What draws people to a restaurant? Looks? Taste? History? When it comes to a restaurant like PieLab, all three of those categories are not only sufficiently met, but go beyond expectations. Other reviews found on the internet glow with praise, so it’s not surprising that mine will be doing the same thing.
My experience began with the hour-long trip from Tuscaloosa to Greensboro, where PieLab is located. The highway between the two cities was lined with cozy homes and trees that had just begun to change colors, despite it being late October. I drove over rolling hills while the sun shone brightly overhead. When I pulled into the small downtown area of the city, it was quiet, though cars filled the parking spaces on the street and a few people could be seen roaming the sidewalks, going about their business.
Looking at the exterior, you notice that it is a crisp, clean white, proudly displaying the restaurant’s name in a bold, black font. It makes a large statement for the small town that PieLab is located in. Windows allow you to peer inside before you go in, and inside you can see employees behind the open kitchen’s counter, working on food orders with a sense of diligence, but not one of urgency. It’s simple and sweet to watch from the outside, but even the outside of the restaurant invites you to come inside. Written on the window panes on both sides of the door is this humble phrase “Pie & Conversation, Optimism & Inspiration.” But then the restaurant takes it one step further on their invitation for you, and tells you a little bit about their story, right on their front door. The idea began on a napkin by a group that calls themselves “Project M” somewhere in Belfast, Maine. Then it became a pop-up shop in Greensboro, Alabama turned restaurant, job-training center, and community space, all within the confines of an abandoned pool hall. The restaurant’s mission is the final few sentences on the door. They read, “PieLab strives to be an open and inclusive environment where all voices of the community can be heard. So welcome. Welcome to our pie shop, our community and our story.” It’s a powerful welcome, and that’s just from standing on the outside.Read more link text
1715 University Blvd
Tuscaloosa, AL 35401
Miss Dots Chicken Shop is one of the many restaurants Tuscaloosa has added to its growing foodie scene in recent months. Miss Dots Tuscaloosa is the newest addition to John Cassimus’ quickly growing collection of restaurants. He and business partner Tyre Stuckey opened a Miss Dots location in the Birmingham township of Mountain Brook just a few weeks before their Tuscaloosa launch. Risky? The men don’t seem to think so. The new fast casual chain is the second that the duo has tackled; the first is the contagious Zoes Kitchen that is quickly spreading across the southeast. The new up-and-coming Miss Dots chain is sure to make a huge impact with its traditional southern cuisine in a fast casual setting.
Owners aptly named Miss Dots after a local culinary inspiration, Miss Leona Rogers— AKA Dot. Miss Dot and owners have created the perfect mixture of a southern at-home meal and a fast dining experience unprecedented in Tuscaloosa. The restaurant is located within Tuscaloosa’s forgotten mile, bridging the gap of between The Strip and Downtown. With plenty of parking and brand new sidewalks, Miss Dots is easily accessible to Tuscaloosa locals and students alike.Read more link text
1320 McFarland Blvd E #510, Tuscaloosa, AL 35404
BurgerFi is part of a family of fast casual food chains that have achieved great popularity in the past several years. While the Tuscaloosa location is only the third in the state, BurgerFi currently has 82 restaurants in the country. According to the website, BurgerFi is conscious of its impact on people, animals, and the environment. They strive to hire skilled chefs, use fresh and humanely sourced ingredients, and recycle whenever possible. The restaurant itself is perfect for college students, professionals, and families. Because it falls under the classification of fast-casual, it is of high enough quality to eat as a treat, but low-key (and cheap) enough to eat on an ordinary day.Read more link text
405 23rd Ave. 35401
Downtown Tuscaloosa, AL
As a college town, Tuscaloosa has its share of starving college students, artists, and other young adults in need of a good meal. While downtown is developing as fast as it can manage, filling previously empty spaces with trendy stores and all sorts of restaurants, at least one location has already won the hearts of many a Tuscaloosa resident: The Avenue Pub. Between its inviting atmosphere and its generous portions, The Avenue Pub has wasted no time in winning the hearts of hungry patrons.Read more link text
1211 Martin Luther King Blvd
Northport, AL 35476
In a small, almost shack-like house down Watermelon road lies a humble barbecue joint that you’d never notice if you hadn’t been told about it—but if you live in Tuscaloosa or Northport, you probably have. Archibald’s has been a Tuscaloosa staple since opening in 1962, with food so renowned that a photo of the original owner, George Archibald, hangs in the competing Jim n Nick’s Bar-B-Q. Today, Archibald’s is run by George Archibald Jr., but the style and recipes remain the same. In 2013, Archibald’s made #6 on USA Today’s list of “America’s Tastiest Ribs,” and it has been featured on ESPN, in Southern Living Magazine, and in the New York Times. The workers will happily remind you that Alabama legend Bear Bryant relied on Archibald’s for his barbecue needs. In fact, the entire establishment is a family affair. Two offshoots, both called Archibald & Woodrow’s, are also run by the family and offer more options, such as macaroni and cheese, hot wings, and catfish, but the original boasts all of the nostalgia and credibility of an Alabama classic.Read more link text
Big Daddy's Mediterranean Grill and Hookah Cafe
514 Greensboro Ave, Tuscaloosa, AL 35401
One normally doesn’t go to Big Daddy’s for food. They go there for hookah. They might order cheese fries or hummus and pita to go along with their hookah, but food is not the normal priority when someone chooses to patronize this restaurant in particular. As one of the only hookah locations in Tuscaloosa, the draw is large with freshmen who have just reached the age of nineteen (not eighteen, thanks to Alabama’s laws) and are eager to try out a new “taboo.” But naive newcomers aside, Big Daddy’s has firmly established itself in its little cubby of Greensboro, squeezed between Icon, the local gay bar, and Chuck’s Fish, one of the more well-known (and accordingly pricier) restaurants for Tuscaloosans who want to feel sophisticated among their own. And there, anchored down in the middle lands, is Big Daddy’s.Read more link text
Another Broken Egg Café
Address: 1650 Jack Warner Pkwy NE, Tuscaloosa, AL 35401
In January of this year, I made the grueling choice to run regularly as my New Year’s Revolution. Three days out of the week I sling myself out of bed and make my way down to the Riverwalk – a path that follows along the local Black Warrior River. Every time, as I run, jog, or more often, limp over the pavement, I run past a picturesque little breakfast place. People sit outside on the veranda munching away on freshly-made pastries and cutting into omelettes as I gasp and lurch along below. Even as I turn the corner, and the restaurant leaves my sight, the smell of bacon and baked goods still wafts after me. Every time, I think about just turning off the Riverwalk and jogging into the restaurant, sitting down at a table, and ordering something. Maybe get a mimosa to drink. Every time, I keep on moving. But this past Sunday, I finally got a taste of how the other side lives.Read more link text
Sitar Indian Cuisine
500 15th Street, Tuscaloosa, AL 35401
Tuesday-Sumday 11:00-3:00 and 5:00-9:30
If I were to gather opinions about college town dining, I’d be willing to bet I could guess what kind of food comes to mind. Most likely cheap, fast, and greasy food designed to satisfy late-night study break cravings. While Tuscaloosa certainly has several restaurants that fit that bill, it also has a fairly diverse global food scene. This is shown by the fact that there are two Thai restaurants across the street from each other less than half a mile from the University of Alabama campus. In other parts of the city, diners can explore Japanese, Chinese, and Mediterranean restaurants, and even an unassuming Indian restaurant—Sitar.
Curious diners wishing to take advantage of Tuscaloosa’s international food scene can find Sitar on 15th Street, one of the main thoroughfares of town and not far from the University. Based on this location in a busy part of Tuscaloosa, Sitar usually serves a wide clientele. At any time one could walk in and expect to see a student couple on a date, a few professors enjoying an after work meal, or even older couples or families celebrating a birthday.Read more link text
Address: 2218 University Blvd, Tuscaloosa, Al 35401
In a town that is as steeped in tradition as Tuscaloosa, one may think it isn’t open to passing food fads. Yet, a hip brunch location has found its home in this traditional southern town. Nestled near the Black Warrior Brewing Company, the frosted glass and welcoming patio furniture of Sweet Home Food Bar beckon the downtown crowd to a restaurant that brings a new perspective to the local food scene. While it is off University and only a mere minutes walk from many Tuscaloosa staples, this emerging favorite with its fresh fad foods and hip interior has cornered the market on trendy brunch.Read more link text
Looking for a place to eat with that 5-star appeal and a unique quirk without breaking the bank?
This is precisely what I and my girlfriends were looking for when we decided to have a girl's date night for Valentine's Day. We looked no further than FIVE: a bar/ restaurant nestled in downtown Tuscaloosa and attached to its own coffee shop, FIVE Java.
Now before you picture a quaint cafe filled with lace and iced cakes in a display window, let me better explain. The java side of FIVE is cafe-esque. With two long wooden tables in the middle, surrounded by faded canary upholstered seats that sink when you sit in them and a mini window library for coffee and literature lovers alike, it has style and class with a shabbiness that gives it an instant cool vibe.Read more link text
Address: 1211 University Blvd., Tuscaloosa, AL 35401
It may be the new kid on the block, but it’s already found its place.
Pieology, which opened its doors only two months ago, is the most recent food development on The Strip in Tuscaloosa. This particular section of University Boulevard, located directly beside the University of Alabama campus, exemplifies a classic college-town hodgepodge of cute clothing shops, university-themed merchandise stores, and, perhaps most importantly, many cheap and delicious dining options for students. Amidst the disparate and delightful array (everything from Thai to Tex-Mex) crammed into these few blocks, Pieology is at first hard to distinguish. It occupies a tiny piece of storefront, bordered by a cell phone quick-repair shop and a live music bar, its presence designated only by the brightly lit sign above the door.Read more link text
Address: 301 Greensboro Ave, Tuscaloosa, AL 35401
By: Yasmeen Sayyah
301 Bistro, Bar, and Beer Garden is Tuscaloosa local Bill Barefoot’s latest investment in his town: the restauranteur owns Green Bar and Wilhagan’s, as well as several other properties. His newest venture opened early 2016 in the old L&N Train Station, which was rented out for everything from simple parties to wedding receptions prior to the creation of 301 Bistro. The beautiful venue is conveniently located off the corner of Greensboro and University Blvd, and while many of Tuscaloosa’s bustling downtown restaurants offer extremely limited parking for their patrons, 301 Bistro is privileged to its own large parking lot.
Bill Barefoot calls the cuisine offered at 301 Bistro a “Tuscaloosa fusion.” Cajun and German influences litter the menu, creating appealing renditions of traditional Tuscaloosa “Southern” fare. While the venue seems to cater to an older clientele or special occasions, operating manager Sarah Thompson insists “We don’t want to be considered just a special occasion venue but a place that people can come for great food all the time.”Read more link text
Address: 1402 University Blvd, Tuscaloosa, AL 35401
Nestled between the red brick and white pillar “old south” aesthetic of The University of Alabama, and the slightly more modern downtown Tuscaloosa, lies the unassuming Surin of Thailand. Surin originally opened in Atlanta in 1990, but has since found a home on The Strip in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. This restaurant chain features a collection of self-proclaimed authentic Thai cuisine and sushi options that still feel very approachable to college students and Tuscaloosa natives alike. Patrons can order anything from Thai curry to vanilla bean crème brulee. Surin makes no claims about famous chefs or innovative menu items but does promise “Master Thai Chefs,” fresh ingredients, and an impressive martini menu– all of which fall within the typical college student’s budget.Read more link text