It's a month of triumph and reflection for Tuscaloosa's Avenue Pub as the staff celebrates its 10th anniversary and the soft opening of its second location in the city.

Impossible though it seems, it was a decade ago when entrepreneur Craig Williams opened the original Avenue Pub on 23rd Avenue in Temerson Square. The space had most recently housed the Globe restaurant, a Shakespeare-themed concept that thrived for almost 20 years in downtown Northport before it closed in 2009, reopened in Tuscaloosa in 2013 permanently closed within a year.

Since then, the Avenue Pub has become a Tuscaloosa staple widely regarded as serving one of the best burgers in west Alabama.

Williams and company expanded the brand and opened an Orange Beach location in 2021, and they left the original Tuscaloosa space in 2022 to occupy a larger location a few doors down the block.

Now, as he celebrates a decade of business in a city where keeping a restaurant alive is no small task, Williams has quietly opened the Avenue Pub Northbank the Thread teased last January in a brand-new building off Rice Mine Road.

(Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)
(Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)
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LESS HUSTLE, LESS BUSTLE

Williams said for years, he has heard lunch patrons say they loved the restaurant but did not want to brave the traffic and limited parking in downtown Tuscaloosa for dinner.

"This location is just special to me. We started looking for something north of the river probably five years ago, maybe even longer than that," Williams said. "And downtown is fantastic. It's my home and has been for years, but man sometimes people don't want to go and deal with the hustle and bustle - and it's a great thing to even have hustle and bustle downtown! but sometimes people don't want to get down in it."

(Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)
(Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)
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This new location off Rice Mine Road is pretty easily accessed from any of the three bridges over the Black Warrior River, and the customer base will only grow when the expansion of McWright's Ferry Road wraps up in 2025 or 2026.

"If you're at the corner of 15th and McFarland and you want to go eat at Avenue Pub, when you talk about being able to park and get in the building, you're going to be able to get here just as quick as you could downtown on a Friday night," Williams said.

 

CREATING CHARACTER

The restaurateur credited the work and vision of architect Mike Ellis for the design and execution of a huge new space that features a familiar, full-service restaurant experience on one side and a new kind of bar and social space on the other.

"This has been a lot of fun, being involved in where the bathrooms are going to be and what the layout is going to look like, where the bar is going to end up," Williams said. "But of course I still love converting old spaces. I still enjoy walking by an empty building and looking in the windows and thinking, "Oh, this can be X, Y or Z!" Especially when you're dealing with those old historic buildings downtown but after this, I don't know which one I like better."

(Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)
(Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)
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Williams, Ellis and the Avenue Pub team had the difficult task of creating a space with character from scratch but have succeded, and the restaurant and bar feel equally suited to small-scale, cozy privacy and warm, large-scale gatherings with friends, family or co-workers.

THE AVENUE PUB YOU KNOW

On the right side of the building as you walk in the front door, the more traditional restaurant experience will be familiar to longtime fans of the downtown locations.

"The restaurant side is our run-of-the-mill normal experience where you'll see a host, get seated, and go through the normal motions of what it is to go out to eat at Avenue Pub," Willaims said.

Although he said the menu will not be drastically different and they will not reinvent the wheel in the new space, Williams said a limited number of new entrees and appetizers may be in the works there.

(Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)
(Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)
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"Of course, there's a bar on the restaurant side - it's everything people know about our brand and who we are," he said.

SOMETHING NEW FOR NORTH OF THE RIVER

On the other side of the building, a separate and bigger bar offers a way to bypass the hostess but still enjoy the full menu of entrees, apps and drinks in a more flexible, first-come, first-served environment, where patrons can pick things up and join a group of friends or move things outside at will.

(Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)
(Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)
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"We wanted to have another element added to it, so we've got this kind of the bar slash events space to address the lack of options on this side of the river to stop by and grab a drink," Williams said. "It's a little bit more relaxed, a more casual experience, with live music and acoustic acts going on. It's got a huge outdoor patio and we want folks to be able to use all of it and enjoy themselves on this side of town."

Both sides of the building will daily Happy Hour specials, and Williams said that's when he expects the bar concept to really fill up on weekdays.

SPACE FOR WHATEVER YOU NEED

 

(Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)
(Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)
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That side of the building is also complemented by a highly customizable room that can be closed off for a few hours of business meetings or opened up to outdoor seating for birthday parties and other celebrations in warmer weather.

(Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)
(Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)
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The versatile space offers countless uses, Williams said, and tucked into edge of a the treeline, the outdoor component will look and feel different every season.

(Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)
(Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)
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REFLECTIONS ON TEN YEARS

As Williams reflected the last decade and the elation of opening the second Tuscaloosa location, he said he can hardly believe it's all real some days.

"If you would have told me 10 years ago that this is where Avenue Pub would be, this is where Craig Williams would be, when I was doing everything I could to keep my head above water for the first six months we were open," Williams said, "When I was overwhelmed and stressed and working a hundred hours a week, I just I couldn't have imagined it."

As he has at every stop along the way, Williams credited his success to his staff and customers.

(Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)
(Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)
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"It's all because of our people, people who are dedicated to doing the job and doing the right things, no matter what, and holdingeach other accountable," Williams. "And it's all the people who just come and eat with us. It's all because of our patrons."

Williams also said he doesn't want to take his successes for granted. He and the Avenue Pub staff are collectively working to raise $10,000 for the West Alabama Food Bank in honor of 10 years in business.

"I realize how fortunate we were to have this great response, support and feedback from the Tuscaloosa community. It's eye-opening and makes me realize that we need to be engaged in giving back," Williams said. "So we just felt this was a good fit for ten years and our goal is to raise $10,000 for for the food bank."

The new Avenue Pub is open now at 1491 Northbank Parkway off Rice Mine Road. Check out the new building soon, and for more coverage of restaurant and retail development in West Alabama, stay connected to the Tuscaloosa Thread.

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