Foodie Frenzy – Two Absolutely Amazing Auburn, Alabama Restaurants

by Audra H. Anders for The Aha! Connection

In case you didn’t already know, I should tell you that I grew up just outside of Auburn, Alabama.  I graduated from Auburn University (as did my father, husband and countless other people close to me including Foodie Patty).  I also sent both of my children to Auburn University.  Needless to say, I spend a ton of time in Lee County, Alabama which is just a little more than 100 miles from Dunwoody and on the path many Atlantans travel on their way to the Gulf of Mexico.

I’ve actually been in Auburn/Opelika all this week and therefore had the great fortune to try out two of the hottest and most fabulous restaurants in the area.  When I was growing up, the fanciest restaurant in town was Western Sizzlin’.  When Chick-fil-A came to our mall in the mid 1980’s we thought we had hit the “big time”.  Well….things have CERTAINLY changed and Foodie Patty would have LOVED dining around town with me this past week.

Walt and Sandy

This past fall, Auburn University opened the Tony and Libba Rane Culinary Science Center.  The program prepares graduates for an array of careers within the broad hospitality industry with immersive, hands-on learning opportunities, while also providing exceptional service to patrons visiting the facility’s state-of-the-art restaurant, hotel and food hall.  After picking up my college friend, Sandy, from the Atlanta airport we headed directly to Auburn.  I mentioned the new Culinary building, hotel, and restaurants.  She immediately went online, booked us a lunch reservation at 1856, and we headed straight there!  It’s beautiful and the students working provided the most attentive service I’ve had in a while.  I texted my son a picture of the menu and seconds later he called and said “Where are you?  I’m coming now.  Can you order the 1856 Smashburger for me?”  He later declared it the best hamburger he’s ever had in Auburn!  Sandy and I both enjoyed the Cajun spiced red snapper and the chocolate candy dessert.  

Our waiter mentioned the rooftop terrace so we had to go up after lunch.  It was BREATHTAKING.  Best panoramic view of Auburn hands down.  There’s tons of seating, fire pits, and Walt’s Bar (not named after my kiddo).  Trust me….if you are going to be in Auburn book a lunch reservation.  Dinner reservations are apparently oh, so hard to get and rather than ordering from a menu at dinner, you experience a “tasting menu”?  Students were overflowing at Hey Day Market which is a food hall on the other side of the building from the 1856 Restaurant.  I wish we had time to visit the hotel but for those looking for an “elevated” hotel experience, check out the beautiful boutique Laurel Hotel and Spa.

Last night we dined at Botanic in Opelika.  Oh my.  It is BEAUTIFUL.  I was born to parents with green thumbs so nurseries and greenhouses are very happy places for me.  Botanic is the dream concept come true from an amazingly talented couple, King and Stacey Braswell.  Stacy’s experience of founding and franchising Chicken Salad Chick has sparked her desire to design and build again.  King was owner of Blooming Colors & Crepe Myrtle Cafe, a former Auburn staple.  He therefore has extensive knowledge in horticulture and talented design skills, making him the ultimate resource for their garden services and the expert on applying sustainable practices to every inch of Botanic.  Since they opened last fall it has been the “talk of the town”.  I was finally in town on a date where I could get a reservation at The Grille and it was so worth the wait!   I ordered catfish with Hoppin’ John, several enjoyed the tile fish special, my son devoured a steak and my mom loved the fried chicken.  We all LOVED our food and are anxious to return.  Wandering the gardens and the lake is so beautiful to see….you can shop in the greenhouse, get coffee, dessert and pastries in The Market.  Other dining options are The Patio Bar,  and The Gardens (coming soon).  Full disclosure….we were all so hungry we ate everything before remembering to take any photos of the food!

Email me if you ever need suggestions for places to eat in Auburn or Opelika.  You’d be surprised at all of the AMAZING choices in my growing home town.

1702 Frederick Rd, Opelika, AL 36801

205 S College St, Auburn, AL 36830