A bright red neon sign effuses a cheerful glow onto Kozy's simple white cottage building, never betraying a hint of the elegant gourmet feasts to be found inside. Lauded as a "hidden gem" by the editors of VisitSouth.com, Kozy's embodies founder Sylvere Coussement's dream of mingling Southern culinary curiosity with a speakeasy's old-fashioned charm. Upon arrival, guests are greeted by a scene described by _Southern Living as "unique ambiance with an old-Hollywood theme". As house musician Henderson Huggins's live piano jazz mingles with the sound of the courtyard's antique cherub fountain burbling into the koi pond, waiter clad in smart black tie garb bear plates full of seasonal, French-influenced meals. Plates might hold Gulf shrimp and grits, center-cut filet mignon, Andouille-crusted pork, and stuffed mushrooms declared one of the "100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama Before You Die" by the Auburn and Opelika Tourism Bureau. This dedication to inventive quality extends to the bar, which houses bottles of the restaurant's extensive wine list as well as precision mixologists ready to turn out impeccable cocktails. On warm nights or sunny days, guests sip these drinks on the fenced-in garden patio, surrounded by fragrant flowers and leafy trees.
In addition to serving memorable meals, Kozy's crack team of caterers and event professionals also lends the restaurant's signature flavors to both off-site events and fetes thrown in their private party room or courtyard. Though Kozy's has no de facto dress code, most of the clientele complements the classy surroundings and haute cuisine meals with attire that ranges from business casual to Monopoly man.
Armed with just a single, generations-old cookie recipe, Great American Cookies opened its first store in 1977, and the rest is history. Today, the franchise boasts locations in malls across the country and nabbed a coveted spot on Entrepreneur magazine’s 2012 list of Top 500 Franchises in the baked-goods category. The shop’s reputation grew, and so did its menu as chefs churned out a mouthwatering roster of gourmet-cookie recipes, each created and carefully tested in Atlanta. The tempting options now include snickerdoodle, peanut butter with M&M’s, and chewy pecan supreme, as well as freshly baked fudge and cheesecake brownies and cookie sandwiches stuffed with frosting. The real showstoppers, however, are the giant chocolate-chip cookie cakes, which can be customized with sweet, celebratory messages or shopping lists penned in colorful icing.
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.
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.
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.
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.