For 30 years, the Amsterdam Café has been a staple in the Auburn community for students and citizens alike. Even during a global pandemic, the business is still booming.
Opened in 1991 as a bar, the business transformed into the restaurant it is today when the Cleveland Brothers took ownership in 1998.
Amsterdam’s executive chef, Brady Thompson, joined the restaurant’s team in the fall of 2018. He said that Amsterdam is truly a family business that strives to treat everyone who walks through their doors with grace and hospitality. It is the restaurant’s goal to make everyone’s experience enjoyable and comfortable, he said.
“It is my sincere hope that the community thinks of Amsterdam Café as a place where they can have a consistently excellent experience, a place for Auburn students to bring their parents, a place for graduates to bring their children and even a place for visiting college rivals to sit down and experience a little taste of Auburn,” Thompson said.
This restaurant also means a lot to the general manager, Nick Ciza, who started in 2009 as a server and worked his way up through the rankings. As exemplified with Ciza, the family aspect starts with its employees and trickles down to how Amsterdam treat its customers.
“To me, an Auburn graduate, this business was a local hot spot long before I even started working here,” Ciza said. “I think over the years we have grown into a restaurant that locals and tourists alike can find a welcoming, comfortable atmosphere to enjoy great food.”
He said that graduated students who return to campus can relive the nostalgia of their college days with their favorite dishes.
Current Auburn students get the experience of Amsterdam not only at the restaurant’s physical location, but also at the two Auburn University food trucks. The campus trucks, the Amsterdam Café Food Truck and The Dam Taco Truck, offer students a delicious lunch during the rush between classes. Students line up with their friends to experience a taste of Amsterdam without having to leave campus.
Lily Ann Guagliardo, an Auburn student, said she has fond memories of eating there with her family over her college years.
“Amsterdam is my favorite restaurant in Auburn,” she said. “Whenever my family comes to see me in Auburn, we always go there.”
Amsterdam serves lunch, dinner, desserts, drinks & cocktails and Sunday brunch. They also conveniently offer catering and party services.
Their menu features seasonal ingredients with different availability, as the chef uses local, farm-fresh ingredients for all of their dishes. Guests can choose from a variety of options, including seasonal dishes, family-friendly meals, award-winning sandwiches and traditional favorites.
Chef Thompson said that some of the menu’s long-time dishes are ones he would recommend. Dishes like the Turkey Wrap & Avocado Sandwich, Lobster Egg Rolls, Rum Salmon Salad and the Amsterdam Burger have been popular with the Auburn residents. More recently, customer favorites have included the “Yardbird” hickory-smoked chicken sandwich, the cast-iron Spinach Dip and grilled dishes like the Prime Ribeye, Bone in Pork Chops and Center Cut Filets.
The general manager had some dishes of his own to weigh in on. Along with the classics mentioned, he has a few different dishes to recommend. His favorites include the seasonally-changing Apple Salad, as well as the Fried Mac ‘n’ Cheese.
Like other businesses in the restaurant industry, Amsterdam has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. To assess the problems that arose, Ciza said the cafe has permanently added curbside pickup for guests, as well as adjusted the dining room seating to allow for a greater space between tables so guests can dine while being socially distant.
“We have done our best to overcome the obstacles that it has brought with it though,” Ciza said. “This has brought our team closer together, and when the pandemic comes to an end, we will be stronger for it.”
Thompson said that they have also moved to QR codes and disposable menus for a more contactless approach, as well as created a Sanitation Specialist position whose job is to clean and sanitize the restaurant thoroughly. Along with adjusting operations for the safety and health of staff and customers, the business has also had to adapt to the changing food industry.
“Prices for normal, everyday ingredients and items have skyrocketed,” Thompson said. “A shutdown in a different city or state can mean some ingredient you rely on for daily service can be unavailable for days, weeks, months or can even have its production ceased entirely.”
Despite the challenges, Thompson and Ciza said that Amsterdam will continue to handle the ever-changing situation in the future. They said they will continue to think of new ways to improve the overall customer experience while keeping everyone safe based on the information at hand.
“We want to make sure everyone knows that we are a safe place to visit, even with everything going on,” Ciza said. “We just take it day by day and make sure we feel safe to continue serving and continue to hope that the worst is already behind us.”
Thompson wanted to add that the business is acting with vigilance by following the health and sanitation mandates from the local, state and federal levels. He said that their own personal safety guidelines will still be in effect even beyond the pandemic.
“We’ll do everything we need to do with open hearts, a welcoming attitude, and smiles on our faces because, we know that’s what we need to do to keep our customers safe and happy,” Thompson said.
Looking ahead for Amsterdam, Ciza said the cafe os currently working on releasing its spring menu in mid-March. Along with the campus food trucks, Amsterdam locally expanded to a storefront at 540 Devall St. Suite 102, a new building at the Research Park in Auburn. This gives customers yet another way to enjoy their favorite Amsterdam cuisine in a different spot in town.
Amsterdam is located at 410 S. Gay St. in Auburn. Customers can dine in the dining room or patio from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Saturday. On Sundays, brunch is served from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., with normal operation hours from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
To contact the Amsterdam Café, call 334-826-8181, or visit their website at http://www.amsterdamcafeauburn.com/, where guests can make reservations, order online, book a party or access their social media links.
Thompson said that Amsterdam has more exciting things planned for the future and is so grateful for the support of the community during these difficult times.
“We love the Auburn-Opelika community so much,” he said. “We are ever so grateful for anyone who has chosen to dine with us in the past, but especially this year. Thank you so much.”
With its classic Southern dishes and hospitality, The Amsterdam Café is a true Auburn favorite. This community would not be the same without this restaurant.
Photos By Robert Noles