Chef Eron Bass, the executive chef at Café 123, is all about good food done right. He has been working behind the scenes of the white-tablecloth restaurant for almost 19 years. When the café opened, he began as a sous chef under Chef Chris Cannon, longtime friend, executive chef, and co-owner with John Robert Wood. Eventually, Cannon left Café 123, and Chef Eron took over as executive chef.

This “hidden gem,” as Chef Eron categorized the restaurant, is situated in the middle of historic downtown Opelika with an atmosphere to match the history and vibrant energy of the town. 

“A cozy little place like this, it fits in so well with this area.”

The intimate restaurant was once Haynie’s Pharmacy, a soda fountain drug store, during the dawn of the soda-fountain age. The old pharmacy counter is still there today, although it is used to serve up refreshing cocktails instead of pop. Now serving elevated Southern cuisine with a classical French flair, Café 123 houses tables draped in white cloths and lit by candles. The restaurant pays homage to the drug store with vintage photography from Hainey’s throughout the interior.

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Born and raised in Opelika, Chef Eron discovered his love for cooking from his grandmothers at an early age and later perfected his craft in kitchens around town.

“I had a German grandmother and a Southern grandmother on the other side,” Chef Eron said. “I got the country cooking and soul food on one side and then my German grandmother was cooking with wine and doing a lot of fancy stuff.” 

With a desire to relate to the clientele of Auburn-Opelika better, Chef Eron has gone back to his roots with food people are familiar with in Southern cuisine and transforms the dishes with elevated ingredients and presentations.

“Southern cuisine takes you back home; it takes you back to what you know. We make that a little more upscale and take things that are typically Southern cuisine and elevate it a bit, “Chef Eron said. “I think really good chefs cook what they like, and I think that is what shines through when I cook.”

Fortunately for his customers, Chef Eron enjoys delicious, comforting food. Although “not very good on the waistband,” his meals are always rich in flavor and filled with comfort in the form of butter and cream.

Café 123’s famous beef tenderloin Napoleon is an excellent testimony to Chef Eron’s Southern-meets-French style, and it’s their number one seller. The dish is composed of a stack of mashed potatoes topped with fried green tomatos and a 4 oz fillet is elegantly placed on top, followed by another fried green tomato, drizzled with a Bearnaise sauce, and finished with crab on the top. If that doesn’t leave your mouth watering, the presentation of the dish is just as delectable as the taste.

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The brown sugar ribeye is another crowd-pleaser that has withstood the test of time. Chef Eron was quick to say that he “can’t take it off the menu.” A tasteful pairing of sweet and savory, this 16-oz. ribeye is smothered with a brown sugar rub, chargrilled, and served with smashed potatoes and asparagus.

Along with his staples, Chef Eron enjoys mixing it up and “keeping it fresh” with his specials. During the summer months, guests can look forward to shrimp cocktail, fresh catch dishes, shrimp-dill rice salad tossed in a lemon basil vinaigrette, and more.

Whether it’s a tried-and-true staple on the menu or a seasonal showstopper, Chef Eron takes pride in making his food to order and sourcing locally, in Georgia or Alabama, as often as possible. The culinary team does minimal prep work beforehand and the real work begins once an order has been placed, all the better for customers.

“We search out our produce ingredients daily,” Chef Eron said. “A lot of the time we get ingredients as fresh as possible in small batches and try to use what we have when we have it.”

Customers have come to expect a consistently fresh and elegant meal from Café 123 when they visit, and Chef Eron believes that’s what has kept them successful all these years.

“We are consistent, that is why we are still here. Your meal is going to be the same as you had it every time before,” Chef Eron said. “We let the food do the talking, and it works.”

For those not sure how to narrow down the menu to just one meal, Chef Eron described his “perfect meal” from Café 123. To begin, try the crab-stuffed avocado. A fresh and colorful way to begin the meal, the appetizer consists of an avocado half filled with jumbo lump crab and dressed with green onions, grape tomatoes, capers, and balsamic vinaigrette. Whether you’re a fan of pork chops or not, Chef Eron urges you to try the prime pork chop.

“It is one of the best pork chops you will ever eat. It is a very underrated thing on the menu,” Chef Eron said. “The people who have it keep coming back for it, and the people who haven’t need to try it.”

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Your meal at Café 123 would not be complete without a final indulgence in their famous bread pudding or cheesecake. If you’re still wanting more after dessert, come back in the morning and try their brunch. They are open Friday-Sunday every week for brunch. 

Whether you’re a long-time local, new to the area, or here for a visit, Chef Eron encourages you to explore the beauty and vibrance Opelika has to offer and of course, “come see us.”