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.
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.
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.
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.
It’s hard to ignore the influx of health-conscious businesses that have been springing up in Tuscaloosa over the past five years. With television advertisements, new medical research, and a plethora of internet resources touting the importance of diet and supplements, it’s no wonder that businesses of this type continue to appear. However, those transient to Tuscaloosa may not realize the long-standing history of health food and product selection that Manna Grocery and Deli in Tuscaloosa offers.
Since he was 17, Pastor Garcia dreamed of owning his own restaurant. That dream originated in Mexico City, but never did Garcia imagine that he would fulfill it in Northport, Alabama.
“I’ve always wanted a restaurant. I love the environment. I love customer service and loving people,” said Garcia.
I would bet good money on the statement that it’s impossible not to find something delicious to eat in Tuscaloosa. We’ve got our classic restaurants that have stood the test of time in town, but we’ve also got quite a few new kids on the block. As a dietitian, I’m a firm believer in eating not only for our health, but also for some downright pleasure. We’ve got some delightful food in Tuscaloosa, and I’m excited to share a few of my favorite dishes around town.