Every time my family visits the Alabama Gulf Coast, we set aside a night to travel back inland a ways toward the city of Foley. We make this trip so we can eat seafood at the Tin Top Restaurant in the small town of Bon Secour. The prices are higher than I prefer, but the quantity and quality of the food has always been worth the money and drive. Much to my pleasure (and my family’s jealousy), the Tin Top has opened a second location in our very own Tuscaloosa.
The Tin Top is located in the same space that Milagros used to occupy (RIP my beloved Conquistador wrap and sweet potato fries), and for those who remember Milagros, the interior atmosphere is largely the same. The slightly modern furniture, black table cloths, and free-standing fireplace make the place feel sophisticated without being stuffy. In keeping with the tradition of the original restaurant, a giant blackboard featuring the entire menu hangs on one wall, but hard copies of the menu are provided as well.
The dinner menu is extensive—with a number of specialty drinks, appetizers, seafood dinners, and desserts. Some of the entrees run as high as $ 25.99, but the etouffee, shrimp and grits, chicken alfredo, and Carribean jerk chicken provide cheaper alternatives ranging from $10.99-16.99. Also, several of the appetizers and entrees are available in smaller (and cheaper) portions, which I recommend taking advantage of. I ordered a bowl of lobster bisque and the regular-sized seafood stuff mushrooms appetizer as my meal and was overwhelmed by the amount and the richness of the food put in front me. I could have easily been satisfied with a cup of soup and the small appetizer (4 mushrooms instead of 6). Another solution to the price issue to come at lunch or for their “Early Bird” menu, which offers cheaper (and I’m guessing smaller) alternatives to the main menu (offered Tuesday-Friday from 4-6pm and Saturday from 11am-6pm).
The bisque was a nice, coarse consistency and had a great balance of flavors. It wasn’t as hot as I’d have preferred, but bisques don’t tend to hold up well so super hot temperatures, so perhaps it was for the best. It was far from cold and still very enjoyable. The mushrooms I ordered were stuffed with some combination of crab, shrimp, and lobster and absolutely smothered in a thick and rich lobster sauce. There was actually more sauce than mushroom, but it was easy enough to push the excess to the side, and I was otherwise pleased with the dish.
My dining companion ordered the full-sized Tin Top seafood platter and was equally daunted by amount of food he wound up with: what had to be an entire fried fish, plenty of jumbo shrimp, a crab cake, two hushpuppies, and two sides (cheese grits and lima beans with andouille sausage in his case), all of which he compliment but very few of which he was able to finish off. I should note that the menu said the platter came with oysters, not hushpuppies, but we didn’t bother to inquire since we were already buried in food. It’d be worth asking the server when you order if you want to make sure you get your oysters with that platter.
I walked into the restaurant with the intent of saving room for dessert—they offer crème brulee and several varieties of bread pudding as well as a few pies, but by the time I’d finished my bisque and mushrooms, I couldn’t bring myself to ask for any more food. We already had enough leftover fish and mushrooms for one of us to take home and eat for lunch the next day. I’ll have to go in with a plan to order only drinks and dessert in order to save enough room for that crème brulee.
Legitimate seafood restaurants are hard to find in Tuscaloosa, but the Tin Top offers an authentic experience—the same experience that makes their Bon Secour location worth driving 20 miles for. Overall, Tin Top isn’t somewhere I can afford to eat all the time, but when I go, I know I’m going to get what I paid for.
From what I understand, the hours/menu operate according to this schedule:
Tuesday-Thursday: 4-9pm (early bird until 6 and dinner)
Friday: 4-10pm (early bird until 6 and dinner)
Saturday: 11am-10pm (early bird all day, lunch, and dinner)
Sun: 11am-2pm (lunch and brunch)