Food, Family, and Football embody Tuscaloosa, Alabama and Learning How to Eat Like a Local brings you closer to appreciating everything Tuscaloosa has to offer. Families have lived in Tuscaloosa for generations, their football pride and enthusiasm is contagious, but its the food that brings everyone together. There is no better way to learn to love a location that by sampling it’s food, exploring through the eyes of the locals who live there and listening to passionate stories of their home.
Tuscaloosa is a college town, they do have their share of fast food restaurants, and I highly suggest passing right by them. To eat like a local, you need to join the lines at these Tuscaloosa restaurants, try some good old Alabama cooking, and you will quickly understand their passion for Food, Family, and Football.
301 Bistro, Bar, and Beer Garden
Residing in a beautifully restored railroad station originally built-in 1912, then operated by the Louisville & Nashville Railroad, now housing the delightful culinary offerings if the 301 Bistro. With its carefully detailed restoration, you will be able to sit one of the station’s three rooms, enjoy the beautiful woodwork, marble wainscoting and tall windows letting in the Alabama sunshine.
Sunday brunch is a local favorite, and they offer a full brunch menu along with a well-stocked bar to enjoy the day with friends and family. Along the walls, you will find newspaper articles detailing the history of the train station, including original architectural drawings showing the historic features of this old building. Much of the original floor tile is still in place, you can just imagine the weary train travelers walking across the same floor 100 years ago.
The Sunday Brunch menu is varied and offers a great selection of 301 Bistro’s offerings with the bar mixing and pouring an excellent selection of local brews and mixed drinks for you to enjoy. I highly recommend the “Low Country Shrimp & Grits,” a generous serving of Jumbo Shrimp, Andouille Sausage, Smoked Gouda Grits, Peppers. Onions & Cream!
301 Greensboro Ave Tuscaloosa, AL 35401 205-764-1395
Popular with students and locals, this very busy restaurant serves only five of anything or everything, depending on your perspective. With six locations, they must be doing something right! Serving lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch, they have all your cravings covered. With spacious outdoor seating, a busy bar and very enthusiastic to be here servers, you will understand why “Five” is a lucky number for them.
To clarify “Five,” the dominant theme that drives the locals here, again and again, you need to review their menu. Five Bar offers 5 appetizers, 5 entrée, 5 cocktails, 5 beers, 5 craft beers, 5 red wines, 5 white wines, 5 cocktails, keeping the menu simple yet attractive.
For dinner, I tried their “Panéed Chicken” which surprisingly (to me) was a large thin sliced chicken breast, breaded and pan-fried, then sauced with a delicious “shallot caper cream.” Nor should I forget to mention that it comes with mashed potatoes and green salad too.
2324 6th St Tuscaloosa, AL 205-345-6089
Next door to Tuscaloosa, perhaps a 5-minute drive, is a southern charmer that has fed thousands of Tuscaloosan’s, University students and locals who love their classic southern style cooking. Opening at an “up before the rooster crows” 4:00 am to serve a traditional southern breakfast at a price everyone can appreciate. Serving their guests in a charming 50’s/60’s style restaurant, with a long counter to seat those alone or in a hurry, classic booths along the walls in two rooms, wobbly tables, and chairs that have served perfectly for years.
City Cafes menu leaves no one hungry, with everything from biscuits served 22 different ways to good old-fashioned chicken and dumplings. They are well-known for their biscuits and gravy too! I enjoyed a hearty helping of pancakes that were some of the best I have ever tried. My kind of place!
408 Main Ave, Northport, AL 205 – 758-9171
To eat like a local, you will be hard pressed to take in everything this small breakfast and lunch restaurant has to offer in one visit, but visit you must. Located right next to the Bryant Denny Stadium, you can imagine this walk-up local favorite is jam-packed with Crimson Tide memorabilia and customers, especially on game day. It’s elbow room only, and there is no inch of wall or ceiling space untouched by football.
They serve breakfast and lunch only and healthy portions of everything! Hamburgers, shakes, a 16 slice bacon BLT and everything else to make a meal is handwritten on a chalkboard for you to order from. Everyone is crazy busy and happy to be helping; I was so impressed with the smiles I received from the staff.
I managed to devour a bacon wrapped hot dog and perfectly battered onion rings. Though I wish I had the capacity to add a shake to the meal as some of my friends did, you will have to take my word that they were delighted with their choice.
1000 Paul W Bryant Dr, Tuscaloosa, AL 35401 205 – 750-0901
Nick’s in the Sticks
Just outside of Tuscaloosa city proper and every bit worth the short drive you will find this very popular restaurant. Known for their bacon-wrapped filets, ribeyes, onion rings and specialty of the house drink “The Nicodemus,” this small and unimposing restaurant is truly a place you can eat like a local. They are well-known for closing up shop for game days, so check to see if they are going to open!
If you are looking for casual, then this is the place, from the tables to the decoration, it’s not about the view, it’s about the food. Steaks are large, served on platters, fish is fried, and the onion rings are outstanding. Beware of the t-bone steak, it overflows the platter at a hefty 20 ounces plus a serving of salad and a baked potato, consider yourself warned.
My choice for the evening was a perfectly cooked ribeye steak with a baked potato washed down with their famous “Nicodemus” cocktail. So you’re not too surprised, as I was, the “Nicodemus” is served in a styrofoam cup with a healthy portion of Bacardi 151 rum. Undoubtedly the highlight of the evening for me.
4018 Culver Rd Tuscaloosa, AL 35401 205 -758-9316
The Waysider Restaurant has been a go-to eat like a local restaurant since 1951. The small repurposed house painted a dark red is so casual that I can only assume that many travelers never give it a thought when they pass by. A guaranteed loss if you do! Walking inside is nostalgic old Alabama with football posters lining the walls, friendly waitresses greeting you with a happy welcome, and Tuscaloosa style home cooking with hot out of the oven biscuit scent greeting you as you enter.
Don’t expect fancy dining here, with 16 tables it’s elbow to elbow with just great food and plenty of it! They serve breakfast and lunch only, I didn’t check, but there is no doubt someone’s grandma is cooking up a fine batch of vittles in that kitchen.
Around our table, we order a great selection of eats including pancakes, grits, homemade biscuits, ham steak, sausage, omelets, and good old-fashioned scrambled eggs. Everyone had smiles and thumbs up eating their breakfast.
1512 Greensboro Avenue, Tuscaloosa, AL 35401 205-345-8239
Now, this is just classic Alabama BBQ! Don’t expect anything fancy here, except some of the best BBQ ribs you may ever try. They Que up only two types of meat here, ribs and sausage, focusing solely on delivering the best of each. Located off the beaten track in a low ceiling building that served as part of John “Big Daddy” Bishop’s home back in 1958. With a long bar at one side, banquet style seating in the middle, paper towels, and condiments waiting upon the tables for you, delivery that homey feeling of comfort.
You should take in a few minutes to walk around and read the walls, visit the pit master and say hi to the locals packing the place. The experience will stick in your mind forever along with BBQ ribs and side dishes they serve up at Dreamland BBQ. Their ribs and sausages are slow smoked over hickory wood, and the classic flavor permeates the meats.
The menu is short and sweet with homemade baked beans, coleslaw, potato salad offered as side dishes and homemade banana pudding along with their chocolate dream is enough to keep your belly warm for hours! If you want more, just wash it all down with an ever-classic Alabama sweet tea.
5535 15th Avenue, East Tuscaloosa, AL 35405 205-758-8135
The Avenue Pub
Modern and hip, the Avenue Pub is a great place to meet friends, enjoy great food, beer and a delicious array of starters. With ample outside seating, first and second-floor indoor tables, along with a few seats at the bar, you will find plenty of room to enjoy what the Avenue Pub has to offer. Open for lunch, brunch, and dinner; their menu includes an excellent selection of cocktails, wines and a decent lineup of local beers to wet your whistle.
Their dinner menu offers a great selection of entrée’s, Fish & Chips, Chicken Club, Steak sandwich, Corned Beef Sandwich, Bacon Burger, Parmesan chicken, Grilled pork sandwich and Salmon. We tried several, and they all passed the test. Personally, I enjoyed the Fried Green Tomatoes, Bacon burger, and the highly recommended Hand-cut Fries! All washed down with a delicious Berry Bash cocktail consisting of Cruzan Rum, crushed strawberries, and blueberries, and fresh lime juice, splendid indeed!
405 23rd Ave. Downtown Tuscaloosa, AL 35401 205-759-4900
Eat like a Local
And there you have it!
In my humble opinion and with the expert recommendations of the Tuscaloosa Tourism & Sports team that so generously gave their time to show me three amazing days in Tuscaloosa, you have the best places to eat like a local in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Full disclosure, Tuscaloosa Tourism & Sports hosted Never to Old To Travel for a three-day all expense paid media trip to Tuscaloosa with no stipulations. All thoughts and opinions in this article are my own.