For almost four and a half years, Chef Christian Watson, executive chef and operating partner of The Waverly Local, has been living out his dream of owning a restaurant alongside his friend and operating partner, Andy Anderson.

Tying together both Chef Christian’s Auburn roots and his background in farming, the Waverly Local serves farm-fresh Southern favorites in the charming town of Waverly. Chef Christian grew up in Auburn but at an early age moved to South Carolina to help his aunt and uncle tend their farm where he found his passion for cooking. His first project upon arrival on the farm was taking care of the garden.

“My uncle taught me how to plow and plant," Chef Watson said. "At the end of the summer, I remember eating meals that I was responsible for, from seed to plate.”

Chef Christian remembers making modest meals on the farm that incorporated the vegetables from the land and grilling and smoking meats to accompany them. His menu at the Waverly Local is founded on the simplicities of farm-to-table cooking he learned on the farm, elevated by his culinary training at Johnson & Wales University in Charleston, South Carolina.

“My aunt and uncle were simple folks; there is nothing elaborate about their good ol’ home cooking,” Chef Christian said. “I think they taught me less is more, and we have deemed our style at Waverly Local as simple Southern.”

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After spending 20 years in South Carolina, Chef Christian resolved that it was time to come home to Auburn. In an effort to be closer to his family and reconnect with old friends, he packed his bags and returned to The Plains. Once he returned, he frequented the town of Waverly to visit his childhood friend Andy who lived right by the vacant building that is now the Waverly Local.

“I would come to Waverly to see Andy - he has been one of my best friends since I was 7 years old. We’d go out on a walk and say, ‘It’s a shame that place is empty.’ It just sat empty for years.”

Andy was the first to suggest the idea of opening up a restaurant; however, Chef Christian remembered being weary of the location at first but decided to take a leap of faith that people would be willing to drive to Waverly for “a good meal, or something different.” Soon enough, they opened their doors, and locals and visitors can’t seem to get enough.

Chef Christian’s instincts didn’t fail him: “They will come to Waverly if we do it right.”

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Chef Christian takes inspiration from the seasons when he plans his farm-fresh menu and springtime just happens to be his favorite.

“It’s new life in the air with brighter colors and flavors.” This spring, Chef Christian is trading the hearty, winter fare for light and acidic flavors to accompany their staples of fish, pork, and steak.

The fish entrée is accompanied by sorghum, an ancient grain packed full of nutrients, along with spring vegetables, and a citrus vinaigrette to add a bright pop of flavor to the dish. The steak is their most popular dish, a simple yet classic 16-ounce ribeye seasoned with salt and pepper, paired with mashed potatoes and broccolini, and finished off with a bourbon jus. 

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The Local’s seasonal and fresh menu wouldn’t be possible without the help of local partners. Chef Christian sources his ingredients from local vendors, Extreme Greens, Harper’s Supply, and Evan’s Meats.

The restaurant also partners with Hornsby Farms to create specialty jams only available at the Waverly Local. Whether you’re enjoying a Sunday brunch, devouring dessert to top off your meal, or sipping cocktails at the patio bar the menu is abundantly adorned with their jams.

The newest addition to the Waverly Local, the outdoor courtyard, opened up last spring. In an effort to accommodate guests during the pandemic, Chef Christian and Andy transformed the empty gravel lot, nestled in between Standard Deluxe and the Waverly Local, into an intimate patio for guests to gather safely and enjoy the peaceful town of Waverly.

The courtyard’s centerpiece is an old, European, multi-purpose vehicle, transformed into an outdoor bar. Andy repurposed the vehicle originally as a coffee truck he owned and operated in New Orleans prior to the Waverly Local. Now the truck sits behind a refurbished parts cabinet, housing all the essentials to make the restaurant’s refreshing signature cocktails. 

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The restaurant plays beautifully into not only Andy and Chef Christian’s roots but the roots of the building itself. What is now decorated beautifully with mid-century modern décor was once the first Ford Model T dealership in Alabama. The showroom doors now flood the restaurant with natural light and a scenic view of Waverly. Following the dealership, the building has housed an eclectic range of businesses from restaurants to general markets, barbershops, and even a garage, where the parts cabinet was originally used.

Visitors and locals alike feel at home at the Waverly Local with classic Southern cuisine, a warm and cozy atmosphere, and smiling, friendly staff. Chef Christian pours his heart and soul into his team, and it comes through in the exceptional service and food at The Local.

“To have the opportunity to be a brick in their foundation for whatever they continue to do after here, to me, is a tremendous amount of inspiration,” Chef Christian said. “I take a lot of pride and responsibility in having the opportunity to be a part of their future.”

Chef Christian has expanded his culinary repertoire into upscale bar food at his latest restaurant endeavor, The Auburn Plaza Bar & Lounge located in Midtown Auburn. The indoor-outdoor dining room and bar contrast the Local’s calming, relaxed atmosphere with a hip and energetic one. While the food offerings are juxtaposed as well, from southern comfort at The Waverly Local to delicious “late-night food,” cocktails, and deals at The Plaza, the two restaurants have one thing in common: a chef who knows how to satisfy his guests.