Whenever I travel, I like to eat like locals eat. It’s often cheaper and more delicious than anything TripAdvisor might recommend. My husband Caleb is a meat eater, and I’m a vegetarian – so finding a place to eat can be difficult. Most of the usual ‘best of’ restaurants don’t have many meat-free options aside from salads and pasta.
So here are my top 7 local eats in Tuscaloosa. From burgers to Indian food, these are some of my absolute favorite eateries around town. And the best part? They all serve killer vegetarian food.
I guarantee you won’t see any of these restaurants on ESPN’s Taste of the Town.
1. Dotson’s Burger Spot
Dotson’s is the newest entry on the list, but they’ve quickly become one of our favorite burger spots – right up there with The Avenue Pub and 5 Bar. Owned by the Holt family, who also owns Southern Ale House, Dotson’s Burger Spot is a throwback to the classic Dotson’s Restaurant, located in Franklin, TN.
My husband Caleb highly recommends the Texas Tom: a chuck-chorizo concoction, topped with cheddar, fried onions, bacon, jalapenos, and barbeque sauce on Texas toast. Due to the fat content, it’s difficult to get a chuck-chorizo burger just right, but Dotson’s does it effortlessly. Give it a try.
I’m also a fan of their veggie burger. Typically, veggie patties are stiff, cardboard-like briquettes. Not Dotson’s. Their black bean patty is soft, moist, and full of flavor. I love it!
Here’s a link to their menu. The next time you’re in Temerson Square, give Dotson’s a try, and let me know what you think.
2. Heritage House
There are a lot of excellent coffee shops in Tuscaloosa, but Heritage House has been our home away from home for over 20 years. It’s comfortable, the way a home should be – and the staff is friendliest around. Whether you’re dropping by to see old friends or settling in to study, you can’t go wrong with Tuscaloosa’s original coffee shop.
Heritage House has three locations, and each has its own vibe. The Towncenter location (on McFarland Blvd.) is cozy; the Riverfront location (near Hotel Indigo) is classic southern-chique; and the Alberta location (inside The Gateway) is intimate.
As far as drinks go, I like the Heritage House Special and the dirty chai tea latte. For food, my husband Caleb recommends the parmesan encrusted sandwich and the California club; my favorite vegetarian dish is the caprese-stuffed avocado.
Oh, and their baked goods are to die for!
If you were to cross-breed a New York deli with a Louisiana market, you’d get Cravings. Located on University Boulevard, around the bend from Temerson Square, Cravings is our favorite place for late night munchies.
Their Cajun Quiche, with smoked pork chaurice sausage and provolone, practically transports you to the French Quarter; and their muffaletta is one of our favorite pre-drink night snacks. As far as vegetarian options go, you can’t go wrong with their mac and cheese or New York-style bagels.
And did I mention that they sell craft beer by the bottle?
If you’re craving Indian food – and lots of it – I highly recommend checking out Sitar. They’re located on 15th Street, in the shopping center adjacent to Druid City Brewing and Mr. Chen’s. All their items are homemade, from their yogurt to their naan, and everything tastes delicious.
Their lunch buffet is colorful, affordable, and tasty – perfect for lunch dates and office outings. As a vegetarian, I recommend the dal tarka, navratan curry, and vegetable kadai. Caleb likes the chicken masala and chicken curry.
Here’s a copy of their menu. If you’re in the neighborhood, be sure to give them a visit. I promise you’ll love it.
5. Antojitos Izcalli
To be honest, it took us a while to come around to Antojitos Izcalli. It’s real authentic Mexican food – so no chips and salsa or queso (which was nearly a deal breaker for Caleb). But the entire menu is hands-down delicious, and the staff is extremely friendly.
Eating at Antojitos is a lot like eating at a friend’s house. Seating is family-style, so diners often sit together at long tables. And the menu is mostly a la carte, which can be a little off-putting for casual diners.
But it is seriously the best authentic Mexican food in Tuscaloosa. Our favorite items are the huaraches, tacos, and burrito. If you’re a meat eater, their pollo and chorizo are top-notch. If you’re a courageous, try the lengua or cabeza. And no matter what you get, fresh tortillas are a must.
Also, their entire menu can be ordered meat-free, making them a perfect stop for vegetarians.
Antojitos Izcalli is located behind the Kangaroo on the corner of McFarland and Hargrove, across the street from BBVA Compass. Parking can get a little cramped, so I recommend ordering Crimson2Go or arriving before the dinner rush. Here’s a copy of their menu, in case you’re interested.
6. City Cafe
Okay, so City Cafe has been on ESPN a few times – but there’s no denying it’s one of the best down-and-dirty southern breakfasts in Tuscaloosa County. It’s an incredible snapshot of local culture: The wood-paneled walls are plastered with Daniel Moore prints and old sports posters, and the tables and menus are covered with laminated advertisements that range from flower shops to clothing boutiques. The staff is warm-hearted, and the food is affordable and delicious.
City Cafe is located in Downtown Northport on Main Avenue, down the street from Kentuck. They’re only open Monday through Friday, and they only serve breakfast and lunch. I recommend the biscuits and grits; the portions are incredibly generous for the price.
For a complete menu, be sure to check out their Facebook page.
Since Mellow Mushroom and Post Office pies closed a few years back, it has been hard to find good pizza in the downtown area. Enter Heat, the dark horse pizzeria that’s quickly become one of my favorite all-time dinner spots. They opened in 2015, but they’ve become such a staple, it feels like they’ve been around forever.
As far as pizza goes, we like to order the barbeque chicken and veggie delight pizzas. But the real show stoppers are their salads. Their spicy kale cobb (without bacon) is one of my absolute favorites.
Oh, and their draft beer selection is fantastic. Taps change regularly, so remember to ask your waiter which brews are in season.
Heat is located in Government Plaza, two streets over from the Bama Theatre. We love camping out on the porch during the Druid City Art Fest. Sipping local beer, soaking up sun, and listening to great music is one of our favorite ways to kill a summer afternoon.
Here’s a link to their menu.
So there you have it: these are my 7 favorite local eats. What do you think? Do you agree with my list? What are your favorite Tuscaloosa restaurants? I’d love to hear what you think in the comments.
Tuscaloosa is my favorite place, and I love sharing it with everyone. Let me help you find your perfect home in my perfect place. Let’s get together.