The pieces have been coming together for Auburn’s food scene over the last dozen years, as visionary chefs put down deep roots and the talent pool widens from the university’s brand-new culinary and hospitality education and training center.
Chef-driven restaurants Acre (2013), The Depot (2015), and Lucy’s (2018) have earned national and regional attention for Auburn in food and travel circles. The whiskey list at The Hound (2012) rivals any big-city counterpart.
The new Tony and Libba Rane Culinary Science Center is training future dining professionals in both back-of-house and front-of-house jobs by blending classroom, laboratory, and hands-on experience at an in-house restaurant and sommelier program, café, hotel, and other businesses serving the public.
Chefs and the farmers that supply them turn to university researchers to improve their respective crafts. David Bancroft, chef-owner of Acre, works with AU’s meat lab and local ranchers on best practices for responsible and sustainable production.
AU’s Shellfish Laboratory has played a critical role in the development of Alabama oyster farms, which find markets for their premium products at seafood-centric restaurants like The Depot.
Whether visiting for a home game or generally to enjoy the charms of the Loveliest Village on the Plains, here is a glance at restaurants setting new standards, and the one at the center of Auburn’s most famous football tradition.
2300 Moore’s Mill Road
The menu at Lucy’s reflects its commitment to farm-to-table dining, listing nearly a dozen growers and producers in Alabama and Georgia that supply the hip modern American restaurant. Under Brian Paolina, the executive chef, and his sous chef, Sara Lemmon, the kitchen dishes shareable tapas-like plates, and entrees from sustainably-caught Gulf seafood, to beef, and duck cooked sous-vide. A pasta dish stars locally-grown veggies. Lucy’s brunch starts with Lemon Lavender Donuts, and mimosa options – regular or “Swanky.” Open for dinner Tuesday through Sunday, brunch on weekends. Closed Monday.
210 East Glenn Avenue
Chef-owner David Bancroft is celebrating a decade of serving modern Southern cuisine in the historic train depot downtown. Some of the produce and herbs is grown in gardens at the restaurant. The kitchen cures meats, pickles vegetables, and preserves fruit. What’s growing nearby and swimming in the Gulf of Mexico on that day dictates the menu at Acre that night. Bycatch, fish with little market value caught along with snapper and grouper, is used in ceviche and crudo. Open for lunch Wednesday through Sunday, dinner Monday through Saturday.
124 Mitcham Avenue
Under co-owner/executive chef Scott Simpon, The Depot boasts serving Alabama’s “freshest and finest seafood,” but it’s also expanding horizons such as exposing customers to the pleasures of premium tinned fish. Located in Auburn’s historic Train Depot, the restaurant is committed to serving sustainably harvested seafood and farmed oysters. Entrees include seafood, beef, and chicken; more than a half-dozen vegetable sides are served family-style. Daily specials and raw oyster selections are posted online by 5 p.m. Look for tapas on Tuesdays, sushi specials on Wednesdays, and oyster night on Thursdays – all with wine discounts. Open dinner only Tuesday through Saturday.
124 Tichenor Avenue
It’s the home of the killer b’s, bacon and bourbon. The Bacon Flight appetizer features both artisan- and house-cured bellies, and the smoked pork flavors purloo, fried rice, collards, and other lucky victuals. The list of bourbons, ryes, Tennessee whiskeys, single-malt scotches, and blended whiskeys tops 200 bottles. Owned by Matthew and Jana Poirier, the restaurant and bar has the atmosphere of a hunting lodge. Lunch includes small plates, sandwiches, and a few entrees. The weekend brunch menu is eclectic and kid-friendly. Vegetarians get some love on a dinner menu teeming with beef, bison, fish, and fowl. Open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Friday, and brunch and dinner during the weekend, The Hound is closed Mondays.
241 South College Street
Auburn University and its sister campus in Ariccia, Italy, partner in this upscale classic Italian restaurant in The Hotel at Auburn University. The restaurant is open for brunch and dinner, and the related lounge, Piccolo 241 Jazz and Cocktails, serves food starting at 3 p.m. Stocking more than 1,500 bottles, the restaurant has won top honors from Wine Spectator. The pasta is made in-house; other signature dishes include porchetta, house-made focaccia, and wood-fired pizzas.
100 North College Street
Sheldon “Shel” Toomer was a halfback for Auburn University’s inaugural football team, a state legislator, and an entrepreneur who opened his namesake drug store and soda fountain in 1896. It serves old-fashioned counter food like grilled cheese, sandwiches, pies, ice cream, shakes, and “World Famous” fresh-squeezed lemonade. Its souvenirs are popular; the website even offers free shipping for orders $75 and up. Toomer’s employees started Auburn’s famous tree-papering tradition by tossing ticker tape after away wins; students switched to toilet paper when they caught on to the celebration. Toomer’s Drugs is open daily.