A Culinary Tour: Downtown Opelika

By April 9, 2013No Comments

As a train approaches Opelika, its whistle pierces through the downtown streets just as it has for over a century. While railroads once ordered passengers to duck under windows to avoid being shot as they arrived downtown in the late 1800s, the wild days of saloons with gunfire in the streets have faded into the past.

Today, the historic downtown bustles with an array of restaurants and bakeries with a new façade in the railroad town. Whether you desire Italian, pub fare, Creole, upscale or simply a good burger, restaurants in downtown Opelika offer a variety of tasty choices.


Café 123

Housed in a historic building that was once Haynie’s, Café 123 kept the dark wood cases from the drugstore when it occupied the space. With black-and-white checkered flooring, white tablecloths and candlelight, the restaurant offers a casual elegant setting.

Born and raised in Opelika, Chef Eron Bass created the popular Brown Sugar Rub Ribeye, which is covered with his signature rub, caramelizing on the steak. All of their steaks are cut in-house.

Since dishes are prepared fresh,
the menu stays small, while offering a variety of choices. The chef considers the menu fine Southern cuisine with a French influence.

Seafood is one of his favorite foods since it is versatile and allows him creativity in the preparation. A fresh catch is delivered to the restaurant twice a week.

Open Tuesday – Saturday 6 p.m. until.
For reservations call 334-737-0069. 


Niffer’s at the Tracks

Located at 917 South Railroad Ave., Niffer’s at the Tracks opened this past December with the concept of good food and value in a fun atmosphere. This is the third Niffer’s restaurant owned by Keely Beasecker, Auburn University alumnae and swim alumnae.

Specials such as Burger Night, Wing Night and Wednesday Kids Eat Free have been popular. The restaurant features unusual decorations, colorful chalkboards and a magician/balloon artist making his rounds at the tables, a play area for the kids and live music on occasion.

Niffer’s menu includes wings,
nachos, huge salads, half-pound burgers, grilled chicken with steamed veggies, pasta, vegetarian dishes, kid’s menu
and desserts.

“The secret to our great food is that our hamburger meat is never frozen,” says Patrick C. Payne. “It is hand pattied and seasoned with our own special recipe. Our chicken is fresh and marinated. The baked beans are a family recipe made fresh at the restaurant. The Mexicalli dip/dressing is also made fresh daily.

Catering is available for casual events.

Open Monday-Wednesday 11 a.m. until
9:30 p.m., Thursday-Saturday 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. 334-787-5989. 


Irish Bred Pub

Since purchasing the pub in September 2011, Steve Nutter has changed the menu at Irish Bred Pub from frozen foods purchased from large distributors to the sourcing of fresh food from local businesses. “We get fresh desserts from both the Cheesecake Cottage and Venable’s Sweet Shop, fresh beef and pork from Twin City Meats and fresh produce from Quality Produce,” says Nutter.

The menu for spring will feature several new entrees, including Guinness Barbecue Chicken, Fresh Rainbow Trout, Jameson Ribeye, a 28-ounce ribeye and fresh cut filets.

The two-story structure features a traditional pub atmosphere downstairs, while the upstairs has a more contemporary feel. In the downstairs, old red bricks walls provide an aged look. The dark mahogany bar has a centerpiece arch from the 1850s Bank of Savannah with a mirror set in the center. The hostess stand is an 1820s pulpit from Europe.

Located at the corner of Ninth Street and Railroad Avenue. 334-363-2235.



Jimmy’s has been recognized in the national publication of Opinionated About Dining 2012, as being among the best in regional restaurants. It has also received the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for the fifth year.

“New Orleans and Creole is our focus,” says Chef Jim Sikes. “The restaurant’s popular dishes including gumbo, Taste of New Orleans featuring jambalaya, crawfish etouffée and shrimp and grits. We almost always serve red fish. The bread pudding has lots of fans.”

The restaurant also serves traditional Southern fare, including catfish, shrimp, scallops and hamburger steak.

Last summer the chef added New Orleans style tapas, which have been popular small plates.

Lunch favorites include a meat and veggies plate. Sunday’s lunch is family style with bowls of veggies for the table. Entrées feature fried chicken, pot roast and country fried steak.

Open for lunch Tuesday-Sunday from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. and dinner Wednesday-Saturday at 5:30 p.m. A special wine dinner is served once a month.


Overall Co.

The Overall Co. opened this past year as a unique shop featuring hand-crafted coffee, handmade frozen pops and pimento cheese and bacon sandwiches.

Ali Maloney enjoyed baking special hand-crafted treats, while Laura and Jay Pritchard had dreamed of owning their own coffee shop.

The pops are inspired by Mexican ice pops called paletas. Select from flavors made with hand-cut and puréed fresh fruits combined with seasonings to create a refreshing treat.

While the shop focuses on coffee and pops, desserts, teas, breakfast and lunch items are also offered, along with a market for cheeses and meats available either in the café or the drive-through.

Pops are also available for birthday parties, weddings and other events.

Located at the corner of 10th Street and
Ave. B. 334-742-0100.


Ma Fia’s Ristorante & Pizzeria

Ma Fia’s Ristorante & Pizzeria features Old World charm with wooden floors, arched doorways, aged shutters and leather booths.

The menu features a wide selection of pizzas with homemade dough, assorted freshly made pasta and sauces along with other Italian main dishes. Choosing from the selection of toppings, customers can create their own pizza. Along with traditional choices, specialty pizzas are available.

Owner and Executive Chef Rick Yockachonis found a stone-encased oven in Virginia for baking the pizzas.

From the menu of pastas and sauces, diners can create their own dish. Sauces range from marinara and vodka sauce to olive oil and garlic. All of the menu items are made from scratch.

Seafood, chicken, veal and beef main dishes are available, along with appetizers, salads and soups.

Located at 811 S, Railroad Avenue.


The Jefferson

The Jefferson opened less than a year ago, but has become a gathering place for some locals.

Among the favorites are the Jefferson burger topped with American cheese, bacon and barbecue sauce and also the wings with four “heat levels.” Also among the most popular are the baked oysters topped with hot sauce, Parmesan cheese and jalapenos.

Oysters on the half shell, a variety of salads, platters and specialty sandwiches round out the menu. A children’s menu is available, and daily specials are offered.

Open Sunday to Wednesday 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. and Thursday to Saturday 11 a.m.-11 p.m. 334-745-6927.


Eighth & Rail

Eighth & Rail reopened under new ownership in September 2012.

A menu is offered featuring an assortment of sashimi, nigiri and maki rolls made from the freshest fish available, including Ahi tuna, Albacore tuna, hamachi, halibut, fresh and smoked
salmon, uni and others when available.

They also offer Miso soup, seaweed salad and poke salad. Desserts are from The Cheesecake Cottage.

Opens at 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. 334-745-5456 


Las Margaritas Mexican Grill

When you crave Mexican dishes, head for Las Margaritas Mexican Grill where you will find traditional Mexican favorites.

Select from fajitas, tostadas, assorted burritos and nachos, enchiladas, tacos and many others.

Most of the lunch and dinner entrees are served with Spanish rice and refried beans.

Located at 913 S. Railroad Ave.

For something sweet, Venables Sweet Shoppe offers freshly baked cakes, pies and other homemade desserts, while around the corner the Cheesecake Cottage serves up savory cheesecakes, homemade ice cream, fudge,
candies and an assortment of baked goods.

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