A new concept has emerged at the historic train station in downtown Tuscaloosa where the COVID-19 pandemic caused 301 Bistro, Bar & Beer Garden to permanently close in March, featuring the same ownership and an entirely different vibe.

Druid City Social, a new gastropub operated by 301 owner Bill Lloyd and new co-owner Brandon Hanks, sits in the same space as 301 used to in the historic L&N Tuscaloosa train station and features a menu packed with high-end pub food picks.

"I keep saying 'it's brilliant -- opening a restaurant in the middle of a pandemic,'" Lloyd joked. "[301] was just such an iconic building, and we wanted to honor that."

The more formal decor of 301 Bistro has been replaced with relics from Tuscaloosa's past, including framed photos, signs, and concert photos, with its bar area still mimicking the style of an old-fashioned speakeasy.

Highlights on the menu include 301 favorites like Reuben Spring Rolls and the Beer Garden Pretzel, but the menu has been expanded to include anything from vegetarian options such as rice and bean bowls to Porcini mushroom and Truffle Ravioli that can include salmon, shrimp or chicken.

Lloyd said he considered retiring earlier this summer after struggling to keep 301 open and operating, but he soon switched gears and partnered with former competitor Hanks. Both have a storied history in Tuscaloosa -- Lloyd being the former owner of Wilhagan's Grille and Taproom and Casual Class Catering, and Hanks simultaneously operating The Booth on University Boulevard. Together, they've been working to ensure the customers' safety while still delivering products for the refined palate.

Keeping the pandemic in mind as all entrepreneurs must, Lloyd said he has taken time make sure Druid City Social allows for even more social distancing than the already spacious 301 did. The large beer garden area takes advantage of the station's outdoor greenspace and spaces out tables and chairs so guests can remain comfortable and oscillating fans keep the air fresh.

Lloyd said the combined experience of the new restaurant's owners has helped Druid City Social jump off to a great start by seeing a lot of their existing or former customers stop by to see what the new place has to offer.

He said in their six weeks of operation since opening, customers have been responded overwhelmingly well to the menu changes.

"The price point is down from where we were at 301, so you can come in and have a nice ribeye... or you can get yourself a burger, and a pretzel, and a beer," Lloyd said.

Lloyd hopes that in the coming months, assuming the coronavirus comes under some kind of control, that he can bring back 301's New Orleans Jazz Sunday Brunch and introduce some events to cater to the college-age crowds, eventually turning DCS into a regular go-to spot for students.

Druid City Social is open from 4pm-10pm Sunday through Wednesday, 4pm-12am Thursday and Friday, and 12pm-2am on Saturday.

Top Stories from the Tuscaloosa Thread (10/19 - 10/25)

More From Tuscaloosa Thread