My book "100 Things To Do In Auburn, Alabama Before You Die" is in full-on research mode these days, so it will come as no surprise that I am investigating restaurants whenever I'm on the Plains. One got my attention by its name. The other I had visited previously but wanted to see how it was post-Covid.
THE IRRITABLE BAO
Yes, you read that correctly. :) Why on earth would anyone name a restaurant "The Irritable Bao" with the obvious connection to IBS, Irritable Bowel Syndrome? Yikes. A quick conversation with owner Whitley Dykes will dispel the mystery and leave you chuckling.
Dykes spent eight years of his life doing charitable work and interacting with international students in China. While he was there, he met his wife Kunyu Li and became a huge fan of her cooking and native cuisine. "Bao" literally means steamed bun and is a tad sweeter than another Chinese favorite, the dumpling. Dykes and his wife made the cuisine popular in Auburn by offering an enticing choice of fillings, both meat and vegan.
They began with a food truck called "Dumps Like a Truck," then moved into a smaller brick and mortar cafe at the corner of Glenn and Donahue. But as the popularity grew, so did the need for a larger place. They are now on Magnolia Avenue, practically within sight of Toomer's Corner. Everything they serve is in carry-out containers, although they do have a few tables inside if you want to eat before you leave.
They are only open Wednesday through Saturday from 10:00 to 2:00, and from what I understand, the lines are often down the block when the doors open -- especially on game days. Irritable Bao was closing for the day when Steve and I visited, but we have vowed to return and sample some of this crave-producing food. It was a pleasure to chat with Dykes and hear of his continuing commitment to helping children in extreme poverty abroad. Their outdoor sign proclaims: "You are making a difference. You are the Bao Movement!" The puns are endless.
Shortly after Lucy's first opened in 2018, Steve and I enjoyed dinner there, and I wrote about it here and here. When we were in town recently for his veterinary class reunion, we decided to indulge in a leisurely Sunday brunch before heading home. Lucy's was a great choice.
The decor is still just as fresh and attractive as it was in 2018. The service was exceptional, and our food was delicious. We shared the Housemade Coconut and Banana Toast and the Chicken and Waffle Bennie. I believe a weekend brunch needs to be extra special, and these dishes made it a delightful experience.
Lucy's, at 2300 Moores Mill Road, is a few miles away from the center of town but well worth the short drive.
This is actually a great time to be writing about Auburn. The basketball team is doing very well, the Women's Volleyball team made it to the NCAA Championship competition, and the university just hired a new football coach. Things are hopping in Tiger Town.