A bright red neon sign effuses a cheerful glow onto Kozy's simple white cottage building, never betraying a hint of the elegant gourmet feasts to be found inside. Lauded as a "hidden gem" by the editors of VisitSouth.com, Kozy's embodies founder Sylvere Coussement's dream of mingling Southern culinary curiosity with a speakeasy's old-fashioned charm. Upon arrival, guests are greeted by a scene described by _Southern Living as "unique ambiance with an old-Hollywood theme". As house musician Henderson Huggins's live piano jazz mingles with the sound of the courtyard's antique cherub fountain burbling into the koi pond, waiter clad in smart black tie garb bear plates full of seasonal, French-influenced meals. Plates might hold Gulf shrimp and grits, center-cut filet mignon, Andouille-crusted pork, and stuffed mushrooms declared one of the "100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama Before You Die" by the Auburn and Opelika Tourism Bureau. This dedication to inventive quality extends to the bar, which houses bottles of the restaurant's extensive wine list as well as precision mixologists ready to turn out impeccable cocktails. On warm nights or sunny days, guests sip these drinks on the fenced-in garden patio, surrounded by fragrant flowers and leafy trees.
In addition to serving memorable meals, Kozy's crack team of caterers and event professionals also lends the restaurant's signature flavors to both off-site events and fetes thrown in their private party room or courtyard. Though Kozy's has no de facto dress code, most of the clientele complements the classy surroundings and haute cuisine meals with attire that ranges from business casual to Monopoly man.
The lore surrounding Archibald & Woodrow's Barbeque is almost as thick and delicious as its eponymous sauce. After opening in 1962, Archibald & Woodrow’s Barbeque was just a mom-and-pop joint run by George and Betty Archibald. Legend even has it that in the early days famed football coach Bear Bryant frequented the eatery, no doubt leaving with the occasional hot wing tucked under his iconic houndstooth hat. Though they started small, half a century and three generations worth of experience have seen the Archibald family spread their recipes far and wide, gaining acclaim from The New York Times, Good Morning America, and Southern Living Magazine.
George's and Betty's successors still use the same hickory wood to add a smoky richness to their meat and sauce. This imparts crispiness to outer layers of rib slabs while leaving pulled pork moist and tender, like a beaux professing his love and shuffling to remain dramatically under the oscillating sprinkler. The staff serves their primary fare with bread and a choice of two sides—fried green tomatoes offer a tangy counterpoint to fried catfish, and slaw adds a creamy balance to the spicy flavors of half-chickens and hot wings.
Applewood-smoked bacon, dried cranberries, and roasted red-onion aioli are just a handful of the ingredients that have staked out claims on Cafe J's bistro menu. Shredded sirloin and mozzarella meet grilled hoagie in the cheesesteak sandwich. Corned beef and swiss come together in the southern Reuben. And boiled shrimp make a name for the shrimp salad, which comes with a fruit kebab and a croissant to stab with the kebab. Along with sandwich and salad offerings, the café prepares soups, quiche, and desserts, all made in-house every day and remembered fondly every night.
In an effort to simplify the eating experience, the folks at Five have created a menu that limits the number of choices in each course category to five. Select from five snacks for a starter, such as cracklin’ pork sprinkled with spicy salt ($5) or fried olives smothered in tangy Asian sauce ($5). Next sate your salivating stomach with a selection from Five's five entrees, such as the pork pad thai ($13) with peanuts and fresh lime and the aged beef rib eye with homemade fries ($22). At night, customers can fail at resisting the five nightly specials, which include Wednesday’s shrimp enchiladas ($16) and Friday’s braised short ribs ($16). Live music serenades ears several evenings a week.
Gigi of Gigi’s Cupcakes has been a self-starter since she was 15. That’s when she began her first business—a cleaning company—because she "didn’t want to work for anyone else." What began as a youthful whim blossomed into a business that, along with waiting tables and singing professionally, carried Gigi into her 30s.
Then, one day, her brother suggested making a career out of her baking hobby. That pastime had been born in her childhood, when Gigi often spent time with her mother and grandmother as they baked and bonded. So, amid seemingly insurmountable financial constraints, Gigi unveiled Gigi’s Cupcakes in 2008 and, within weeks, had more than covered her bills. Today, the franchise boasts more than 50 locations in the 18 states that haven’t outlawed dessert.
Each bakery crafts its cupcakes daily with fresh ingredients, and updates the menu according to day of the week and season. Traditional summer flavors such as Scarlett’s red velvet, chocolate-chip-cookie dough, and Birthday Surprise have recently met their culinary match in new mini cheesecakes that masquerade as cupcakes to rebel against their conservative wedding-cake parents.