One of the most recognizable lines in the discography of country music superstar Garth Brooks goes, “Think I’ll slip on down to The Oasis/Oh, I’ve got friends in low places.” Drive over to The Oasis, far down on University Ave, and you’ll be forgiven for thinking that Brooks was talking about the dive bar in Cottondale, AL. It’s a real salt-of-the-earth type townie bar – all wood paneling and domestic lager and back rooms and smoky haze. The jukebox pumps out classic rock and 90’s country, and there’s irony-free karaoke. There’s even a signed photograph of Garth Brooks eating there hung right by the door, so it isn’t surprising to hear the local urban legend that Brooks was singing about this place.
Here’s another thing that locals say about The Oasis: they say it has the best burger in Tuscaloosa.
Indeed this little shack of a bar that sits on a lot more pothole than pavement has a few tables and a few crimson booths and a kitchen that serves up various fried and grilled things. I don’t really remember what kinds of entrees were on the menu except for the burgers. The burgers are the reason to make the drive.
Only order the double cheeseburger if you’re really hungry. The burgers at The Oasis are bigger than they look, and they look intimidatingly large to begin with. They come out on buns the size of paper plates, and these bad boys aren’t cut in half to help you out or anything.
The burgers are cooked medium well: no pink left (unfortunately) but not at all dried out. These patties are plenty juicy, dripping with fat & meat juice. The bottom bun very quickly becomes soaked through with grease (which is fine; nearly all good sandwiches have structural integrity issues). There isn’t anything magical or revelatory about the burgers here: they’re just the product of an 80/20 burger mix (that’s 80% lean beef and 20% fat–the optimal blend for burgers) and a grill that’s seen years and years of seasoning cooked into it.
The fried stuff is worth ordering too. The Oasis has simple, no-frills French fries and onion rings that don’t need to do anything special. The chili cheese fries are as basic as basic can be: the already-good fries topped with Hormel chili from a can and sprinkled with cheddar cheese… which is then melted when the plate is put in a microwave.
The burgers go down even easier because of the atmosphere. There’s nary a student in sight–just townfolk, people looking to unwind after a long day. It’s a bar, so there’s lots of laughing and smoke and sounds of pool balls clacking against one another. The jukebox at The Oasis is a near-endless source of excitement. It’s the kind of juke box (and the kind of customers choosing the songs) that will play both George Strait’s “Adalida” and Nickleback’s “Burn It to the Ground” (the WWE Monday Night Raw theme song), and no one gives it a second thought. At one point during my recent visit there was an expertly curated three-song stretch of 90’s country: Alan Jackson’s “Midnight in Montgomery” (a poor man’s “The Thunder Rolls”) followed by Clint Black’s underrated “Like the Rain” followed by Garth Brook’s “The Thunder Rolls.”
If you’re looking for a good burger or you’re looking for a real down-home Tuscaloosa spot unblemished by the courting of student dining dollars, then make the drive down University Ave to The Oasis. There’s no pressure on first timers. After all, no one there is big on social graces.
The Oasis is located at 6720 University Blvd E, Cottondale, AL (it’s on the left-hand side of University coming from Tuscaloosa proper. It’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it kind of place, but it’ll pop up right as you get into Cottondale).