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.
Sweet Home Food Bar does not just offer brunch, however. The restaurant is open for both lunch and dinner, offering fare that would allow both the pickiest and the most adventurous eaters to find a favorite. Boasting everything from pasta to burgers, to tacos, as well as offering catering, Sweet Home is interested in serving a slice of home to everyone – wherever that home might be. In my opinion, however, where Sweet Home truly shines the most is in brunch. Since they serve breakfast all day during the week, they’ve truly perfected interesting breakfast and lunch favorites, with fresh and local food fare, that would woo even the most doubtful of brunch.
Some might be doubtful of its size as well from its seemingly small exterior, but Sweet Home Food Bar is surprisingly long and offers a great deal of varied seating. The front of the restaurant is very quaint with light wooden tables, large ornate mirrors, fresh sunlight streaming through the front windows, and bound books on every table to serve as a centerpiece. The back part of the room is more hip, with darker paint colors and dimmer lighting – more indicative of a dinner atmosphere than early day. The restaurant shines in its relative newness (it did, after all, only open in 2014 ), and utilizes what some might consider a small space in innovative ways. While looking at a partial wall that cut off the kitchen from the dining area, I couldn’t help but wonder what had lived in this space before and how many renovations it took. The restaurant truly stands out from the normal Tuscaloosa standard, and is worth taking a visit simply to admire the light and dark contrasts in the beautiful interior design.
The crowd within the restaurant offered a varied, yet more familiar sight. The dining room offers a who’s who of Tuscaloosa natives: there are families visiting with their college-aged children, newlyweds feeding their babies some fresh fruit, groups of girls in extra-large t-shirts enjoying their morning mimosa, not to mention after-church dates between young professionals in their Sunday best. The downtown location offers an open table to a wide array of people and their menu seems to mind that as it is filled with a variety of options and cuisines.
I was able to admire these traits of Sweet Home Food Bar as I waited outside of the restaurant. While I was certain I had managed to beat the after church crowd, I was saddened to hear that I would still have to wait 30 minutes. Since they have no system to contact you when your wait is up, my boyfriend and I were confined to the front of the restaurant to wait for our name. Luckily, we were able to sit in their outdoor patio furniture, and could enjoy the lovely weather by people watching those walking around the downtown area. After less than a 30-minute wait we were led into the depths of the restaurant with their reduced brunch menu. The brunch menu is offered Saturday and Sunday and changes each week, allowing a variety of Sweet Home favorites to make an appearance. A large array of options caught my eye, and I was torn between the chicken fajitas (served with homemade chips), chicken and waffles (a brunch staple), or the breakfast nachos. My dining companion had an easier time of it, as he chose the aptly named “Hangover burger” and called it a day. In a spur-of-the-moment choice I went with the breakfast nachos and settled in to wait for my food.
The service was polite and friendly. The wait staff are great about filling up water cups and checking in on the patrons. When someone at the table next to us received their plate before their dining companion, they were offered a sincere apology and the situation was quickly remedied. The servers are helpful with suggestions, but not as helpful as the restaurant itself: a glass case in the restaurant proudly held each of the plates offered that day. For a minute I considered switching to the chicken and waffles after looking at these plates, but I ultimately was excited to receive my food.
When the plates were set out before us, I was ecstatic to see our dishes. My companion’s burger was comprised of a thick patty, covered by cheese and two strips of bacon. While the burger was more done than medium, my boyfriend assured me it did not diminish the taste. I sampled a fry or two to find them perfectly crisp and fresh, I wouldn’t consider them home fries, but they were thicker than your average shoestring fry. The real talent was my breakfast nachos, which were heaped high upon my plate. Homemade pita chips lined the bottom while piles of breakfast goodness created a mountain on top: slices of clearly fresh tomato, bell pepper and onion played with chunks of delicious bacon, thick potato slices and large bits of scrambled egg. I had to use a fork to create each masterpiece chip, trying to balance the pepper on the edge of potatoes before finally just eating straight from the plate with the chips as an accompaniment. The real delight to me was the salsa on the side; tangy and light, it did not overpower the breakfast foods but accompanied my egg the way jam accompanies a biscuit. I was sad to see I finished my salsa before the rest of my bowl, but I enjoyed it so much I moved on pretty quickly.
Ultimately, I would happily return to Sweet Home Food Bar – I just would go either earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon to beat the rush. While it’s a little pricier than a normal college haunt, the quality and atmosphere provide a nice treat for an afternoon date, a girls’ brunch, or a Parents Weekend meal. I am looking forward to returning to Sweet Home Food Bar, and perhaps next time I’ll get the chicken and waffles.