By Morgan Bryce
One of Opelika’s beloved fine dining establishments is set to make its return next month.
Warehouse Bistro, which closed for renovations and repairs to smoke damage caused by a small electrical fire in August 2017, will open under new executive chef and owner Paul Diaz.
Originally looking to open his own breakfast or coffee shop, Diaz said he followed a recommendation from friend and Opelika-based Chef Jim Sikes to meet with the McCullough family earlier this year, who had owned and operated Warehouse Bistro since 1993.
“Everybody (in this area) knows the name, so that was one of the big reasons I agreed to take this on,” Diaz said.
Born in Orlando, Diaz said he has had a lifelong love of food and its preparation, which led him to attend the Apicius International School of Hospitality in Florence, Italy. He stayed there for two years and worked while earning his degree.
After graduation, he returned home and worked briefly as a chef at Disney World. From there, he took his talents to a Ritz-Carlton Hotel located on the island of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands.
Diaz worked in Auburn from 2009-2011 as a chef at the Auburn University Hotel and Conference Center. Following transfers and cooking stints in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, Colorado and Birmingham, he returned to the Auburn-Opelika area in 2015.
The fine-dining aspect of Warehouse Bistro will remain the same, but Diaz said customers can expect his international culinary influences to be present in each dish that he prepares.
“One of the exciting things about owning my own restaurant is getting to do what I do best and throw in a little bit of tastes and twists on things, which is mostly Italian, but I do know the French and Mexican cuisines really well. I’m really excited to see what people think,” Diaz said.
Other major changes include the overall layout and appearance of the restaurant, which includes new paint and carpet and expanded kitchen featuring a wood-burning grill.
When possible, Diaz said he will source locally grown ingredients to incorporate into his dishes as a part of his commitment to excellence and quality in every aspect of a dining experience at Warehouse Bistro.
“We want everything to be as fresh as possible. Anything that we’re serving, we’re going to make in-house, which includes items like ketchup and mayonnaise,” Diaz said. “We’re going to make all our pastas and sauces here and I will try to use as much local and seasonal ingredients as I possibly can.”
Diaz hinted that he has plans in the near future for the unused frontward portion of the 10,000 sq. ft. building, which formerly housed an antique shop named the “Brass Brassiere.” He said that this development will have a “new identity” and create a “casual dining atmosphere to broaden the customer base.”
A tentative grand re-opening date for Warehouse Bistro has been set for Nov. 5, but Diaz said that that date is still being finalized.
The revamped website, www.warehousebistro.com, is set to launch in the coming days. For more information or details on its opening date, email email@example.com or call 334-745-6353. Warehouse Bistro is located at 105 Rocket Ave.