Tuscaloosa is renowned for its excellent quality of life, and this state of grace extends to its restaurants. The city’s culinary scene offers interesting options for those looking for homespun cooking or refined, creative cuisine. We’ve picked the ten best places for a great meal in this Alabama city.
Cypress Inn Restaurant
There is no other restaurant in Tuscaloosa that can boast a location as strikingly beautiful as Cypress Inn‘s. The large and complex facility in which the restaurant is found was built in 1984 entirely from cypress wood, just metres away from the Black Warrior River that runs through Tuscaloosa, and amidst four acres of manicured and natural gardens. The dining rooms have large windows that allow customers to savour their food while soaking up the view of the river, or you can sit directly in the outdoor patio to get an even closer look and enjoy the fresh air. Add a menu of scrumptious Southern food to the scenic backdrop and you get one of the best restaurants in Tuscaloosa.
In 1958, John Bishop, a brick mason, decided that it was time to support his family by starting his own business; he was undecided between a mortuary and a restaurant. Thankfully he finally set on the restaurant, otherwise Alabama wouldn’t have been gifted with the local chain of Dreamland restaurants that branched out from that first one Bishop opened in Tuscaloosa. The Dreamland restaurants are best-known for their mouth-watering barbecued ribs, the house’s signature dish since the early days of the chain’s history, but the menu also offers finger-licking servings of pulled pork, barbecued chicken, sausages, and more. The relaxed, convivial atmosphere of these restaurants is another strong draw that keeps customers coming back time and time again.
Epiphany is the right restaurant for any adventurous gourmet in Tuscaloosa. The restaurant’s kitchen selects only the freshest, seasonal produce, sourced locally as per an authentic, farm-to-table approach to cooking. The ingredients are later mixed and matched in eclectic, surprising preparations, like the delectable windy hill catfish with marinated cabbage, country ham and kolsch gravy, or the exquisite coffee cured lamb belly with mint crème fraîche. The menu lists so many particular, unusual ingredients that every dish turns out to be a true culinary epiphany. This wonderful restaurant also gets a lot of love from patrons for its friendly and accommodating service.
Innisfree Irish Pub
Innisfree Irish Pub is exactly what the name promises: an Irish pub in the centre of Tuscaloosa. You know the kind; brick walls, a long bar top, dark wood floors, small tables somewhat scattered around the venue, TV screens, dartboards and all sorts of badges on the walls. Come here to spend a fun night in a cheerful atmosphere, in the company of good people and even better beer; or stop for a quick, tasty lunch of typical but delicious pub fare. Choose from the inviting selections of salads, burgers and sandwiches; the scrumptious Dubliner sandwich features Angus Philly steak and cheese with peppers, onions and mushrooms.
Tuscaloosians tend to choose Kozy’s for special, romantic occasions. Those who have visited the restaurant at least once will know why. Kozy’s is housed in a charming wooden mansion, all painted in white, surrounded by trees along a quiet street. A slanted neon sign that spells the restaurant’s name in hand-written lettering brights up the night with its dazzling red light. Inside, customers are welcomed by live piano music, and black-and-white photographs of famed cinema stars, mostly from the 1930s and 1940s, setting the mood for an elegant, memorable dinner. The delectable, fine-dining cuisine prepared by the kitchen is the cherry on top of a fantastic experience.
A beautiful, typically Southern house converted into a restaurant, The Waysider is an old favourite among locals for a hearty, authentic breakfast. In fact, The Waysider is so much a favourite that it is consistently packed with patrons laying claim to the delicious eggs, sausages, grits and every other delicacy of a traditional Southern breakfast. The venue easily gets cramped, but many weigh this as a tolerable downside against the sweet taste of The Waysider’s fluffy, heavenly biscuits. Memorabilia of the University of Alabama football team and its past champions are found all over the place, and attest to the restaurant’s strong ties with Tuscaloosa’s local culture.
Nick’s Original Filet House
Locals commonly refer to Nick’s Original Filet House as Nick’s in the Sticks, due to its location a little bit off the beaten track. Moreover, no sign is there to indicate that you’ve arrived, and the unimpressive venue could be easily overlooked. Although average-looking, Nick’s in the Sticks has been attracting crowds of loyal customers though since the Prohibition era, when it first opened. Nick’s doesn’t need a sign because everyone knows where it is and comes back for more of its simple but tasty staples, its good drinks (the Nicodemus is a signature, popular cocktail) but, most importantly, its unique atmosphere.
Is it the 1950s all over again? That is certainly the feeling you get when you enter Rama Jama’s, a homely food joint nearby Tuscaloosa’s Bryant-Denny stadium. The red-and-white checkered floors, tabletop white plastic, curvy red seats and the omnipresent Coca-Cola logo will make you feel like you’ve been sucked into a time warp. Rama Jama’s is a popular stop for sport lovers before they head to the stadium, home of the University of Alabama football team, and it is particularly appreciated for the genuine American breakfast it serves. Have fun scanning the period photographs and framed newspaper clippings over the walls while enjoying your eggs over easy.
There are restaurants you go to for food, others for the atmosphere. At Evangeline’s, you go for both. The large dining room is filled with small, neatly arranged tables, and overlooked by an elegant wood bar. Fresh flowers and plants decorate the venue, as well as a few original faux windows hanging from the ceiling in the middle of the room. The world fusion menu includes tantalising courses such as the fresh seared halibut with marinated/roasted purple Peruvian potato, wilted baby spinach and citrus beurre blanc, and conchiglie stuffed with shrimp, lump crab, ricotta cheese, scallion, light clam sauce and shaved parmesan.
Five Bar is an eccentric gastropub in downtown Tuscaloosa, particularly popular among the city’s many college students so it tends to fill up quickly. The restaurant derives its name from the menu, which lists five snacks, five entrees, five cocktails, ten beers (five standards and five Southern) and ten wines (five red, five white), plus a selection of nightly specials (one for each day of the week). It might sound like a limiting choice, however this is clearly a case of ‘less is more’, as every single offering is so good it never causes disappointment.