Centrally located in the heart of downtown Auburn and recognized by its antler door pulls, The Hound features over-the-top American classics, Southern cuisine with a twist, and boasts an impressive bourbon collection.

Operating partner, Robbie Nicolaisen, has been the executive chef of The Hound since 2017. Originally from Raleigh, North Carolina, Chef Robbie grew up learning how to cook from his family.

“My grandparents lived on a farm where they grew their own produce and hunted on the land,” Chef Robbie said. “Food has always been the center point for our family. I remember always being in the kitchen either tasting or watching my grandmother and parents preparing the cuisine or canning and preserving.”

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While his knowledge of the kitchen started at an early age, Chef Robbie said he didn’t realize his passion for cooking. In fact, he enrolled in college with dreams of becoming an architect. Cooking and architecture may not appear as the two have much in common, he explained, but they are not that different: “It’s all about creativity and design.”

During his time as a student, Chef Robbie remembers gravitating toward the kitchen and seemed to continuously have a job in the restaurant industry. It wasn’t until he was 24 that he went to culinary school in Charleston, South Carolina. There he met his wife, an Alabama native. After the two adopted their beautiful children, they packed up and moved to Alabama to be closer to his wife’s family. It didn’t take long for his family to settle into the Loveliest Village on the Plains.

“I remember thinking this place is awesome,” Chef Robbie said. “We aren’t going anywhere; we love this town.”

After five years at Moore’s Mill Country Club, Chef Robbie began his career at the Hound in 2017. Since his start, Chef Robbie has transformed and elevated The Hound’s menu. He said he enjoys experimenting with different cuisines and ingredients.

“The Hound was traditionally Southern cuisine and comfort food,” Chef Robbie said. “I’ve changed it up so that it is still related to Southern, but it may have a spin of Asian flare.”

He’s added menu items such as a Korean-style chicken and waffles, duck wings, and his personal recommendation - a spin on chicken-fried steak. Hand-breaded and fried, The Hound’s chicken-fried steak features marinated Wagyu beef cheeks instead of a typical lean cut, adding a level of tenderness and sophistication to the traditional dish. 

“I like the element of surprise,” he said. “You may think you’re getting something one way, but it is completely different.”

Chef Robbie also recommends good ole’ Southern classics like the pork rinds and the Mama Sue’s pepper jelly, “It’s a staple, and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.”

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Aside from the delicious cuisine, The Hound is known for its extensive beer and bourbon menu. With one of the largest whiskey selections in the area, the menu ranges from everyday to high-end whiskeys. The restaurant has 28 different taps, the majority being craft brews, plus a few staples.

The Hound sources many ingredients locally. One farm in particular is Extreme Green Farms, a hydroponic farm located in Auburn that produces fresh, locally grown veggies including lettuces, tomatoes, cucumbers, and other specialty items like microgreens.

“Knowing where our food comes from, purchasing quality ingredients, and thoughtful sourcing makes a difference in the outcome of a dish, and people recognize that,” Chef Robbie said. “The Hound fits in Auburn because it just has that hometown vibe, and it’s a go-to for a lot of people. You feel comfortable coming here and I am confident you’re going to have a consistently good meal when you come in.”

The team at the Hound strives to create an approachable environment where visitors feel comfortable, unpretentious, and can consistently get top-notch service and top-notch food.

“We put a lot of work into it with our training programs to instill that guest satisfaction,” Chef Robbie said. “It takes a lot of work, but in the end, it’s worth it.”

The reviews speak for themselves. All the hard work, thoughtful sourcing, employee development, and welcoming ambiance provide an exceptional experience for those who dine at The Hound.

And the word is out. Chef Robbie has encountered many celebrities looking for a delicious meal while in town. Most recently, The Hound served Matt James and Rachel Kirkconnell of ABC’s The Bachelor.

Chef says the team tries to not make a big deal when famous guests dine there, except the one night when Lionel Richie came

“We kind of made a big deal about that,” Chef Robbie said with a grin. Though he could not be there on that evening due to a very important Daddy-Daughter Date Night, Chef said he was delighted that Lionel Richie chose to patronize The Hound.

Do what Lionel does, the next time you’re in Auburn-Opelika, be sure to make a stop at The Hound and if you stop by in the month of March, wish the team a happy birthday! The Hound celebrates 10 years of bacon, bourbon, and more this March.

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