One of downtown Tuscaloosa's most iconic eateries is expanding as the much-beloved Avenue Pub opens a second location in Orange Beach.

Entrepreneur Craig Williams opened the Avenue Pub in January 2014, and the quality of the food and service there made it a Druid City favorite almost immediately.

Since then, Williams has also opened a second restaurant, Central Mesa, a sophisticated Mexican restaurant on Greensboro Avenue that specializes in tacos and premium tequila. He also transformed downtown's Carpe Vino into the Wine Market and took over ownership of Cravings, a specialty grocery store and deli a block away.

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Before all that, though, almost two years after Williams first opened the Avenue Pub and before he opened Central Mesa, another entrepreneur opened an establishment of his own on a dock at a marina in Orange Beach -- Jonathan Kastner's Anchor Bar and Grill.

Williams, a native of Baldwin County, Alabama, said he and his wife still make frequent visits to the area, and soon enough he discovered the Anchor and met Kastner. The restaurateurs struck up a friendship, and when Kastner decided last year to at least temporarily leave the industry behind, he naturally shared his plans with Williams.

The duo eventually agreed that Kastner would give the Anchor to Williams, who took over management in April, but running the bar and restaurant without Kastner at the helm and in the kitchen proved to be impossible.

Williams reassessed and ultimately decided to operate a second Avenue Pub at the marina. The rebranded restaurant reopened earlier this week and it closely mirrors the Tuscaloosa original with a few dockside distinctions.

Patrons can still order many of the entrees that made the Avenue Pub a household name here, but the jalapeno cheese dip has been swapped out for a tuna dip and the menu now features tacos filled with fish caught fresh from the Gulf.

"We've been crazy fortunate to see the Avenue Pub so wildly well-received in Tuscaloosa," Williams said. "So we really wanted to stay true to what made us so successful here while also acknowledging our new setting in Orange Beach and all it has to offer."

Fans of Williams' existing establishments need not fret, though -- the restauranteur said he considers Tuscaloosa his home and although he is glad to have a business in his native Baldwin County, he has no current plans to move there.

Follow the Orange Beach Avenue Pub on Facebook for updates on the restaurant there, and for a taste of home on your next trip to the Gulf, be sure to check out their new location at Hudson Marina at the south end of Wilson Boulevard.

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