Do you like the alliteration I used up there in the title? Me too!
Last week my work travels took me a little further southeast to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, home of a football team that has apparently won the national championship 14 times. That or their favorite NASCAR number is 14, judging by all of the car stickers I encountered during my short stay.
Before I left, one of my good friends who is from Alabama and attended “The University” sent me a list of restaurants/bars to try while I was down there. He knew I was only going to be there for a few days… and the list had like 20 places on it. No lie. So before I even arrived I was overwhelmed with dining choices. Unfortunately I only tackled two of the items on his list. I do have a semi-legit reason. Read on…
The first night I hit up a local spot called Wintzell’s. Description: “good seafood” Alright… well I’m in the mood for seafood, so why not? I got there around 6… place was pretty dead. I wasn’t too concerned about that. After glancing over the menu, I noticed they had Fried Green Tomatoes. We all know how I feel about FGT – I have to order them! Because I don’t often find places to get them. So I started my meal with FGT as an appetizer and a Sweet Water 420. (Beer! Just so we’re clear.)
Looks tasty right? “Topped with our fabulous crawfish sauce.” Okay… I’m sorry, these were not good. The “crawfish sauce” tasted like dirt – you know how sometimes shrimp or crawfish gets a dirt-type taste? That’s what this tasted like. And the actual fried green tomatoes were lacking in flavor. I barely ate one. I hate wasting food, but I really thought it was going to make me sick.
At this point, I have two options: a) pay for my beer and tomatoes and leave or b) try to order dinner and cross my fingers that it isn’t a repeat of the first course.
So what do I do? Option b). I would have felt super awkward leaving, plus then I have to go find somewhere ELSE to eat my actual dinner. The only thing that really caught my eye on the dinner menu was the Low Country Boil: “Tender gulf shrimp, Conecuh sausage, Redskin potatoes and corn on the cob. Steamed with our special spices. Served low country style.” I was actually pretty pumped about this because I haven’t been to a shrimp boil in a few years. I enjoyed the fact that my meal came out in a paper bag. Yes, a paper bag. And a plate.
Luckily, the dinner portion of my meal made up for the lacking fried green tomatoes. I’m serious – this was really good. I don’t understand how a restaurant can have something so bad and then have something so good on the menu, it’s a mystery. I’m not complaining (too much). Would I recommend Wintzell’s? I’m not sure. When the people at my client’s office asked me where I ate and I told them Wintzell’s, I didn’t get very good responses. I would say if you have limited time in Tusk Town, skip it.
The next night, I hit up another suggestion from my friend, DePalma’s. Italian. You thought it was going to be Mexican food, didn’t you? No? Okay, maybe that’s just me. DePalma’s is located in the downtown area of Tuscaloosa, which appears to be a happening spot at night. I didn’t have to wait for a table, but the restaurant was pretty full when I arrived around 6:00. I started my dinner off with a glass of Merlot, I can’t remember the name of it now (it was tasty) and the DePalma’s House Salad.
I don’t know if I was just really hungry, but this salad was really good. It had lettuce, tomatoes, green pepper, cheese and olives (which you can’t see in the picture). Not long after my salad arrived, my entree arrived.
This picture probably looks deceiving, but what we have right here is Shells Florentine, giant pasta shells stuffed with spinach, ricotta cheese, oregano, mozzarella & marinara. With garlic bread. This meal was amazing. I’m not even kidding. Probably because it tasted semi-homemade and I haven’t really eaten authentic homemade food in a few weeks? Regardless, I plan on making stuffed shells the next time I am home and cook dinner. Please go here if you are ever in the vicinity of Tuscaloosa. The description given by my friend: “was a first date staple in college, but had great food for reasonable prices. Outstanding Italian.” If that doesn’t sell you, I’m not sure what will?
Unfortunately those were the only two noteworthy meals I enjoyed last week. I’m enjoying (sarcastically) my third week out of town as a type this, so I’ll have another edition of Tasty Travels next week or the next time I have time to type up a post.