The Avenue Pub: A Cheesy (Fries) Review

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.

Located on 23rd Avenue in a row of similarly-faced shops, The Avenue Pub has been dedicated to a relaxed, casual eating experience by owner and operator, Craig Williams. This restaurant seeks to provide excellent service, fresh options, and a variety to satisfy tastes of all kinds. The cuisine offered is distinct from nearby eateries—their menu is “constantly evolving,” according to their site, as well as one with plenty of old favorites (eyes light up when asked about their favorites, particularly the pub fries).

The Avenue Pub is a restaurant for all tastes. With its relatively-close location to campus, plenty of hungry college students—especially with parents in tow to foot the bill—and professors find their way downtown on a weekend. However, the Avenue Pub also invites a variety of patrons of all ages to partake in their particular eating experience. With their hefty portions, any visitor will definitely leave satisfied.

The ambiance is also unique—somewhat rustic, with its exposed brick and beams, bricolage art, and dark wood tables, yet comfortable and accessible for all visitors. The music weaves between modern country hits to classic rock and blues, building on the tone set by the restaurant’s physical style. The dining area is a little loud, but not uncomfortable or chaotic. It’s exactly where one would expect a group, exhausted from work or class and ready for a big, shareable meal, to congregate.

The shareable nature of the meal certainly helped to win my roommate, who was thrilled to have a nice meal in town, over to my cause. We were seated immediately, in a table near the door. A little natural light filtered in, lighting up the dimmer sitting area. While we waited for our drinks, my roommate and I took a look around the place, admiring the strong theme that the dining area keeps to, particularly the bar. “It kind of reminds me of a saloon, but specifically Southern, too, not Western,” she said. The building does have a certain charm to it, with its simple décor, one that leaves the patron relaxed during their casual meal.

Despite my interest in the more visual aspects of the restaurant, there was little time to enjoy it before the food arrived. The service was incredibly quick, and while my roommate and I had intended on trying more than one entree, we changed our minds when we saw the size of the pub fries—the dish most enthusiastically recommended by those I asked. While there’s always a place in my heart for good fries, these took the cake. Crispy on the outside and soft and warm on the inside, the fries alone made for a meal. Top those with gooey mozzarella and parmesan, crumbles of bacon, and a touch of garnish, and you’re in for a treat. However, the peppercorn ranch dressing, while relegated to the sidelines, might very well be the real star of this show. My roommate (a proud hater of ranch dressing) eagerly asked for some to go when we prepared to leave.

The entree arrived at our table with not only unexpected swiftness, but plenty of courtesy; while it was only a few minutes, every pass of our server came with assurances that our food was on the way. While I had not expected poor service, I had not expected to be given such stellar treatment. Eventually, though, our food arrived, pre-cut for sharing and served on a wood server, fitting with their theme. The chicken club is hand-breaded fried chicken served on a buttery bun with mayonnaise, bacon, and a generous chunk of provolone, as well as vegetables and spicy mustard. It seemed that every portion was meant for at two; one half of the sandwich was enough to leave us stuffed, and most of the chicken dangled over the bun, too much for the bread to match. The chicken itself, listed as hand-breaded on the menu, did not disappoint. All too many restaurants proudly tout their chicken, but few meet the quality that The Avenue Pub has. Even their vegetables (a simple combination of mixed greens and red onion) complemented the sandwich perfectly, a far better combination than limp iceberg lettuce topping the typical sandwich. As a side (thinking that adding more fries would perhaps be an overkill), we chose asparagus, seasoned and cooked to perfection. While many restaurants serve asparagus either limp or raw, The Avenue Pub met the vegetable at that divine intersection: perfectly tender with just a little crunch.  By the end of the meal, we were in sore need of a box to take much of our meal with us. While the chicken club was decimated at the table, the pub fries somehow escaped the first wave of feasting mostly unscathed and filled a to-go to capacity. As for the second round, splitting the remains at home, the fries were not so lucky.

Such a meal left us nearly waddling out to the car, stuffed and lugging our treats—to certainly be enjoyed later. Needless to say, by the time we made it home, we were already planning a return trip. One glance at their site shows all sorts of signature dishes as yet untouched, from the Thai nachos and chicken bites to the bacon burger and grilled pork sandwich; and—for the sake of a thorough review, of course—a few other dishes just might be in order. Overall, The Avenue Pub makes for a casual dining experience with a menu that far exceeds the usual choice in fare for a casual lunch, brunch, or dinner.

 

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