several cafes and restaurants that I had never noticed before.
AMSTERDAM CAFE at 410 S. Gay Street.
When you walk in the door, you will notice a connection between this place — or at least the NAME of this place — and Vincent Van Gogh, a famous painter who lived from 1853 to 1890. He was born in the Netherlands, and in fact, The Van Gogh Museum is in Amsterdam. Several of his self-portraits adorn the walls of the dining room (reproductions, of course. Who in the world could afford an original??). One has been slightly altered to fit into the Auburn football atmosphere.
The place was hoppin’ when we arrived after 8 p.m. on a Thursday night. I can only imagine what it’s like on game weekends, so plan ahead and make reservations.
I had my eye on the Crab Cake and Avocado Sandwich since it had made the list of “100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama Before You Die.” Steve chose the Amsterdam Turkey Wrap, and we both had the housemade sweet potato chips for our sides. The server suggested dipping the chips in honey mustard sauce. Great idea! A delicious combo. Check out the menu on the website. You can spend a little or a lot at Amsterdam Cafe.
BIZILIA’S CAFE at 134 N. College St.
This place specializes in paninis. I happened by after a morning stroll around the campus and was lured by their muffininis. The man at the order counter mentioned blueberry, chocolate chip or banana nut. I thought the blueberry one sounded good. It was a muffin that had been sliced and griddled with butter and was served nice and warm. If I were a coffee drinker, I believe it would have been great with a cuppa Joe.
WAREHOUSE BISTRO 105 Rocket Ave. in Opelika.
You’ll have to get in the car and drive to this one, and yes, it really IS in a converted warehouse. Plus, there are warehouses forming an industrial park all around it. Warehouse Bistro has been in existence since 1993 and is a great place for casual fine dining — two words that don’t often go together. We were there with a number of Steve’s classmates from veterinary school, so we enjoyed our meal while laughing through endless stories about doctoring animals and sharing tales of practice woes and successes.
The menu is impressive, and reservations are recommended but not required. It is closed on Sunday and Monday but is open Tuesday-Thursday from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 and on Friday and Saturday from 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Our meal consisted of the Bistro Salad — field greens, tomatoes, artichoke hearts, cucumbers, smoked bacon, red onions and Feta cheese with a balsamic vinaigrette dressing.
Gulf Black Grouper — sauteed and topped with jumbo lump crab meat and Hollandaise sauce.
Blueberry Bread Pudding — served warm with Creme Anglaise poured on top.
A beautiful facility on the Auburn University campus is the JULE COLLINS SMITH MUSEUM OF FINE ART 901 S. College Street. It is open every day except Monday. While you are strolling through the amazing exhibits, you may wish to have lunch at the Museum Cafe (a limited menu but a tasteful, relaxing atmosphere). It serves salads, paninis or soups, etc. from 11:00-2:00 Tuesdays through Fridays. A Museum Gift Shop is also in the building if you’re looking for extraordinary gifts for friends.
On April 6, 2017, construction began on a performing arts center directly across the street from the museum. When it opens in 2019, it will serve as a wonderful venue for touring Broadway productions, as well as concert space for operas, symphonies, dance, along with student and faculty recitals. This section of South College Street will form a cultural arts district for the university campus. Exciting days ahead for students, alumni and visitors from all over.