Registered Dietitian/Assistant Director, Health Education and Nutrition Services at The University of Alabama, in Tuscaloosa
Fresh tortillas, flavorful charred vegetables, and made-from-scratch sauces are the types of things that make my mouth water. Luckily for all of us “foodies” in Tuscaloosa, there’s a new place in town that offers these delights.
On July 5, Central Mesa opened its doors. The Latin American-inspired eatery, located in the old Epiphany Farm-to-Fork Cuisine location on Greensboro Avenue in downtown Tuscaloosa, boasts much more than your typical burrito.
From hotels to restaurants, downtown T-town has become a little mecca of new business for our community. Within this new business boom sits the beautiful 2700 Capitol Park building, with upscale apartments and a hot new fitness boutique, The Barre Code. After seeing the frenzy on social media about pop-up barre classes around Tuscaloosa this summer, I knew I needed to check out The Barre Code to find out what this shaking, burning, and tucking was all about.
Convenience and community: These are the two things that drove Black Warrior Brewing Company Co-Owner Eric Hull to create the concept of T-Town Market. The store opened in May, and Hull said he’s blown away by the community’s response.
“So far, we have had a great reception from all our neighbors and have loved getting to know many of the people working at City Hall and the other businesses in the area,” said Hull.
As a dietitian, I know food, but I’m woman enough to admit I don’t know as much about exercise. After rejuvenating my own fitness journey earlier this year, I’ve been blown away at the number of exercise options in Tuscaloosa. If you’re anything like me, you like to get the 411 on any fitness facility before you try it out. To help all of us out, I’m now heading out in the field, a la Bridget Jones-style, to try everything out for our faithful DCL readers.
Summertime represents many things to many different people. For many, it’s a season full of lake days, going to summer camp, or working on projects in the home. For me, it means taking advantage of the lighter daytime traffic and enjoying multiple lunch dates with my husband and my gal pals at all the restaurants that are usually packed during the fall and spring semesters.
Driving down Bradley Road in Duncanville, you’ve likely seen the beautiful Johnson’s Garden Center and Café. Located in the same spot as The Plant Lady Nursery, the gorgeous new building and setup now has a new name, and new services offered to folks in and around Tuscaloosa.
According to co-owner Teresa Johnson, the decision to expand and rebrand was a family decision.
Perhaps I’m biased, but Tuscaloosa has it going on when it comes to the food scene. Outside of the boom with traditional brick and mortar establishments, it’s hard to ignore how Tuscaloosa and Northport have embraced the food truck movement. New to the gastronomic action-on-wheels is Say Cheese, a grilled cheese based food truck which launched just last month.
For grilled cheese masters Chris Bostick and Collin Spradley, owners of Say Cheese, their business is all about the food and paying it forward.
For Josh and Samantha Giambalvo, the idea of bringing Frutta Bowls to Tuscaloosa sparked from a conversation with close friends.
“Frutta Bowls was the brainchild of a family friend, Brooke Gagliano. She is very into health and wellness and she was out on the West Coast where this type of business has been booming for a couple of years,” Samantha Giambalvo said. “She brought the idea back to New Jersey and it wasn't long before my husband and her family were talking about building something here. Honestly, it was all Josh, he has been such a driving force behind this because he feels so strongly that this business will have such a positive effect on the community.”
With a tentative opening this coming June, Tuscaloosa will be the first Frutta Bowls location outside of New Jersey. And despite Frutta Bowls being new to the area, the Giambalvos are no strangers to owning a local business and giving back to the community.
“Business is not at all a new thing to us. We have owned and operated Innovate Fitness since 2009, and we founded a non-profit called the Brayden House. Through these businesses, we have been able to build an amazing community around us that really allows us to do all kinds of things,” Josh Giambalvo said. “We currently foster, work with at-risk children, do motivational speaking and much more in the community ... none of which would be possible if God didn't put this community around us. He did so through our passions and businesses, “says Josh Giambalvo.
When it comes to the Frutta Bowls products themselves, there is plenty for T-town diners to look forward to. Acai, pitaya, and kale bowls are favorites, along with fresh fruit smoothies and other specialty items. The biggest bragging point for the Tuscaloosa Frutta Bowls location is the quality of the ingredients and the staff, according to Samantha Giambalvo.
“The quality of the product that we are going to serve is unparalleled. We are working with local vendors, but the açai is being directly imported from Brazil. And we are very proud of that,” she said.
As for the staff, Giambalvo said they’re starting to hire and train now, and they look forward to fostering a welcoming environment for everyone.
“When you walk in the door, you're not just another customer, you are important and welcome. I can't wait until we start knowing our regulars by name.”
Frutta Bowls Alabama is located at 2531 University Boulevard in downtown Tuscaloosa. For more information, visit facebook.com/FruttaBowlsAlabama.
Sheena Gregg is a registered dietitian and local “Filipino Foodie.” Follow her adventures at afilipinofoodie.com.
Pizza, hot wings, barbecue, and maybe even fried catfish top the list of delectable eats that most folks think of when it comes to Tuscaloosa. However, examine our eateries and food preferences closely, and you’ll find an interesting foodie revelation … Tuscaloosa loves sushi. I’m in the majority, too, but I wondered: What is it about sushi that is so special?
“I love the fact that sushi isn’t just about raw fish anymore, but has more variety that appeals to everyone,” said Tuscaloosa resident Lauren Winters. “Sushi always makes a fun girls night!”
Whether it’s from a hibachi steakhouse, fine dining establishment, or the convenience of a local grocery store, any sushi lover can easily find some tasty rolls to satisfy that Asian craving. Check out a few of my favorite sushi locations quite worthy of a sushi soiree anytime this month.
As a John Cassimus founded establishment, you already know this place must be good. What makes it even better is the fresh take on sushi. As a fast-casual establishment, folks can avoid long waits at traditional sit down restaurants while still enjoying made-to-order sushi. If that isn’t enough, you can quench your sushi flavors craving in the form of a sumptuous rice bowl.
Chuck’s Fish are where sushi dreams are made of. Whether it’s a romantic dinner out with a loved one, or a fun and sassy girls’ night out, Chuck’s is a premiere sushi location. With specialty rolls that can be found nowhere else in Tuscaloosa, you haven’t had sushi until you’ve had Chuck’s sushi. Watch sushi chefs Brandon Hicks and Cory Johnson put on a show as they meticulously create your sushi masterpiece. And hey, if your dinner date isn’t into seafood, Chuck’s has steak and bacon lovers accounted for in their sushi creations.
If you thought that there was no convenient way to get delicious sushi home ASAP to enjoy in your sweat pants, you were wrong. It almost seems too good to be true to walk down the aisles of the grocery store finding an impressive wine, ice cream, and sushi selection all in one place! Hello Friday night! Sure, they’ve got other things, but sushi quality is high on the priority list for the staff at Fresh Market. From Cajun crawfish rolls to spicy tuna rice bowls, Fresh Market offers options that allow you to nosh while watching Netflix from the comfort of your very own couch.
Tuscaloosa is home to quite a number of remarkable people, all with a story and a talent to share with their community. When I think of the folks like this that I’ve encountered during my time in Tuscaloosa, Paul Lasseter comes to mind.
While setting up a nutrition table with my interns at Homegrown Alabama one fall afternoon, I noticed a set-up of tasty baked goods, complemented by the voices of professors and college students raving about the coffee they just purchased. I later learned that this little business was Kauloosa Coffee Roasters, and it was quite the popular vendor at both Homegrown Alabama and the Tuscaloosa Farmers Market at the River Market.