The Wire

  • New tunnel, premium RV section at Talladega Superspeedway on schedule despite weather


    Construction of a new oversized vehicle tunnel and premium RV infield parking section at Talladega Superspeedway is still on schedule to be completed in time for the April NASCAR race, despite large amounts of rainfall and unusual groundwater conditions underneath the track.

    Track Chairman Grant Lynch, during a news conference Wednesday at the track, said he’s amazed the general contractor, Taylor Corporation of Oxford, has been able to keep the project on schedule.

    “The amount of water they have pumped out of that and the extra engineering they did from the original design, basically to keep that tunnel from floating up out of the earth, was remarkable,” Lynch said.

  • Alabama workers built 1.6M engines in 2018 to add auto horsepower


    Alabama’s auto workers built nearly 1.6 million engines last year, as the state industry continues to carve out a place in global markets with innovative, high-performance parts, systems and finished vehicles.

    Last year also saw major new developments in engine manufacturing among the state’s key players, and more advanced infrastructure is on the way in the coming year.

    Hyundai expects to complete a key addition to its engine operations in Montgomery during the first half of 2019, while Honda continues to reap the benefits of a cutting-edge Alabama engine line installed several years ago.

  • Groundbreaking on Alabama’s newest aerospace plant made possible through key partnerships


    Political and business leaders gathered for a groundbreaking at Alabama’s newest aerospace plant gave credit to the formation of the many key partnerships that made it possible.

    Governor Kay Ivey and several other federal, state and local officials attended the event which celebrated the construction of rocket engine builder Blue Origin’s facility in Huntsville.

8 months ago

The Waverly Local in Alabama is worth the drive for fresh, flavorful food

(Brooke Echols/Alabama Living)

Driving into Waverly, Alabama – population 185, give or take – harkens to a slower, simpler time, with its tiny post office and historic homes along the main thoroughfare that’s still a two-lane street (thankfully, U.S. Highway 280 was routed around the town).

Careful, or you’ll drive right by the Waverly Local, the Southern-cuisine eatery opened by executive chef Christian Watson and Andy Anderson, a partner in the company that makes Wickles Pickles. Watson and Anderson revived an old commercial space that was originally the home of one of the state’s first Ford dealerships.


Over the years, the space housed two restaurants – Peyton’s Place and then the Yellowhammer Cafe. When that restaurant closed, it sat vacant for five years, but Anderson, who lives across the street, kept his eye on the building. When the timing was right, the childhood friends decided to open their own restaurant.

It needed a good cleaning and some repairs, but they took care not to compromise the building’s historic integrity. The result is an atmosphere that is understated, but clean and comfortable. The booths and banquettes are custom-made, and the copper tables, bar and host stand are handmade by a local metalworks artisan. The floors were cleaned and sealed, but the remaining imperfections add character.

“We really just wanted to accentuate what was already here, not mask it and cover it up, but kind of revitalize it,” Watson says.


It was the rich history of the building that inspired Watson to start reading old cookbooks, some dating to the late 19th century. These cookbooks featured foods that were clean and real, and recipes that were simple and Southern – which is exactly what Watson and Anderson wanted their restaurant to be.

“You’ll never see microgreens or coconut foam here,” Watson says.

The menu is small, by design. Watson’s focus is on the execution of the cooking.

“This isn’t a fine dining restaurant, but we serve fine dining food. Our service is fine-dining style without the pretentiousness. We’re Waverly; there’s no pretentiousness here,” Watson said, with a laugh.

Before going to culinary school, Watson lived and worked on a farm for three years, an experience that gave him a deep appreciation for small farming operations and fresh, healthy food. He uses as much locally sourced food as possible, preferring to buy from local farmers and purveyors to keep money in the community while still using quality ingredients. The eggs, dairy products and most of the vegetables are locally produced, and Waverly only serves domestic Gulf seafood (except for a smoked salmon BLT at Sunday brunch, which is wild Alaskan).

“The food we put on the plate is what we’d feed our family,” Watson says. “It’s clean. No antibiotics, no growth hormones, organic as much as we possibly can.”

The menu is seasonal and is updated frequently to reflect the availability of the local and regional products. A mainstay is the best-selling ribeye, served with horseradish cream; coming in at a close second is the daily Gulf offering (barrelfish, on a recent day), served over caramelized mushrooms, peas, potatoes and asparagus with an orange rum vinaigrette.

The menu isn’t all upscale entrees. The tasty burger is a double stack, served with all the trimmings and an herb mayo – and the necessary Wickles Pickles.

The bar menu is seasonal as well. Watson and manager Spencer Bradley collaborate on the specialty cocktails and wine lists.

In the beginning, the restaurant was dinner service only; Sunday brunch was added earlier this year. In late July, they added Saturday lunch.

“We’ve done things at our own pace and our own comfort level, so we do it right and we don’t compromise our integrity,” Watson says.

The Waverly Local

1465 Patrick St. Waverly, Alabama 36879

4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday;
11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday;
10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday for brunch.

Visit The Waverly Local on Facebook for specials and live musical lineups.

This story originally appeared in Alabama Living magazine.

(Courtesy Alabama NewsCenter)

1 year ago

Historic Auburn restaurant delights customers with Gulf Coast cuisine

(Mark Stephenson)

The trains no longer stop at the historic Auburn depot, but they continue to charge down the tracks outside the landmark, lending a charm of times gone by to the upscale restaurant that now occupies the beautifully restored space.

While The Depot is rooted in history, it is pushing the boundaries of Alabama’s culinary scene, bringing globally inspired cuisine to the heart of the South with ingredients sourced locally and from both U.S. coasts and the Gulf of Mexico.


Executive chef and co-owner Scott Simpson is a California native, but has extensive experience working abroad and studying under some of the world’s finest chefs. That international background – he’s worked as a chef in South America, the Caribbean and southeast Asia – is evident in the menu.

“My idea was to bring Gulf coastal cuisine with a worldly flair to Auburn,” Simpson says, taking a break after a busy lunch service. “The idea is to either bring international or exotic products and put a Gulf coastal flavor to it, or take local Gulf catch and seafood and try out other items available locally, and present it with a more international, ethnic, cultural preparation.”

As an example, he notes on the menu a fish that he has flown in overnight from Hawaii, which he serves with a kimchi fried rice and Korean pear glaze. Even with exotic preparations, Alabama diners will find entrees that are familiar and non-intimidating: Carolina Mountain Rainbow Trout, Gulf Amberjack and Blackened Blue Crab Cakes, to name a few. And the rotating daily specials always feature at least six kinds of oysters, sourced from the Gulf and both coasts.

New life for old landmark

Simpson came to Auburn in 2014 to become executive chef and culinary educator at The Hotel at Auburn University and a culinary instructor in the school’s hospitality program. Matt and Jana Poirier, who own The Hound in Auburn, wanted to expand and create another concept restaurant; they reached out to Simpson for ideas and to gauge his interest.

Simpson felt the area lacked a high-quality seafood-focused restaurant. The Poiriers found the depot location, which had fallen into disrepair over the years (the last passenger train pulled into the depot on Jan. 7, 1970.) They worked with the city of Auburn to restore the landmark and make it suitable for a restaurant, while maintaining the integrity of the historic structure. The Depot restaurant opened in September 2015.

The result of the renovation is an inviting, spacious atmosphere – a classic look with industrial, 19th-century touches. Pieces of its past have been retained: The heartwood pine that was once the trail platform is repurposed into the chef’s table, bar and hostess stand. Original doors were restored. The black and white floor tiles harken to another era.

The Depot is one of several establishments that has helped boost the culinary scene in Auburn and Opelika. Simpson says professors and business people have been exposed to nice meals in other places, so the demand is there. The area pulls diners from Columbus, Georgia, and Montgomery, so there’s obviously a desire for more options and upscale dining.

Its clientele is not the younger college crowd that’s constantly on social media. “What gets the social media exposure is not really representative of what’s coming up in our community,” Simpson says.

Exceeding expectations

The Depot started out with dinner service, but soon branched into lunches – designed to be fast and affordable, but still well-prepared – as well as brunch on weekends.

“For lunch, I tried to grab iconic dishes from all over the world,” Simpson says. “With lobster, what’s the most famous worldwide lobster dish I could do? I went with a Maine lobster roll. I tried to pick some great fish tacos from Mexico, and do them as authentic as possible.”

The same attention is put into the dishes that originated a little closer to home. The Gourmet Gumbo, for example – with Cajun andouille, poblano rice, crawfish and Gulf shrimp – gets comments from diners who say it’s better than any gumbo they’ve had in New Orleans.

In addition to the regular menu, there are happy hour specials – like all-you-can-eat mussel night, or dollar oyster night – each one paired with cocktail specials. The seats are always full, Simpson says. The occasional wine dinners sell out with little promotion.

The seafood may be the star, but the meat and poultry entrees receive just as much praise. A diner told Simpson recently that The Depot’s New York strip was the best he’d ever had, and that he’d eaten at steakhouses all over the country.

“We want people to be blown away, to exceed their expectations,” Simpson says, “and make sure that eating here is a noteworthy, lingering memory.”

This article originally appeared in Alabama Living.

The Depot
124 Mitcham Ave. Auburn, AL 36830
334-521-5177 Online:
(reservations recommended but not required, and can be made through the website)


5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday;
5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday;
Brunch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)