Auburn and Georgia meet Saturday in the 117th playing of the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry, a game that dates back to 1892. Really, it's the oldest series in the South, dating a few months earlier than Virginia-North Carolina, but since the Cavaliers and Tar Heels have played one more time, they claim the title of "South's Oldest Rivlary." The Georgia game means a great deal to Auburn people, and vica versa, and the town surrounding Jordan-Hare Stadium will no doubt be buzzing this weekend.
The city of Auburn -- if you want to call it a city; it really is much more of a town -- is located in southeast Alabama, roughly two hours from Birmingham to the northwest and Atlanta to the northeast, and 30 minutes from the Georgia state line directly east. Montgomery, Alabama's capital city, is roughly 45 minutes away on I-85 South.
Affectionately known as the Loveliest Village on the Plains, Auburn is home to about 57,000 residents, the vast majority of whom are connected in some direct way to Auburn University. There's a little downtown area with bars, restaurants and shops; a nearby state park; several local golf courses and a museum of fine art. Like most college towns, it has its famous -- at least to locals -- places to eat and drink.
Tailgating at Auburn is a bit spread out, but there's plenty of it. The most central location is directly adjacent to the east side of Jordan-Hare Stadium, located in the shadows of the football cathedral and also the statues of Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Cam Newton and Pat Sullivan. There's a bust of John Heisman, too -- he was the school's first head football coach, and Auburn is the only school that can claim Heisman as a coach and at least one winner of the award bearing his name. While this tailgating area is the closest to the stadium, it's also a bit controversial. The entire space is operated by Tailgate Guys, a company that sets up and tears down tents, tables, TVs and other tailgating-related accessories. It isn't cheap -- the most budget-friendly package for the full 2013 season costs $2,175 -- but not having to worry about staking claim to a prime spot, setting up at the beginning of the day and packing up at the end is an enticing offer.
Aside from Tailgate Guys' territory, fans set up at various spots around campus. The most popular spot is likely the amphitheater, located a little farther east of Jordan-Hare. A huge green space with tall pine trees surrounded by academic buildings, it's the best spot for anyone who wants to set up early and control every aspect of their tailgating experience. The intramural fields offer another popular location, and really, any green spot on campus will have at least one tent set up.
No matter the spot, the Auburn faithful enjoy going all out for their pre- and postgame revelry. In addition to burgers and hot dogs, it's not uncommon to find other assorted sausages, homemade barbecue that has been smoked for hours and even venison on the grill -- deer-hunting is a favorite Southern pastime, after all. Auburn fans have a warranted reputation for being on the conservative side, but that doesn't mean fall Saturday parties are dominated by a bunch of teetotalers. Beer and/or liquor can be found at most tailgates, and if there's liquor, it's almost always going to be bourbon. Really, there's no reason for a visitor to go hungry or thirsty on game day. Just walk around and say "hello" a few times, and plenty of good eats and drinks will be offered.
Nightlife in Auburn is mostly centered around Downtown, a strip of a few blocks on College Street. At the corner of College and Magnolia Avenue -- hey, College and Magnolia is the name of our Auburn blog -- is Toomer's Corner, the postgame meeting spot after any win. Harvey Updyke may have poisoned the decades-old oak tree that had been rolled by fans since the '70s, but that tradition has just spread to other nearby trees and traffic lights. After hoisting a roll toilet paper into some branches, the Bank Vault, Quixote's, 1716, Bourbon Street and Sky Bar are favorite watering holes within a couple of blocks. Anyone looking to make it a really late night would be wise to visit the War Eagle Supper Club. A dive dating back to the '30s, it features live music and a "shot bus" out back -- yes, that's an old school bus with a shot bar inside. It's quite a hike from Downtown, but the Supper Club offers a bus that will pick up and drop off, and it's free.
Dining in Auburn is, for the most part, focused on college-town and Southern fare. It's Alabama, so there's plenty of barbecue. Any resident would fiercely defend their personal favorite joint, but Mike and Ed's (near Downtown), Byron's (a little farther out on Opelika Road) and Chuck's (way out in Opelika, but worth the trip) are tough to beat. The Hound is Downtown, has an excellent local beer selection, offers good versions of some classic American cuisines -- burgers, meatloaf sandwiches, pork chops, etc. -- and does a solid Sunday brunch. Amsterdam Cafe features a to-die-for crab cake-and-avocado sandwich. Little Italy has tasty pizza -- thin crust, or thick Sicilian-style -- and beer pitchers. Mama Goldberg's is probably the "most Auburn place" in town. The little hole in the wall has expanded all over the Southeast, offering steamed sandwiches and nachos.
Also, some more advice on where to eat and drink:
Auburn fans! Which local bar or restaurant are you most likely to recommend to visitors?— SB Nation CFB (@SBNationCFB) November 15, 2013
@sbnationcfb The Hound for drinks and a solid dinner and Little Italy for pitchers and the best pizza in town.— Isaac McKeithen (@IsaacTM) November 15, 2013
@sbnationcfb Also: Big Blue Bagel for breakfast and Amsterdam Cafe for a nice, but expensive dinner.— Isaac McKeithen (@IsaacTM) November 15, 2013
@SBNationCFB definitely Niffer's. great food— Sam Butler (@sam02butler) November 15, 2013
@SBNationCFB Olde Auburn Ale house— Chris Miller (@millergchris) November 15, 2013
@SBNationCFB Byron's Smokehouse, Niffers and Creole Shack— Bryce (@WarDamnBryce) November 15, 2013
@SBNationCFB The original Momma Goldburgs— Abbie Mckee (@little_miss_ac) November 15, 2013
@SBNationCFB Sky bar, Moes barbecue, Big Blue Bagel.— Savannah Vaughn (@SGVvaughn) November 15, 2013
@SBNationCFB Johnny Bruscos on east University for beer, garlic knots and great pizza!— Marlene Shiparski (@mshiparski) November 15, 2013
"@SBNationCFB: Auburn fans! Which local bar or restaurant are you most likely to recommend to visitors?"...easy, Pannie George's on Sundays.— KCole2 (@kbcole4026) November 15, 2013
@SBNationCFB 17-16 and Sky Bar!! Sunday Brunch: The Hound— Cory Clark (@KlD_CoRy) November 15, 2013
The football Tigers have two games remaining in the regular season, both at home and both against their top two rivals -- the Iron Bowl against Alabama is Nov. 30. For anyone who's never visited but has been interested, it's a fine time to make a trip to the Loveliest Village.