Courtesy Amsterdam Cafe

I recently visited my very good friend in Auburn, Alabama. She started grad school last month and since I'm only a few hours away, I thought I'd hop on I-280 and pay her a visit.

She guided me on the grand tour of campus and the downtown area, which was just long enough for us to work up an appetite.

We decided on Amsterdam Cafe, which is just south of the main drag downtown. Tucked away in a bitty shopping center south of the main downtown area, Amsterdam Cafe itself is pretty cozy. Not counting the back party space, I'd guess that around 50 diners can be seated at once.

After some debate on whether we could take the heat of the day out on the patio, we opted to head outside. I was pleasantly surprised to see that there were several trees planted within the patio, offering shade to almost all of the space. I recall seeing some lights strung up in the trees as well, and I'm sure it's a great spot to hang out at night.

Our server was efficient, even if we had trouble deciding on what to eat. Everything looked great, and a great deal of the produce is local. Part of Amsterdam Cafe's mission is to serve produce from local food sources and other small producers. Therestaurant gives homage to their suppliers on their site, which includeBelle Chevre cheese, White Oak Pastures beef, and several Auburn farms.

But, you might think, "Doesn't that make it expensive and stuffy?"Nope. The lunch options are very reasonable, and as we found out, you get great portions.

My friend chose the Strube Ranch Kobe beef burger (I'd like to add that her bill came out to about $15!) and I ordered the Crab Cake & Avocado, which was named one of the "100 dishes to eat in Alabama before you die" by the state tourism department, and house-made sweet potato chips on the side.


Courtesy Amsterdam Cafe

We were both happy with our lunches. My friend ate every bit of food, except for one bite of burger that she agonized over leaving on the plate. For a crab cake so far from the sea, I thought Amsterdam's still had great flavor, if a bit bready. The herbs were pungent, so I'm guessing they were all fresh, and the avocado was a nice addition. The remoulade was a take-it-or-leave it side for me, especially when there was already creamy avocado included. The chips also had good flavor and were the right amount of crispy.

I was only in Auburn for a short day, but eating at Amsterdam brought me back to dining out at the small, well-run restaurants in Athens and Roswell that I love so much.

What about the rest of the U.S.? Any other restaurants like Amsterdam Cafe that we should put on our must-eat travel lists?