Selected as the Best Restaurant in Tuscaloosa in 2010 by TuscaloosaRestaurant.com, Opus pairs its creative dinner menu with knowledgeable service in a modern, chic setting. Employing a variety of cooking styles and distinctive ingredients, the chefs turn out innovative plates such as tempura eggplant fries ($8) and red-pepper bisque with cauliflower and brie ($7). An artful display of wild-berry-glazed short ribs ($24) or a trio of sea bass, baked lobster mac 'n' cheese, and tiger shrimp ($36) extinguishes hunger, and freshly prepared apple bread pudding ($7) or vanilla-bean crème brûlée ($8) finish feasts. Crystal chandeliers and white tablecloths foster an elegant space for games of chess waged with the oysters du jour on the black-and-white checked floor ($10). Opus is open for dinner Tuesday–Saturday from 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Though they spend much of their time mixing ingredients and dialing in oven temperatures, the team at Mary's Cakes and Pastries has also perfected the art of building cars, football stadiums, and mandolins. The designs are all custom cakes decorated with layers of fondant and buttercream icing to bring customers’ ideas to life. In addition to their edible sculptures, the kitchen crew bakes fresh cookies and pastries each day and fires up lunch specialties such as stuffed croissants and turkey gumbo.
There’s no shortage of renowned oyster establishments in the South. But TripSmarter.com pegged Wintzell’s Oyster House as its #1 destination for the specialty. “Fried, stewed, or nude,” they come served in every way imaginable at Wintzell’s—oysters are, unsurprisingly so, the trademark dish. And they’ve been the trademark dish since the eatery’s flagship location opened in 1938.
Regional seafood favorites also dominate the menu, from low-country boils to Cajun seafood fettuccine and bacon-wrapped shrimp. While the original location became something of a landmark in historic Mobile, the restaurant has since expanded to multiple locations. Each one, though, retains the original’s decorative signature: several dozen whimsical signs on the walls. The website even features some of their slogans: “Never kick a man when he is down—he may get up.”
The Diner Restaurant Group dishes up its home-style menu with quick, friendly service in classic-diner style. Patrons can treat themselves and a loved one, coworker, or imaginary friend to a feast for two that will pique their hunger teeth and activate dormant burger glands at the base of their skulls so that their jaws unhinge a little. Duos get two of the eatery's boeuf de résistance—a fresh ground-chuck burger loaded with lettuce, tomato, butter pickles, special sauce, and the choice of american, swiss, or pepper-jack cheese, all layered on a freshly-baked bun and served along with fresh-cut fries (a $13.98 value). Two sides of coleslaw (a $2.98 value) and two Coca-Colas (a $3.38 value) round out the meal.
Cafe J serves a hearty menu of midday offerings prepared in house from fresh ingredients. The house-made chicken salad weaves white-meat chicken, chopped nuts, veggies, and grapes into an edible tapestry of flavor constructed with a Jacquard loom ($6.95), and the Ultimate grilled-cheese sandwich stacks three cheeses between sourdough slices ($5.95). Lunchers can augment the gooey concoction with a choice of five sides and a crispiness-enhancing option to add bacon ($1). The classic club sandwich delivers a savory dose of deli cuts ($7.95), and rotating daily specials include a main dish and veggie sides. A children’s menu sates pint-sized appetites as parents bask in Cafe J’s warm, unhurried atmosphere characterized by curtained windows, French Country décor, and elegant stone statues of Mr. T.
What’s in a name? For Big Daddy’s Mediterranean Grill, the answer might be “a surprise.” While the moniker might suggest a no-frills barbecue joint, the name actually belongs to a laid-back hookah joint where smoke curls skyward and platters of Mediterranean feasts populate the tables. After digging into kebabs, falafel, or squares of flaky baklava, guests can take a few puffs of a hookah loaded with 1 of nearly 30 available shisha flavors. Open late on weekdays and until 2:30 a.m. on weekends, the grill’s exposed-brick walls and twinkling fairy lights maintain an atmosphere appropriate for sophisticated excursions and late-night bull sessions alike.
Chuck’s Fish shells out fresh seafood from the Gulf Coast and hand-cut steaks from local markets. Chuck's procures all its succulent seafood from a wholesale market in Destin, Florida, using hook and line catching methods rather than luring fish to patrons' plates with the promise of a Hawaiian timeshare. The Tuscaloosa location’s extensive dinner menu showcases entrees such as surf 'n’ turf with an 8-ounce filet mignon and stuffed shrimp or jumbo lump crab cakes ($32), hickory-oven pizzas ($10–15), and sushi.