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Displaying items by tag: Taste of Tuscaloosa - Druid City Living, Tuscaloosa's premier community newspaper. - Druid City Living, Tuscaloosa's premier community newspaper. Mon, 18 Jun 2018 14:04:42 -0500 MYOB en-gb Taste of Tuscaloosa: The Great Burger Bonanza, Part One The large cheeseburger is a fan favorite at Rama Jama's. After stuffing my face with this burger, I can see this is the thing dreams are made of.

Did you know that Americans consume approximately 50 billion burgers a year? On top of that, the average American eats a hamburger three times a week! To be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if the average T-town resident doesn’t beat this average, week to week.  

I know I rave about pizza quite frequently, but frankly, burgers just put me in a happy place. Maybe it’s that wonderful, char-grilled taste, or the nostalgia of outdoor cookouts with my family, but burgers just get me feeling good. If you haven’t already noticed, Tuscaloosa has a LOT of burger options. But don’t fret my friends, I’m sharing a few of my favorite burgers this month – and next month – so you don’t feel too overwhelmed with burger goodness all at once.  

Rama Jama’s  

For a joint located right next to Bryant Denny Stadium, you’ve got to expect the food is going to be good. Trust me when I say it is worth the extra little bit to upgrade from the regular cheeseburger to a large cheeseburger. The portions at Rama Jama’s are amazing, and the Alabama memorabilia in every nook and cranny of the restaurant just puts a little extra pep in your step. The crinkle cut fries add even more magic to the handmade patty. If you needed more to convince you, live life to the fullest, and order the National Championship Burger – which features 17 ounces of double meat and cheese. Rama Jama’s is located at 1000 Paul W. Bryant Drive. 

Avenue Pub 

You didn’t think I was going to talk burgers without mentioning Avenue Pub, did you? Who doesn’t love a burger served on a cutting board with an actual bucket of fries? I can’t put my finger, or my taste buds, on what makes the burgers at Avenue Pub so amazing, but it’s likely the freshness of the ingredients, and the innovation of burger flavors that just work – all the time. The standard bacon burger on Avenue Pub’s menu, featuring provolone cheese and your typical accompaniments, won’t let you down. An added bonus? How about the adorable $5 Happy Hour burger and some fries? This is a slightly smaller version of the monstrous, traditional bacon burger offered throughout the week. Avenue Pub is located at 405 23rd Avenue in downtown Tuscaloosa. 

How can you go wrong with a bucket of fries to accompany your bacon burger from Avenue Pub?

Dotson’s Burger Spot 

I like to think of Dotson’s Burger Spot as the place to get a fancy, delicious burger. Where else could you get a burger with a wagyu patty, Thai BBQ, and kimchi slaw? Probably the same place you can get a burger with a chuck-chorizo blend and pickled jalapenos on Texas toast. Talk about things that make you say, “Yum!” What else could make this place great? How about some boozy adult milkshakes and loaded waffle fries? Is your mouth watering yet? It should be. Dotson’s Burger Spot is located in Temerson Square in downtown Tuscaloosa. 

The '57 Chevy, with an 8 oz. wagyu patty and blue cheese on a garlic herb bun, washes down quite nicely with one of Dotson's famous adult milkshakes.
Food Tue, 01 May 2018 00:00:00 -0500
Taste of Tuscaloosa: Romance and Good Eats Await this Valentine’s Day Taste of Tuscaloosa: Romance and Good Eats Await this Valentine’s Day

Who doesn’t love a romantic dinner with your sweetie on Valentine’s Day? With food appealing to many of our senses, it’s no surprise that our meals can have an aphrodisiac effect. 

If you ask my coworkers, they’ll tell you that there’s something romantic about going out to a special restaurant on the Designated Day of Love.  If I’m being honest, though, the biggest appeal to me is not having to do the dishes after a delicious meal. 

Fortunately, Tuscaloosa has a wide variety of dining atmospheres to match the mood of you and your sweetheart. Here are a few of my favorite spots around town for setting the mood this Valentine’s Day:

301 Bistro, Bar, and Beer Garden

If your couple personality thrives on movies like The Great Gatsby and other period pieces, 301 Bistro’s mood of Art Deco and Art Nouveau reminiscent of the 1920’s might be your style. Once home to the historic L&N train station, 301 Bistro’s vintage offers up a vintage, romantic atmosphere perfect for Valentine’s Day – while providing a sense of refined casualness for you and your beau to get comfortable.  

House cocktails and a special Valentine’s Day menu await couples spending a dinner of love at 301 Bistro. The restaurant’s cuisine includes a “Tuscaloosa fusion” of Americana, German, and a little bit of Cajun flair.  

If you ask general manager Chris Lloyd what sets 301 Bistro apart from other eateries, he’s quick to rave on his staff.  

“My staff, from the front of house to the back of house, constantly impress me. There is an atmosphere of support and helpfulness that is extraordinarily rare in the hospitality industry,” said Lloyd. “Even the busiest night, with the staff I have on now, will go by without so much as a single hiccup, and I have my staff to thank for that.”  

301 Bistro, Bar, and Beer Garden will be taking reservations for Valentine’s Day, with limited space for walk-in seating.  


Are you and your sweetie in love with life on the water? Perhaps River is the place for you. Opened in June 2016, riverfront dining with an intimate atmosphere give River the romantic coziness you crave on Valentine’s Day. Chefs Cory Bolton and Evan Clark embrace the seasons, and patrons on Valentine’s Day can expect nothing less than a romantic menu driven by local produce. Outdoor fire pits are ready to be lit, as you and your love snuggle with your favorite glass of wine enjoying the sights and sounds of the river.  

Dining room manager Lauren Jones boasts over 16 years in the service industry and strives to provide an atmosphere like none other in Tuscaloosa.  

“We like guests to know that although we are perceived as upscale, we are casual, fun, and accept walk-ins. While we tend to have visits for special occasions, we love our regulars’ frequent stops to grab a bite and a drink, and hope others think of us other than special occasions also,” said Jones.  

If you’re the kind of couple that likes to defer your Valentine’s Day celebrations, River invites you to give their Sunday brunch a try to extend your holiday festivities. 

River will be taking limited reservations for Valentine’s Day, and will also accept walk-in patrons.  

Central Mesa

Feeling like some ethnic flair this Valentine’s Day? Central Mesa has you covered. If your foodie love language involves hand-made tortillas, braised meats, fresh peppers, and bold flavors with a side of awesome atmosphere, Central Mesa will give you the best Valentine’s Day ever.  

Exposed brick, sliding barn doors, and distressed lumber throughout the restaurant will make you think Chip and Joanna Gaines came to double date with you and your beau.  

Owner Craig Williams wants Valentine’s visitors to know they can expect the signature dishes that has made Central Mesa the popular kid on the street.  

“We won’t have a special menu for Valentine’s Day, but patrons will expect all their Central Mesa favorites. We're having a lot of fun pushing the boundaries of this kitchen.  You can have anything from Nashville style hot chicken, pimento cheese/Conecuh sausage empanadas, braised pork belly tacos, fresh guacamole, and more,” said Williams.   

A bonus to Central Mesa is the ample accommodations for groups, so whether you’re celebrating Valentine’s Day with that special someone, or Singles Awareness Day with a group of your best friends, Central Mesa will no doubt deliver a spectacular night of dining.  

Central Mesa will not be taking reservations, so walk-in patrons are welcome and invited with open arms.  

]]> (Sheena Gregg) Food Wed, 07 Feb 2018 00:00:00 -0600
Taste of Tuscaloosa: Coffee Shop UPerk Cultivates Community Downtown Jamey Hamm serves as UPerk's community manager and has overseen operations since the shop's opening in August.

UPerk officially opened its doors in August 2017, but community manager Jamey Hamm says it was established in 2016.  

“Though we opened just this August, we have 2016 on the wall, because that’s when Pastor James Goodlet had the UPerk idea,” said Hamm.  

Though connected to First Presbyterian Church and its college ministry, UKirk, the coffee shop aims to be a place of community and fellowship for everyone.  

“We want people to know we’re more than a coffee shop. We want to provide a place of community and be plugged into the community. Part of our proceeds every month go to different charities and other local efforts,” said Hamm.   

UPerk believes its partnership with Birmingham-based Seeds Coffee brings a high-quality coffee product to its consumers.  

“We had a two-day training with the folks from Seeds and they spent an extensive amount of time making sure each barista knew how to make the perfect espresso shot,” said UPerk barista Maggie White. “I never knew how intricate the process was, but it’s worth it.”  

UPerk barista Maggie White works on creating the perfect espresso shot for a customer.

And it’s not just about the coffee, either. The staff of UPerk claim that much of the word of mouth about the shop is due to the food, including a popular vegan burger that sells out weekly. Accompanied with apple slaw, and root veggie chips, the pea protein-based burger patty comes on a whole wheat bun with watermelon pickle relish and baby kale.   

“Our food items are offered all day long,” said Hamm.  

Whether it’s the made in-house pastry items, the diverse meal selection, or the coffee beans from around the world, UPerk aims to be a place that fosters community.  

One sip of Ethiopian coffee and an espresso shot (made by White) has me convinced that UPerk will be a regular stop in my routine. Word of mouth is definitely strong, with many customers raving that UPerk has the best espresso in Tuscaloosa.  

 “We want our coffee shop to be an incubator for ideas for folks to go out in the community and give back. While doing that, we want to give a high-quality product that we’re proud of and people will come back for,” Hamm said. 

For more information on UPerk Coffee, visit  

]]> (Sheena Gregg) Food Wed, 27 Dec 2017 00:00:00 -0600
Taste of Tuscaloosa: Pho Town Brings the Flavor to Midtown Business partners Truc Dinh and Anhtu Bui are from Huntsville. They’ve been looking forward to bringing Vietnamese flavor to T-town.

Ever since the Pho Town Facebook page debuted earlier this year, people have been chomping at the bit, eager to get their pho on. But what exactly is pho? Pho (pronounced like “fun” without the “n”) is a Vietnamese noodle soup consisting of broth, rice noodles, herbs, and meat … typically beef or chicken.  

As a popular street food in Vietnam, owner Anhtu Bui felt that Tuscaloosa was ready for some authentic flavors in its food scene.  

“I’ve seen a lot of restaurants in Tuscaloosa but hadn’t seen anything like Pho Town yet. This restaurant features many of my family’s recipes,” said Bui. 

Though Pho Town is not part of a franchise, it will draw inspiration from the other Vietnamese restaurants that Bui owns in the Memphis and Houston areas. Aside from pho, Pho Town will also feature other authentic Vietnamese dishes, including Com Tay Cam (hot clay pot entrees), Banh Mi (Vietnamese subs), Bun (vermicelli dishes), and other various entrees and desserts.  

In addition to the authentic Vietnamese food offerings, patrons will also be able to enjoy a variety of Asian beverages, including spicy fruit slushes and various bubble teas, made with boba pearls, little chewy tapioca balls that float through the beverage.  

Overall, Bui’s goal has been to bring the flavors of his childhood to customers in Tuscaloosa who are looking for authentic Vietnamese cuisine.  

“People will know our restaurant is different based on the seasonings and the flavors they are tasting. Our food is high quality, and I consider it healthy, because we use minimal oil and salt. Our food speaks for itself,” Bui said.  

For more information on Pho Town, including hours of operation and full menu, please visit  

]]> (Sheena Gregg) Food Tue, 28 Nov 2017 00:00:00 -0600
Taste of Tuscaloosa: Dotson’s Hits the Spot Dotson's Burger Spot is located in Temerson Square, between Edelweiss Germany Bakery and Velocity Pro Cycle.

Burgers, fries, and (boozy) milkshakes, oh my! That’s what Dotson’s Burger Spot has brought to the table in Temerson Square. Dotson’s has hit the ground running since opening in August, providing an assortment of high-end burgers, appetizers, and desserts that make you want to scream “yum.” 

For Tuscaloosa folk, the family behind Dotson’s Burger Spot is a familiar one. As owners of both Southern Ale House and Dotson’s, Justin Holt and his father, Cal Holt, are no strangers to running a successful restaurant business locally. And keeping it in the family even further, the homemade pies are Justin’s great grandmother’s recipes – her partnership with Clara Dotson in Franklin, Tennessee, provides the restaurant namesake (Dotson’s in Franklin was an institution for decades). 

Hearing the raves from co-workers about the generously-sized appetizers and flavorful burgers, I knew I had to make my way over to Dotson’s Burger Spot to try everything out. Walking into the restaurant, I was immediately struck by nostalgia by the red booths and diner feel of the space, once home to The Cajun Kitchen. 

Hopping up to the bar area as a single diner, I immediately noticed the assortment of gourmet burgers on the menu. Wagyu, ground chuck with pork belly, and a chorizo blend made my mouth water. I finally landed on the ’53 Chevy burger, featuring a wagyu patty with bleu cheese, red onion, pickle, and mustard on a garlic herb bun. 

The '53 Chevy burger features a wagyu burger patty with bleu cheese, red onion, pickle, and mustard on a garlic herb bun.

Knowing this was a “go big or go home” dining moment, I went all out with the loaded waffle fries topped with cheese sauce, chopped bacon, sour cream, and shredded cheddar. As my order arrived, complete with my burger and a massive tray of loaded waffle fries, I knew I was in deep when a diner beside me casually asked if I was pregnant. Sure, I probably ordered way too much food for one person – but hey, I’m reviewing! By the end of my meal, I should have confirmed to the neighbor beside me that I was indeed pregnant – with a food baby!

Overall, there’s no doubt that Dotson’s Burger Spot has set the stage for a long term stay in Temerson Square. Homemade pies, signature cocktails, and adult milkshakes add to the growing food scene in downtown Tuscaloosa. For more information, including the restaurant’s hours, visit @dotsonsburgerspot on Facebook. 

]]> (Sheena Gregg) Food Tue, 03 Oct 2017 00:00:00 -0500
Taste of Tuscaloosa: New Downtown Restaurant Central Mesa Keeps It Fresh As the owner of both Central Mesa and The Avenue Pub, Craig Williams is no stranger to the Tuscaloosa restaurant scene.

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.  

Central Mesa and Avenue Pub owner Craig Williams believes that Tuscaloosa is ready for something like this.  

“I saw this type of restaurant concept working really well in the Nashville, Birmingham, and Atlanta markets, and I knew it could work well here too,” said Williams.  

As someone who understands the value of the overall restaurant experience, Williams says he continues to work with his staff each day to improve what they can offer patrons.  

“We just want to do it right and be proud of what we’re doing,” he said. 

Central Mesa’s street corn appetizer has become an early customer favorite with fresh flavors from corn, jalapenos, cotija and crema.


Williams adds that he hopes Tuscaloosa will consider Central Mesa as part of its regular food scene – and not just as a special occasion place. 

 “We’re currently working on happy hour specials for our cocktails and menu items,” he said. “We’re in a perfect spot downtown with all the retail space.”  

Some of Williams’ favorite menu items include the spicy chicken tostadas featuring oven roasted chicken in a spicy tinga sauce topped with avocado, cotija, and cilantro, as well as the street corn appetizer, which features fresh corn off the cob, white onion, jalapenos, cotija and house-made crema.  

“Just like Avenue Pub, we don’t have freezers. We’re doing everything fresh, and we want customers to enjoy what we’ve got to offer.”   

For more information on Central Mesa, including a menu and restaurant hours, visit Central Mesa on Facebook. 

]]> (Sheena Gregg) Food Tue, 19 Sep 2017 00:00:00 -0500
Taste of Tuscaloosa: T-Town Market Brings Convenience Downtown Eric Hull serves as co-owner of both Black Warrior Brewing Company and T-Town Market.

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 convenience store touting an array of products, patrons can expect to find anything from ranch dressing to charcoal for the next barbecue. One could also consider T-Town Market a convenient place to grab a fountain drink, gummy worms, and bag of Doritos for that extra lift of comfort during a stressful day in the office.   

“Our inventory is constantly evolving as we learn the preferences and needs of our great customers, however you can expect to grab all your favorite snack foods, drinks, candies, tobacco products, as well as a grocery section carrying all your essential items,” Hull said.   

One of the newest additions to the market includes a rack dedicated exclusively to Tuscaloosa-made products. Tea-Town Tea products, Left Hand Soap Company, and The Nut Shop are just a few of the featured vendors on the Tuscaloosa-specific shelf.  

Hull’s primary goals are to provide a wide variety of products, and to maintain excellent customer service. 

“As a locally owned business, we strive to be a great community partner with those in the downtown area and beyond. You'll always be greeted with a smile, and if there is anything you weren't able to find we do our best to get it introduced into our inventory. Make plans to stop on in next time you're supporting the other great businesses downtown and let us know what you think.” 

For more information on T-Town Market, including daily store hours, visit  

]]> (Sheena Gregg) Food Wed, 16 Aug 2017 00:00:00 -0500
Taste of Tuscaloosa: Urban Cookhouse Offers Fresh, Local Fare Urban Cookhouse’s Berry Good salad features seasonal berries, tomatoes, spiced pecans, feta, and the restaurant’s signature vinaigrette, along with a choice of optional proteins such as chicken salad, lime-marinated steak, and grilled chicken.

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.  

My newest hot spot in town has become Urban Cookhouse, which offers everything from lite and flavorful salads to hearty and delicious steak and pork. No matter what you choose, Urban Cookhouse uses its motto of “Buy Local, Eat Urban” to fuel the restaurant’s ingredient choices and entrée concepts, using locally grown produce in its kitchen and supporting area farmers and farmers markets.  

The first Urban Cookhouse opened in Homewood in 2010, and the Tuscaloosa restaurant is one of 13 current or upcoming locations. Tuscaloosa is the restaurant franchise’s first location with a drive-thru window.  

Urban Cookhouse Catering Manager Brittany Gentry says Tuscaloosa’s been quick to embrace the restaurant, and locals definitely have favorite menu items.  

“The white barbecue chicken sandwich is our most popular item, with buffalo chicken wraps coming in a close second,” Gentry said. “As far as sides go, the hot cheddar pasta and broccoli salad are clear favorites here in west Alabama.”  

Urban Cookhouse Tuscaloosa’s staff includes (L to R): Manager Vincent Hunter, Catering Manager Brittany Gentry, Assistant Manager Emmie Sanders, and Kitchen Manager Miguel Zacarias.

Meats are prepared on the Big Green Egg for extra flavor and tenderness. Urban Cookhouse patrons can also expect a signature orange roll with every entrée. A product of Homewood native Millie Ray, Urban Cookhouse became the first customer to partner with Ray – and they haven’t looked back since.   

With a mission to provide excellence to all customers, Urban Cookhouse has also teamed up with KultureCity Birmingham to be a sensory inclusive restaurant. It’s a way to help families living with autism and sensory processing disorders enjoy a stress-free dining experience. 

“We are truly a ‘fast casual’ restaurant that focuses on customer service and making things easy for you when you come in,” said Gentry.  

Whether it’s the impressive menu line, the atmosphere, or the customer service, Urban Cookhouse complements the Tuscaloosa restaurant scene with all that it offers. As a frequent patron myself, let me be the first to tell you that Urban Cookhouse also has that “good ice” – you know, the kind that’s perfect for crunching during the hottest Druid City days.  

Urban Cookhouse Tuscaloosa is located in the Village at Northbank off of Rice Mine Road. For more information, including a detailed menu and hours, visit  

]]> (Sheena Gregg) Food Wed, 05 Jul 2017 00:00:00 -0500
Taste of Tuscaloosa: Off the Beaten Path - Johnson’s Garden Center and Café An impressive variety of truffles are offered at the Café. Any and all will satisfy the sweet tooth.

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.  

“My husband has been a horticulturalist for decades, and my daughter has a specialty in marketing. It felt like a natural decision to put together all our strengths and name our business something that reflected all of us,” said Johnson. 

 My favorite new feature of Johnson’s? A delicious set up of coffee beverages and sweet treats to complement the inviting ambiance of the new space. Whether it’s jasmine green tea or a hot caramel mocha, Johnson’s intimate café set up provides delicious accommodations to visitors.  

“We believed the café would be a nice touch to all of the field trips, herb classes, master gardener classes, and other gatherings that we host in our space,” Johnson said.  

Meyer lemon scones, sea salt caramels, and an impressive selection of truffles are available from the café, including free gift boxing to share treats with friends and family.  

As temperatures rise, business at Johnson’s Garden Center grows, with patrons inquiring about ways to improve their landscape.  

“We’ve been around Tuscaloosa for over 30 years. For anyone who has never experienced our services, we want people to know we’re in the business of improving the beauty of the home, especially when it comes to landscaping, gardening, and improving overall curb appeal. We hope people will give us a try,” said Johnson.  

If you’re in the mood for an outdoor excursion shopping for new plants while enjoying a fantastic coffee and dessert, be sure to put Johnson’s Garden Center and Café on the “to do” list this summer. Johnson’s, located at 7170 Bradley Road in Duncanville, is open seven days a week. 

]]> (Sheena Gregg) Food Sun, 25 Jun 2017 23:31:04 -0500
Taste of Tuscaloosa: Say Cheese offers “Pay It Forward” System The Mac and Cheesus is a favorite among the kitchen staff. It features mac and cheese, bacon bits, and special sauce.

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.  

“Say Cheese is a ministry-based food experience that believes in showing love through actions, not words. Our inspiration started when we wanted to create a great food experience that wasn't the normal food around town,” said Bostick. “We have a pay it forward system where people can pay it forward instead of leaving a tip. Throughout the day, we will bless random people with a free meal. Imagine walking up and handing your cash or card to us and hearing, ‘Earlier today, someone payed for your meal, thank you and God loves you.’”  

The original plan for Say Cheese was to rent the food truck currently owned by Pastor’s Kitchen restaurant. However, an overwhelming response to their debut on March 30 had both Bostick and Spradley thinking strategically on the need to serve patrons more efficiently.  

“Our decision to get our own truck after a successful launch came because of the response we experienced on the 30th. We had well over 100 people show up within the first two hours. After that, we had numerous calls and emails asking us to come out to other businesses,” Bostick said. “The truck that we were using is not set up for us to accomplish what we want to with excellence. We need a truck with equipment suited for making grilled cheese at a good pace. Also, the city requires us to use our own truck.”   

The duo will be running an Indiegogo Campaign for folks to donate to the long-term vision and goals of Say Cheese with information about giving available on the company’s social media accounts.  

“We want to make a real difference in the lives of those who work for us and the guests we serve,” said Spradley.  

For more information on Say Cheese, including fundraising information, visit  

]]> (Sheena Gregg) Food Wed, 03 May 2017 00:00:00 -0500