We have a lot of friends come down to visit us who have never been to Tuscaloosa. It’s a mid-size town with a few things worth seeing, but the main attraction is the football and food. When there’s no football, we just have to make do with great food.
Friday Lunch: City Cafe
The best of the best! Classic southern meat and three. The only thing that’s changed since the 1960′s is the prices – they go up about $0.05 a year. Closed on the weekends, and only open for breakfast & lunch so you have to prioritize.
Friday Dinner: Nick’s in the Sticks
Double check the address before you leave, you don’t want to get lost looking for this place. It’s tucked just off the road with a sign that’s easy to miss so look for a parking lot full of cars. Expect to wait about an hour or more. Buy a couple of drinks at the bar (everybody talks about the “Nickademus” – make sure you have a DD!) and then smoke a few cigarettes outside while you wait.
One of the best steaks I’ve ever had – thick, bacon wrapped, and actually a true medium-rare.
Saturday Breakfast: Rama Jama’s
There is some serious debate over who has the better breakfast – City Cafe or Rama Jama’s. I lean towards Rama just because the memorabilia is entertaining for folks who’ve never seen Bama Football madness. 2 eggs scrambled, with sausage patties, toast, cheese grits, and coffee. Mmmm! That’s a good way to start the day.
The great thing about Rama’s for a weekend breakfast is you can walk off your pain by taking a look at the football stadium. Around the front towards University Blvd is the Walk of Champions with large, gaudy bronze statues of all the football coaches who have won national championships over the years – 14. Don’t forget it! The really crazy part is thousands of people line up to see the players walk-in towards the stadium before every home game.
Saturday Lunch: Bama Smoke House
Don’t let the fact that it’s built in next to a gas station throw you off. They have the best ribs in town. If you’re feeling hungry or thinking about splitting (you’ll change your mind), get the 2-meat with 2-sides. The smoked sausage pairs up great with the ribs. This is not my favorite pork in town – drive right down the street to the Pigg Shack if you want a great pork sausage.
Saturday Dinner: Cypress Inn
The best part about this place is the view. You can’t beat a sunset dinner looking out over the river. If it’s raining though, the indoor seating is decent.
Pretty much the cheapest thing is the best thing on the menu! Get the smoked chicken with white BBQ sauce and ask for extra rolls. I know this is cheating the system, but grab that chicken and stuff it into a warm roll. Wow!
If you want to play by their fancy rules and not eat with your fingers, get the catfish or maybe a pasta. Everything else is hit or miss.
Sunday Breakfast: Waysider
Legend has it Coach “Bear” Bryant used to eat breakfast here, so if you want to become a legend then you should too. Basically, think of this as your grandmother’s dining room that hasn’t been redecorated in decades, with a few extra tables and chairs. The nice way of saying it is, it’s “cozy” or “intimate.” Arrive early to get a table.
Sunday Lunch: Carmelo Cafe
We wrap the dining blitzkrieg with a lunch similar to how we started. Think of Carmelo’s as a nice, fresh, organic-ish version of City Cafe. When they run out of something, it’s done for the day. Simple, fresh dishes made from local ingredients.
Pick anything you like! You can’t go wrong here. I usually get the catfish, but only after changing my mind 10 times.
Plan B’s / Honorable Mentions:
Archibald’s BBQ – This is the original Archibald’s (not to be confused with the many unsuccessful off-shoots) and this is for the folks who think I didn’t include enough BBQ shacks on the list. They’ve got 4 stools and a wood fire for cooking in a run down cinder block shack. You can’t get more local and run down than this.
Catfish Heaven – Seriously great catfish in a less than ideal dining area. Most folks just grab it to go, but they do have a couple tables. Try the purple drink!
After Dinner / Bars:
The Alcove – Best bar in town with the best selection and atmosphere. They’ve got great outdoor seating and they keep the music low enough so you can actually have a conversation! They’ve always got great regional beers on tap.
The Gray Lady – Decent alternative if the Alcove is too crowded. They’ve got the turf from the old football stadium hanging up over the bar. Yeah, football is serious here.
Sweets and Treats:
Edelweiss German Bakery & Cafe – Best Coffee in town, with a decent patio for outdoor seating.
Rama Jama’s – Swing back by for a milkshake if you need a nice lazy afternoon.
Mary’s Cakes and Pastries - This place is tucked away, almost behind City Cafe, in downtown Northport. You will walk out happy.
Gigi’s Cupcakes – I don’t get it, but some folks go crazy about this place. Too much icing for my taste.