Join the Dining Winos this summer as they 'wine and dine' through some of Auburn-Opelika's favorite dining spots! This summer series features their experiences at local restaurants with exceptional wine lists, delicious food pairings, and other fine things that would appeal to any level of wine lover. Click here to read Part 1.

AND WITHOUT FURTHER ADIEU, THE DINING WINOS

Continuing across Auburn and Opelika, Wining and Dining our way, let's visit downtown Opelika and talk about some fantastic dining and wining experiences.

First up, a must-stop is Zazu Gastropub. Graham Hage, chef and owner, moved Zazu from its location in downtown Auburn to this completely renovated historic building in 2015, keeping the historic-charm downtown Opelika strives to preserve. Zazu offers a fine-dining menu but with a more relaxed atmosphere. Their menu changes with the seasons, although they maintain some of their classics, like the poutine. Poutine has its origins in Quebec, Canada, but it is something we southerners can get down on. Zazu's poutine is a base of duck fat fries covered in savory brown gravy, cheese curds, and burnt brisket ends. Order this, a nice bottle of red wine, and ask to sit on the outdoor balcony upstairs. It's the perfect way to spend a happy hour.

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Across the street is another great dinner option, Café 123. Chef Eron Bass is a native of Opelika and puts out some spectacular dishes in a cozy space. Pretty sure the checkerboard floors are original to the drugstore, along with the "soda fountain" bar. Reservations are encouraged, as the seating in what was once Hayne's Drugstore is limited. Chef Eron keeps the menu fresh but also has some spectacular staple dishes. The fried chicken skins should be illegal. Fried chicken skins covered in a honey hot sauce. Oh, my heart! The mussels mariniere is also a must-have. A heaping pile of mussels covered and soaked in the most delectable cream sauce. The best part of this dish is dipping the fresh bread in the sauce after finishing up all the mussels. For your entrée, the brown sugar-rubbed ribeye or the pork chop is never a wrong choice. Our Wino in Charge has been working with Chef Eron and owner John Robert Wood to plan what is going to be a spectacular wine dinner at the café later in August. Keep an eye on our social media outlets for updates and tickets.

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There are several great after-dinner cocktail spots as well in downtown Opelika! (We do drink more than just wine!)  We love going to Sneak and Dawdle. The dark, speakeasy feel, along with sensational creative cocktails, makes this a fun stop. In true speakeasy form, it’s not easy to find. Hint: If Resting Pulse Brewery is to your back, look for two large wooden doors and a bear. Another favorite spot is John Emerald Distillery. They don’t just make gin here. They also distill vodka, single malt whiskey, rum, and brandy. A bottle of Elizabeth vodka is a go-to “locally-made” gift! You can also buy drink mixers here, and they have a full-service bar. It’s a great place to grab some drinks with friends.

Again, we hope you have enjoyed following along with our Wining and Dining adventure this month! Join us later this month as we wrap up our summer fun.

John Mark’s Pro Wine Tip:  Step out of your comfort zone when ordering wine at a restaurant or buying wine at a retailer. While going with what you know is easy, I suggest expanding your horizons from that same old Chardonnay, Cabernet, or Pinot Noir. Possibly try your favorite varietal from a different place. For example, try a white Burgundy if your go-to beverage is California Chardonnay. Another example could be trying something similar to your go-to; if you love Pinot Noir, maybe give Gamay or Nebbiolo a whirl! Cheers!!