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Our New Favorite Fancy Restaurant in Auburn -- Vintage 2298

**Vintage 2298 is one of the 100 things highlighted in my book "100 Things To Do In Auburn, AL Before You Die." Go here to order your copy.

Steve and I had a delightful weekend in Auburn recently, reminiscing, exploring, experiencing a night game at Jordan-Hare Stadium, and EATING. One evening we made reservations at a place we knew would be a delicious splurge. It exceeded our expectations.

Vintage 2298 has a somewhat puzzling name. The 2298 part is easy, because the address for the restaurant is 2298 E. University Dr. B-101, Auburn, AL 36830. But what about "vintage?" My impression is that the word was chosen because of the influence Nancy Baldwin had on her son, Chef/Owner Randall Baldwin. There is a display along one wall with some of her cookbooks and silver pieces.

Chef Randall watched and worked alongside his mom from his early years, learning to cut out biscuit dough, chop vegetables, and fry chicken. As he grew into adulthood, he realized that he was happiest and most fulfilled when he was cooking, so he enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America in New York and graduated from the institute in 2004. His mother encouraged his dream of making his mark on the world through food, but sadly, she died of breast cancer while he was in culinary school. A drawing of Nancy Baldwin hangs over the entrance to the kitchen and can be prominently seen in the dining room.

His dishes are a wonderful blend of high-brow chef wizardry with the flavors and ingredients Southerners love. His menu, which changes daily, is a reflection of his upbringing along the South Alabama Gulf Coast. His parents took him to great restaurants and taught him proper food etiquette, and he's passing that training on to his own kids. The night we were there Chef Randall made his way through the dining room, greeting his satisfied customers. When he stopped to chat at our table, he made an instant connection and was extremely personable.

Jalapeno corn muffins are brought to every table as a starter . . . and a hint at the good things to follow.

When Steve and I saw Murder Point Oysters on the menu, we instantly knew that would be our appetizer. Back in 2016 when I served as a judge at the World Food Championships in Gulf Shores, we visited the Murder Point Oyster Farm and ate oysters straight out of the water. So, so good.

Steve chose a seafood entree -- black grouper, I believe.

I ordered the vegetable plate and am ready to declare that it was the best vegetable plate I've ever had. Everything was fresh and so skillfully prepared.

Another "must" was the Chilton County blackberry cobbler for dessert -- Steve's favorite. But have you ever had it paired with a peach milkshake and chantilly cream? I didn't think so. Neither had we.

As I mentioned, the menu changes daily, so there are bound to be some surprises when you visit. You can be assured that the freshest local ingredients will be featured.

Vintage 2298 is beautiful and completely splurge-worthy. I give it a solid 10!

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