12 Best Restaurants in Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Last Updated on February 25, 2024 by Emily Johnson

Tuscaloosa is home to some of the best restaurants in Alabama, offering everything from classic Southern cuisine to innovative fusion dishes. From upscale fine dining to casual family-friendly eateries, there is something for every palate and budget.

RestaurantCuisine TypeKey Features
Five BarAmericanContemporary twist on classic dishes
DePalma’s Italian CafeItalianAuthentic homemade pastas and pizzas
Chuck’s FishSeafoodHigh quality fish and riverfront views
Wilhagan’sSteakhouseAged steaks and signature hot bread
Boulevard BistroContemporary AmericanSeasonal ingredients with French and New Orleans flair
Cafe VeniceItalianModern Italian dining in a historic home
Hard Dock CafeAmericanCasual fare with lively entertainment
Avenue PubPubCraft beers and elevated bar food
City CafeAmericanGlobally-inspired menu in a rustic setting
Dreamland Bar-B-QueBarbecueWorld famous hickory smoked ribs
Kozy’s RestaurantSouthern ComfortClassic meat-and-three tradition
Five RestaurantTo be detailed in full articleUnique dining experience (details in article)

Tuscaloosa’s vibrant food scene showcases the city’s diversity, with influences from around the world incorporated into traditional Southern cooking. The restaurant’s source ingredients from local farmers and purveyors, bringing fresh, seasonal flavours to the table. Whether you’re craving barbecue, seafood, burgers or ethnic fare, Tuscaloosa has no shortage of excellent dining options.

Here are 12 of the best restaurants to check out in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Five Bar

Name and Location: Five Bar is a cozy upscale restaurant located downtown at 2324 4th St in Tuscaloosa, AL near the Riverwalk.

History and Significance: Opened in 2016 by Chef Charlton James Fillingim showcasing contemporary Southern cuisine utilizing classical French techniques, Five Bar has garnered acclaim for nuanced seasonal tasting menus spotlighting Alabama’s bounty through an ever-evolving slate of creative plates and artisanal cocktails.

What to Expect: Dishes change with available harvests but expect indulgences like locally foraged mushrooms on toast, brined quail with grits and persimmon, chicken liver mousse or diver scallops coupling unlikely elements in delicious harmony meant for savoring through multiple courses.

Visitor Information: Open for dinner Tuesday-Saturday. Reservations strongly recommended via OpenTable. Valet parking available, wheelchair accessible. Upscale dress code enforced. Tasting menu required, price fixe only.

As the name suggests, Five Bar offers a selection of dishes focused around five core ingredients: meat, seafood, pasta, pizza and salad. Located in downtown Tuscaloosa near the Black Warrior River, Five Bar brings a contemporary twist to these classic food groups. The exposed brick walls, high ceilings and leather seating create a stylish yet relaxed atmosphere perfect for a night out.

Start off your meal with their Bruschetta Trio, featuring rotating seasonal toppings on grilled bread. Recent combinations spotlighted Southern flavors like pimento cheese with bacon jam, chicken salad with pecans and peach caprese with prosciutto. All of their breads and pizza dough are made fresh daily. Standout pizza options include the Pear & Blue Cheese with sweet pears, creamy blue cheese, caramelized onions and candied walnuts balanced by the tart apple cider glaze. You can build your own pie or try one of their gourmet specialty pizzas.

If you’re craving pasta, spring for the Chicken & Grits, which puts a creative spin on shrimp and grits by using crispy boneless chicken tenders instead. The chicken is seasoned to perfection and served atop creamy smoked gouda cheese grits with tomatoes, scallions and bacon gravy. Seafood lovers will delight in the Cedar Plank Salmon served on an actual cedar plank that has been soaked to allow it to smolder and smoke under the fish as it cooks.

Five’s meat and salad offerings are just as mouthwatering. The Filet Mignon wraps tender steak and blue cheese in applewood smoked bacon along with balsamic syrup and arugula on ciabatta bread. Healthy options include the Ancient Grains Salad made with farro wheat, quinoa, kamut, amaranth, millet, barley and chia seeds or the Watermelon & Quinoa Salad with arugula, feta, pickled red onions and champagne vinaigrette. Every dish emphasizes quality ingredients with vibrant flavors and excellent execution.

DePalma’s Italian Cafe

Name and Location: DePalma’s Italian Cafe is a cozy Tuscan trattoria located downtown at 2201 University Blvd in Tuscaloosa.

History and Significance: Founded in 2005 by Sicilian native Chef Gianmarco DePalma, this Tuscaloosa institution imports Southern Italian cooking traditions through scratch-made pastas, neapolitan pizzas fired in an oak-burning oven, homemade limoncello liqueurs and a welcoming candlelit atmosphere reminiscent of Old World family supper clubs.

What to Expect: Menus hit classic crowd pleasers like lasagna Bolognese, chicken piccata, marsala and parmesan preparations across meat and seafood options alongside nightly alternating pasta specials, Italian wines and desserts like tiramisu and cannolis prepared in-house. Gluten free accommodations available.

Visitor Information: Open Tuesday through Saturday evenings. Reservations recommended via website or phone. Street parking available, valet options for adjacent lots. Cash and major credit cards accepted.

DePalma’s brings a taste of Italy to Tuscaloosa with authentic homemade pastas, pizzas baked in an Italian stone deck oven and a welcoming convivial atmosphere. Opened in 2005 by Tuscaloosa natives Pete and Angelia Depalma Griffith, DePalma’s is located in downtown Tuscaloosa just a few blocks from the river. Locals have embraced DePalma’s as a favorite date night spot and a dependable place for quality Italian cuisine in a comfortable setting.

As you enter the restaurant, the open kitchen gives you a glimpse behind-the-scenes while cozy two tops fill the main dining room. Exposed brick walls, ambient lighting and checkerboard tile floors set the mood for a relaxing dinner. Start with a drink from their wine list or order a flight of some locally brewed beers from Tuscaloosa-based breweries like Druid City Brewing Co. or Black Warrior Brewing Co. while you peruse the menu.

Popular appetizers include creamy Burrata Cheese served with roasted tomatoes and pesto along with slices of toasted homemade bread. You can’t go wrong with traditional bruschetta or an order of their meatballs simmered in savory marinara sauce with parmesan and herbs. Salads spotlight seasonal vegetables and fresh Tuscaloosa-grown lettuces dressed lightly to let the quality ingredients shine. The Pear Salad pairs sweet caramelized pears and spicy candied pecans with blue cheese crumbles and balsamic dressing atop organic greens.

For pasta, try some of DePalma’s staple scratch-made pastas like fettuccine alfredo or cavatappi amatriciana with a well-seasoned tomato sauce, pancetta and red chili flakes. Seafood pasta specials like linguine with shrimp or lobster ravioli showcase fresh catches and shellfish. Thin crust pizzas like the Rocket with arugula, prosciutto and shaved parmesan or the Fun Guy with wild mushrooms, sausage, truffle oil and thyme are also favorites. DePalma’s has twice been voted Best Italian Restaurant by Tuscaloosa News readers thanks to their consistent, crave-worthy food.

Chuck’s Fish

Name and Location: Chuck’s Fish is a casual regional seafood joint with two locations at 248 Greensboro Ave and 5501 Alabama Highway 69 in Tuscaloosa.

History and Significance: Founded in 1988 gaining renown for freshly battered Southern fried catfish platters and hearty family friendly fare, legacy restaurant Chuck’s Fish maintains devoted multi-generational followings today across two Tuscaloosa properties anchored by the flagship downtown location featuring covered outdoor dining facing Government Plaza.

What to Expect: Expect generous portions of golden fried whiskerfish fillets with hush puppies, cheese grits and coleslaw along with sandwiches like Delta hot tamales, Southern classics like shrimp and grits or chicken tenders plus weekly plate specials prepared soulfully to match heartwarming hospitality.

Visitor Information: Open daily lunch through dinner. Reservations generally not accepted. Take-out available. Free self-parking beside buildings, downtown location accessible from Government Plaza garage via sidewalks.

For some of the best seafood in town with stunning riverfront views, head to Chuck’s Fish located on the banks of the Black Warrior River right beside the Hugh Thomas Bridge. Known for serving high quality fish, stunning views, great service and some of Tuscaloosa’s best New Orleans-style chargrilled oysters, a trip to Chuck’s is ideal for any special occasion or low key weekend dinner.

Chuck’s outdoor patio dining with Tiki torches overlooking the waterfront is a top spot in Tuscaloosa to watch sunsets while enjoying a cocktail or glass of wine. Try their popular signature Chucktini with citrus vodka and a sugared rim. Inside, Chuck’s has an upscale yet laidback ambiance with a lush tropical feel complete with skylights, greenery and a large aquarium spanning an entire wall. With both intimate two tops and large round booths available, they can accommodate anything from date night to big parties or celebrations.

When it comes to food, seafood reigns supreme. Chuck’s is best known for items straight from the sea cooked simply to let the fresh flavors shine through. Must-tries include their chargrilled oysters doused in garlic, butter and parmesan then cooked until piping hot while keeping the edges just slightly charred. Other starters like poke or shrimp ceviche with mango and avocado keep things light to start.

The main menu offers a wealth of seafood options cooked to perfection through broiling, blackening or grilling along with pasta dishes that incorporate shellfish. Specialties include Snapper Hemingway baked with lump crabmeat lemon beurre blanc sauce and the Grouper Pontchartrain which is pan seared then finished with crawfish tails, mushrooms & white wine cream sauce. Diners rave about the Cedar Plank Salmon filleted and smoked in house then roasted on a cedar plank alongside corn and asparagus. For land dwellers who want to experience Chuck’s without the seafood, options like aged steaks with loaded baked potatoes or chicken piccata never disappoint. With its upscale dining room, vibrant lounge and unmatched riverside location, Chuck’s Fish is a Tuscaloosa go-to for visitors and residents alike.


Name and Location: Wilhagan’s is an old-fashioned soda fountain, diner and candy purveyor located downtown at 359 Greensboro Avenue in Tuscaloosa near Government Plaza.

History and Significance: Serving thirsty guests classic phosphate sodas, handcrafted shakes and sundaes for over 100 years from an antique emerald marble counter originating as Jones Valley Pharmacy, iconic landmark Wilhagan’s also plates Southern staples like griddle-fried green tomatoes, patty melts, chicken salad made in-house and piled high hoagies.

What to Expect: Belly up to the counter for hot Reuben or grilled pimento cheese sandwiches, spin on vintage carved stools sipping sweet tea watching soda jerks whip malts and sample fudge under stamped tin ceilings — then browse novelty candies in glass jars lining aisles or scoop addictive ice cream from the case.

Visitor Information: Open weekdays 7am-5pm. Cash only accepted. Public parking at Government Plaza garage behind storefront location accessed via Lurleen Wallace Blvd crossing Jack Warner Pkwy.

Wilhagan’s is a Tuscaloosa tradition that has been serving some of the best steaks in Alabama since it first opened its doors in 1939. Now run by fourth generation owner Elizabeth Wilhagan Weatherly, Wilhagan’s has made a name for itself thanks to its exceptional service, aged steaks and signature hot bread. Located in a converted historic mansion built in 1837, Wilhagan’s oozes old Southern charm and transports diners to a different time with its stately architecture replete with tall white columns, wrap around porches and well-manicured grounds.

As a fine dining destination, Wilhagan’s is the ideal place in Tuscaloosa for celebrating special occasions or impressing important guests. The restaurant’s iconic round booths tucked into alcoves allow for intimate conversations despite the large dining spaces accommodating over 300 guests across multiple rooms. Attentive waiters guide you through the menu, starting with their homemade hot rolls baked fresh every fifteen minutes. Try them slathered with pimento cheese or the honey cinnamon butter for a sweet kick. Wilhagan’s also offers an extensive wine list to complement your meal.

While appetizers and side dishes showcase traditional Southern flavors, Wilhagan’s built its reputation on expertly prepared steaks made from hand-selected and dry-aged beef. USDA Prime Filet Mignon, Ribeye, New York Strips and Porterhouses headline the menu along with hearty 20oz Cowboy ribeyes for big appetites.

Steaks are chargrilled over hickory wood then finished with just salt and pepper to let that pure aged beef flavor shine. Seafood like jumbo sea scallops or grilled salmon filets along with poulet chicken offerings round out the protein options. Sides like lobster mac & cheese, sautéed mushrooms or grilled asparagus can be ordered individually or enjoyed family style for the table.

Saving room for desserts like their signature caramel cake or decadent chocolate torte is a must. With 80+ years of history serving unmatched steaks in an elegant Southern setting, Wilhagan’s continues to demonstrate excellence in Tuscaloosa fine dining traditions old and new. Whether you’re celebrating a birthday, graduation or anniversary or simply craving an exceptional steak, make a reservation at this Tuscaloosa icon for an evening to remember.

Boulevard Bistro

Name and Location: Boulevard Bistro is a cozy contemporary American bistro located downtown at 2220 University Boulevard in Tuscaloosa.

History and Significance: Opened in 2018 by Alabama native chef Adam Snyder, who honed techniques in NYC kitchens, sophisticated yet unpretentious Boulevard Bistro builds seasonal menus nightly around responsibly sourced regional meat, produce and Gulf catch specials interpreted through diverse hearty rustic preparations at reasonable prices downtown by the Jemison campus.

What to Expect: Daily chef’s board selections may include plates like cast iron seared tuna, handmade agnolotti pastas, grilled marinated hanger steaks or cioppino brimming with tomato-saffron seafood broth. Well curated wines and inventive craft cocktails complement. Gluten free and vegan options regularly featured.

Visitor Information: Open nightly for dinner, closure between lunch and dinner services. Reservations recommended via OpenTable. Street parking available. Casual upscale dress code. Card payments strongly preferred.

Situated along University Boulevard on the bustling north side of Tuscaloosa, Boulevard Bistro brings a contemporary American dining and art venue to town. The brainchild of owner and executive chef Bradford Holloway, Boulevard Bistro first opened its doors in 2008 and has continued to innovate Tuscaloosa’s culinary scene over the past decade thanks to Holloway’s classical French training and experience working in New Orleans kitchens. Housed in a converted gas station, Boulevard Bistro’s sleek modern interior juxtaposed against its unique exterior makes for an exciting visual experience before you even check out the menu.

The restaurant doubles as an art gallery showcasing works available for purchase from both local and nationally recognized artists. Those pieces not for sale decorate the walls, making for an ever-changing exhibit to enjoy while dining.

Boulevard Bistro also features exposed brick walls, pinpoint track lighting to showcase featured artwork and an open kitchen allowing diners to glimpse Holloway’s team hard at work.

The menu rotates seasonally, focusing on locally sourced ingredients from regional farmers and purveyors in order to serve creative contemporary Southern cuisine touched by French and New Orleans flair. Standout appetizers include the duck & andouille gumbo and cast iron mussels with chorizo in garlic broth along with cocktails highlighting regional spirits.

Entrees run the gamut from seared sea scallops to bourbon glazed salmon, airline chicken breast stuffed with brie, short ribs braised in porter beer and seared filet mignon. The menu strikes a balance between approachable favorites like handmade Meatloaf with traditional sides and more adventurous nightly specials always cooking up something new and imaginative.

The dessert menu rightfully shines as the crowning finish of any meal here, with Boulevard Bistro’s pastry team racking up awards at the regional Pastry Live competition for their from-scratch creations. House specialties like their six-layer carrot cake, salted caramel cake layered with toffee filling or tiramisu baked Alaska showcase technical skill with flavor combinations that delight.

Thanks to its romantic ambiance, ever-changing art and stellar contemporary Southern fare, Boulevard Bistro offers one of Tuscaloosa’s finest dining experiences.

Cafe Venice

Name and Location: Cafe Venice is an intimate upscale Italian restaurant located along the Black Warrior River at 725 Riverside Dr E in Tuscaloosa.

History and Significance: Opened in 1998 and helmed by successive acclaimed chefs, this local fine dining institution situated in a converted historic riverfront home warms patrons with oven-fired pizzas, handcrafted pastas and nuanced Italian plates thoughtfully sourced and seasoned paired with one of Alabama’s largest wine selections spanning over 200 global labels and friendly unpretentious service.

What to Expect: Menus shift seasonally but may present entrees like sauteed flounder picatta, marsala glazed chicken breast or milanese tempered by vegetable sides, klecks of sauces and perfect pastas. Multicourse Chef’s Table dinners available. Riverside patio seating boasts sunset views.

Visitor Information: Open Tuesday-Saturday evenings. Reservations recommended via website. Valet parking. Dress ranges business casual to cocktail attire. Separate private dining room offered. Corkage fee waived Tuesdays.

Located in Midtown Village right off McFarland Blvd, Cafe Venice brings a modern Italian dining destination to Tuscaloosa in a gorgeous restored historic home. Owners Cristiano Rizzuto Aloi and Roberto Aloi embraced their Italian heritage to open Cafe Venice in 2014, quickly winning over locals with their candlelit patio and vines creeping up the exterior brick walls setting a romantic Tuscan stage.

Inside, vaulted ceilings, luxe velvet banquettes and a marble bar feel simultaneously upscale yet cosy and welcoming. With Italian art decorating the space and a menu focused on handmade pastas, thin-crust pizzas and other authentic dishes straight from family recipes back in Italy, Cafe Venice transports diners straight to the old country without even needing a passport.

While the interior tables fill up early with couples and groups getting creative cocktails from the bar and sharing starters, Cafe Venice’s patio is one of the most sought-after dinner spots for outdoor dining thanks to the twinkling string lights and fire pit creating a tucked away oasis feel. Begin your meal by sampling some imported Italian wines or aperitifs like Aperol Spritz before selecting antipasti plates or boards to share.

The meat and cheese boards allow you to sample various salumi like soppressata, prosciutto and capicola paired with imported cheeses like Parmigiano-Reggiano and balsamic fig compote alongside crostini. Fried calamari, burrata salad and mussels in spicy Fra Diavolo broth also make for ideal starters.

For main courses, Cafe Venice shines with house-made pasta in both classic and contemporary preparations showcasing high-quality ingredients. Rigatoni Bolognese features a rich, slow-cooked ragu made from a blend of veal, pork and beef. Meanwhile, trendy options like the Black Truffle Gnocchi offer a more luxurious note with the delicate potato pasta pillows napped in a decadent cream sauce perfumed by fragrant truffles.

Thin crust pizzas bake at 800 degrees in their stone fire oven, yielding superbly crisp yet chewy Neapolitan-style pies like the fan favourite Funghi with roasted crimini and shiitake mushrooms, truffle oil, fresh mozzarella and herbs. Close your meal by finishing a bottle of Italian wine while indulging in tiramisu, chocolate torta or lemon cream cake capped with torched meringue for a sweet ending Bellissima.

Hard Dock Cafe

Name and Location: Hard Dock Cafe overlooks theBlack Warrior River at Barber Marina off McFarland Blvd in Northport, just across the water from Tuscaloosa.

History and Significance: Perched over water accessed by a long dock at one of the area’s popular marinas and boat launches, this cash-only come as you are eatery delivers hot greasy plates ideal for hungry anglers and river rats daily for over 25 years while allowing outdoor seating to enjoy brews and scenic views.

What to Expect: Expect hearty helpings of Southern staples like barbecue, burgers, hearty breakfast plates and daily blue plate specials perfect for enjoying the sunshine, lake breezes and spectacle of boats navigating the wide river. Cold beer available but BYOB also welcomed.

Visitor Information: Open daily 8am-8pm March-October, offseason Thurs-Sun weather permitting. Call ahead for closing updates. Accessible by boat or vehicle from marina lot. Cash only but ATM on premises.

For tasty casual American fare alongside some of Tuscaloosa’s most lively entertainment and nightlife, look no further than the Hard Dock Cafe. Part of the lively downtown entertainment complex anchored by the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater, Hard Dock Cafe sits on the banks of the Black Warrior River and shares a building with the Tuscaloosa Yacht Club. Floor-to-ceiling windows allow sunlight to stream in during the day and offer prime views of the riverfront after dark when Hard Dock really comes alive.

Hard Dock bills itself first as a cafe focusing on scratch made comfort foods for breakfast, lunch and dinner alongside creative craft cocktails ideal for weekend fun. The menu features greatest hits that will please all palates and appetites with options ranging from hearty three-egg omelets stuffed with fillings like ham, bacon, sausage, veggies and cheese for breakfast to freshly hand-breaded chicken tenders served with fries and comeback sauce for quintessential Southern flavor.

Pimiento cheese dip with chips and fried pickles will please snackers alongside a classic Southern shrimp po’boy toasted up nicely on the griddle. Those with bigger appetites will enjoy half pound burgers grilled to order or jambalaya pasta tossed with Andouille sausage and grilled chicken breast over rotini in a Creole tomato sauce.

While the laidback cafe dishes up solid renditions of familiar favorites daily for diners of all ages, after dark Hard Dock turns up the volume and energy as one of Tuscaloosa’s top nightlife destinations. Throughout the week you’ll find live music acts playing on the entertainment stages and patios while locals and students fill up the bar ordering specialty cocktails.

Thursday college nights always draw a big crowd for DJs and dancing while weekend band parties have been known to spill out onto the riverfront. Groups can reserve VIP areas and there’s always plenty of room thanks to the spacious converted industrial building and outdoor patio with a fun, lively vibe. Perched on the riverfront beside the iconic amphitheater hosting major concerts and events, Hard Dock Cafe satisfies any craving morning, noon or night as a casual local fixture.

Avenue Pub

Name and Location: The Avenue Pub is located on the Strip at 405 23rd Ave in downtown Tuscaloosa nearUniversity of Alabama landmarks like the Quad.

History and Significance: Serving as reliable neighborhood watering hole for students, locals and alumni since 2002 with patio capturing the Strip’s vibrant energy, Avenue Pub crafted enduring fandom mixing hearty scratch-made bar fare menus with trivia nights, karaoke sessions and football watch parties.

What to Expect: Sink into cool leather booths for sharing heaped nachos, hot pretzels, piled high wings doused in a dozen sauces or house specialties like the Crispy Chicken Sandwich done kicked up with spicy slaw. Extensive draft lineup with SEC games always on.

Visitor Information: Kitchen open weekday lunch through late nights, weekends opens at 11am. All ages until 9pm. Easy walking access near campus parking garages. Affordable cash prices, cards accepted.

The Avenue Pub brings a laidback neighborhood pub atmosphere complete with excellent craft beers and elevated bar food to downtown Tuscaloosa’s happening 4th street. Opened in 2018 by Lee Walters, Avenue Pub is housed in a converted early 1900s building retaining its historical brick facade and showcases a welcoming, eclectic interior design featuring local artists plus indoor and patio bar seating.

With over 45 beers on draft including hard to find craft selections and creative takes on traditional pub grub shareables using quality ingredients, Avenue Pub has offered a welcome addition to Tuscaloosa’s nightlife scene.

The bar itself deserves its own rave reviews thanks to an extensive list of local, domestic and international beers on tap rotated frequently so there’s always something new to discover. Their knowledgeable bartenders can guide you through the offerings to select the right pour whether you gravitate towards lagers, Belgians, stouts or IPAs.

Special events like tap takeovers featuring local Alabama breweries provide an opportunity to sample rare one-off batches and limited releases. Cocktails also shine at Avenue Pub thanks to creative mixology yielding drinks like their Perfect Pear with vodka, pear nectar and ginger beer or the Twisted Old Fashioned kicking the classic Bourbon cocktail up a notch with angostura bitters, orange and cherry.

While you sip, be sure to order some of Avenue Pub’s scratch made bar snacks and shareable plates perfect for groups grazing over good brews and conversation. Smoked chicken quesadillas, fried pickles and pretzels with beer cheese fondue will please crowds. Their house made Soft Bavarian Pretzel Sticks offer the ideal vehicle for scooping up mustard, cheese sauce and honey mustard.

Wings are another specialty, with flavors like brown sugar bourbon, mango habanero or Korean BBQ to choose from alongside classic buffalo style. Beyond bar food, entrée standouts include the Mile High Meatloaf Sandwich, Green Chili Pork Tacos with mango slaw and Shrimp Fettuccine in garlic cream sauce tossed with tomatoes and scallions. From game day afternoons to late nights with friends, Avenue Pub scores as an all-star addition to Tuscaloosa’s downtown scene.

City Cafe

Name and Location: City Cafe is a cozy family owned breakfast and brunch spot located downtown at 2201 University Blvd near shops and hotels in Tuscaloosa.

History and Significance: Serving hearty made-to-order Southern morning staples drawing devoted regulars since opening in 1995, this unassuming storefront diner packs in comforting plates of jumbo biscuits smothered in sawmill gravy, crispy bacon, breakfast meats, eggs done right and bottomless coffee refills seven days a week.

What to Expect: Griddled sausage patties, golden waffles, fluffy three egg omelettes or chicken fried steak all anchor downhome scratch-made meals cooked up quick. Plus daily blue plate lunch specials like smothered cubed steak or country fried chicken served with soulful sides until the early afternoon hours.

Visitor Information: Open daily 7am-2pm for breakfast and lunch. Cash preferred but cards accepted. Walk-ins welcome, prepare for possible short wait times. Free self-parking beside restaurant in rear.

City Cafe in downtown Northport brings a contemporary casual American dining spot just across the river from Tuscaloosa offering an eclectic globally-inspired menu in a historic rustic industrial building. The large cafe features an open kitchen centered around a wood-fired grill dishing out smoky flavors alongside a globally inspired menu ranging from tapas plates to po’ boys to tacos and more. The restored building provides an urban loft ambiance with original brick walls, exposed ductwork and string lights stretching across the high ceilings.

Executive Chef William Griffith heads up City Cafe’s kitchen, bringing experience from New Orleans and Charleston to prepare creative takes on Southern and Latin comfort foods. Daily lunch specials like grilled Hawaiian pork tenderloin sandwiches topped with pineapple salsa or shrimp po boys dressed with spicy remoulade showcase Chef Griffith’s skill marrying flavors.

Small plates are ideal for sharing, with options like Mexican street corn off the cob baked with cotija cheese, cilantro and lime or General Tso’s Cauliflower firing up that familiar takeout flavor without the meat. Empanadas with various fillings, chicken tinga tostadas and lamb meatballs offer more global flavors for sampling.

Heartier entrees include cast iron seared fish, half pound burgers, marinated hanger steaks from the wood fired grill and shrimp or chicken pasta tossed with hand rolled tagliatelle in savory sauces. Save room for mini desserts like their giant homemade cookies or seasonal crisps and cobblers. Craft beer, unique cocktails and wines by the glass add to the festivities for lunch or dinner.

Thanks to its historic building filled with character, the open kitchen theatrics and Chef Griffith’s eclectic from scratch cooking, City Cafe offers more than your average lunch cafe and a lively dinner or happy hour spot.

Dreamland Bar-B-Que

Name and Location: Dreamland Bar-B-Que operates a popular outpost at 34521 Loop Road in Tuscaloosa, just northeast of the Mercedes-Benz production plant.

History and Significance: Since 1958 when founder John “Big Daddy” Bishop first opened original Bethal Road location in Tuscaloosa, Dreamland’s secret seasoning permeated regional fame fired up by hickory wood smoke multilating meaty ribs named among America’s best while staying true to tried and true traditions.

What to Expect: Perfectly charred racks of baby back or meaty spare ribs steal the picnic table show anointed by signature sauce, plus sandwiches like pulled pork, thick-cut onion rings, hearty beans and banana pudding for the full experience done proper Alabama style.

Visitor Information: Open daily for lunch and dinner. Expect lines at peak times like weekends or football nights – call ahead takeout strongly recommended. Outdoor seating available. Cash preferred but cards taken.

No list of Tuscaloosa’s best restaurants would be complete without world famous Dreamland Bar-B-Que. Originally opened in 1958 by brick mason John “Big Daddy” Bishop who first started cooking pork ribs seasoned with salt, pepper and hickory smoke to feed friends working construction, Dreamland has grown over the past 60+ years into a Southern barbecue empire with locations throughout the Southeast.

But true ‘cue connoisseurs know the original Tuscaloosa location on the strip near the University of Alabama campus offers a quintessential experience of paper-covered tables, brick walls decorated with Tide memorabilia and most importantly, fall-off-the-bone hickory smoked ribs, chicken and sides.

The original Dreamland location still embodies its beginnings as a hole-in-the-wall joint, retaining a no frills roadhouse vibe with its small order counter and informal communal tables encouraging you to eat barbecue like you mean it, with your hands and a pile of napkins.

While the baby back ribs remain Dreamland’s crown jewel — tender, smoky and lightly lacquered with thick sweet & tangy sauce — don’t sleep on menu staples like their giant loaded baked potatoes, creamy coleslaw or jamaican jerk chicken wings. Daily specials mean you’ll also find smoked prime rib, meaty pork chops or holiday inspired fare rounding out the menu.

While you feast on ‘cue, take in the charming atmosphere of trademark Christmas lights framing autographed photos of Alabama football coaches past and present plus players who have stopped in to get their Dreamland fix over the decades.

Expect a wait and bring cash for this quintessential Tuscaloosa experience since they don’t take cards. Whether you belly up to the counter or grab your tray to-go, just follow your nose to Dreamland, where the hickory smoked meat speaks for itself, as it has for over 60 years and counting as a T-Town tradition.

Kozy’s Restaurant

Name and Location: Kozy’s Restaurant has operated 24/7 diner service at 2015 6th Street in Tuscaloosa for over fifty years.

History and Significance: Feeding all night owls, early risers and everyone between since opening days circa 1967, this always buzzing nondescript diner prepares hearty scratchmade Southern comfort plates round the clock like bountiful country breakfast spreads, blue plate meatloaf, Friday fish plates and pile-it-high burgers named among statewide best.

What to Expect: Take a spin in swiveling stools along the curved blue counter or slide into red vinyl booths choosing among all American staples cooked fresh anytime from crispy fried chicken tenders and country steaks to scratch lemon meringue pie, with free refill coffee flowing 24 hours.

Visitor Information: Open all day, every single day year-round. Cash only payments inside, ATM next door. Regular crowds so minimal wait times expected. Well worn, casual atmosphere. Call-ahead takeout available.

Kozy’s Restaurant carries on Tuscaloosa’s classic meat-and-three tradition from its 1924 opening to the present day by serving stick-to-your-ribs comfort foods in an unpretentious diner environment filled with character. Located within sight of the Paul Bryant Bridge near downtown in a converted old house, Kozy’s welcoming tables and classic counter seating hearken back to a simpler time when plate lunch spots dotted Southern towns.

Third generation owner Bob Kozy carries on his grandfather’s legacy of embracing Tuscaloosa’s hungry residents as regulars who can depend on Kozy’s to deliver well prepared daily blue plate specials, burgers, country fried steak, catfish and other hearty classics at working class prices.

From bread pudding to banana pudding, Kozy’s homemade desserts alone warrant repeat visits to indulge a sweet tooth. Sink into a vinyl booth or grab a stool at the counter to watch your meat-and-three specials or burger get cooked up on the grill in the open kitchen.

Daily specials cooked from scratch like smothered pork chops, chicken spaghetti bake, country style steak and veggie plates offer diners variety and value without skimping on flavor. Locals love starting their day at Kozy’s fueled up with big breakfast plates of eggs, grits, bacon, sausage, hashbrowns and biscuits with gravy.

For over 85 years spanning the Great Depression, World War II, the Civil Rights movement and into present day, Kozy’s has proudly fed Tuscaloosa families through good times and bad thanks to quality ingredients, skilled Southern homestyle cooking and steadfast service.

Memorabilia like vintage Coca Cola signs and framed photos decorating Kozy’s worn wooden walls reveal how this unassuming local spot has stood the test of time as a Tuscaloosa institution. So for a quintessential meat-and-three experience evoking the flavors of the past brought into modern day, pull up a chair at Kozy’s counter or slide into a snug booth and see why generations of T-Town residents keep coming back since 1924.

Five Restaurant

Name and Location: Five is an intimate fine dining venue located downtown at 2324 4th Street in Tuscaloosa, close to the Riverwalk and amphitheater.

History and Significance: Helmed by lauded Executive Chef Charmein Covell, a 2022 James Beard Award Semifinalist for Best Chef South, sophisticated Southern-inspired Five delivers exquisite seasonal tasting menus nightly through polished layered flavors and artful presentations since opening in 2016.

What to Expect: Menus evolve based on market and foraged ingredients but survey creative takes across plates like a recent ham torched tableside showing Alabama peaches, corn puree, chanterelles and hock gastrique. Expect indulgent surprises sometimes playfully presented tableside. Reservations essential.

Visitor Information: Five serves nightly dinner by reservation only for seatings between 5-9pm. Valet offered. Dress code business formal. Tasting menu required at $90-115/person, additional wine pairings available. Tastings purchase prepaid.

Five Restaurant resides within the Hotel Indigo downtown, serving contemporary seasonal New American cuisine touched by Mediterranean and Southern influences in a stylish yet relaxed fine dining atmosphere. Formerly executive chef at renowned Highlands Bar & Grill, Chef Hector Santiago brought his pedigree to open Five Restaurant in 2018 as Tuscaloosa’s premier special occasion destination thanks to the highly personalized dining experience crafted by Santiago and his team.

Five Restaurant’s elegant interior provides the ideal upscale backdrop for intimate date nights or celebrating milestone events, with warm lighting, velvet banquettes and marble accents across two separate dining spaces plus a lounge area anchored by a striking onyx-topped bar.

Extensive wine storage lining the walls tips diners off to Five’s impressive cellar offerings to complement your meal. Start with a creative cocktail then peruse a menu showcasing Santiago’s talent for weaving global techniques and high quality ingredients into approachable yet exquisite plates.

Dishes emphasize fresh vegetables, seafood and thoughtfully sourced proteins cooked to allow unique flavors to harmonize. Starters like a delicate lobster bisque cappuccino garnished with coriander oil and chives or a vivid beet and fennel salad balanced by whipped goat cheese excel in execution and presentation.

Mains that wow include expertly seared scallops atop cauliflower carbonara risotto, a sous vide pork tenderloin with mole verde sauce and sides like truffle parmesan fries that keep you returning bite after bite.


From humble barbecue joints to James Beard-recognized chefs, Tuscaloosa deserves its recognition as an underrated food city offering world class dining options emphasizing Southern staples and fresh contemporary cuisine.

The restaurant scene here continues to grow and diversify thanks to skilled chefs and passionate restaurateurs dedicated to excellence. Food brings people together — so next time you’re craving quality plates paired nicely with Tuscaloosa hospitality, consider supporting these local eateries taking Alabama flavors to new heights. With appetites for both tradition and innovation running strong, the tables are set for Tuscaloosa’s vibrant culinary future.

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