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.
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.
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.
In an effort to simplify the eating experience, the folks at Five have created a menu that limits the number of choices in each course category to five. Select from five snacks for a starter, such as cracklin’ pork sprinkled with spicy salt ($5) or fried olives smothered in tangy Asian sauce ($5). Next sate your salivating stomach with a selection from Five's five entrees, such as the pork pad thai ($13) with peanuts and fresh lime and the aged beef rib eye with homemade fries ($22). At night, customers can fail at resisting the five nightly specials, which include Wednesday’s shrimp enchiladas ($16) and Friday’s braised short ribs ($16). Live music serenades ears several evenings a week.
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.”
Local meats, fresh veggies, and imported spices enhance the traditional Thai and Japanese food at Surin of Thailand. Chefs manipulate yellow, red, and green curry dishes with splashes of coconut milk, citrus juice, or peanuts, and they marinate select meats overnight before slow-roasting them until they’re tender enough to fall apart when looked at. To ensure a sushi menu that’s just as authentic as the Thai dishes, many of the restaurant’s chefs train in Japan under the tutelage of sushi masters. The result is a menu of more than 20 varieties of sushi and nigiri, many of which feature pan-Asian flourishes such as plum sauce and drizzles of panang curry.
Having already been lauded as Restaurant of the Year in 2010 by TuscaloosaRestaurant.com, Opus's culinary team continues to conjure a memorable menu of elegant steak and seafood entrees. Fried green tomatoes ($7) scribble epicurean prologues across palates, harnessing spicy rémoulade sauce and shockingly simplistic prose. Local honey spotlights sweet notes in cedar-plank-roasted salmon ($28), and grass-fed beef tenderloin ($32) ups its earthiness factor with a posse of portobello mushrooms. Cracked-pepper duck ($27) and blueberry demiglace join forces to whisk taste buds away on culinary adventures as thrilling as Marco Polo's maiden foray into French cooking. Postdinner cool-downs commence with chocolate crème brûlée, which clings to fork tines for efficient transport into gung-ho maws.