Pop quiz: make a list of all of the Tuscaloosa/Northport restaurants that you would consider to be “institutions” – the stalwart places that have been around forever and will always be around. Everyone’s list will contain the big names like City Café, The Waysider, and Dreamland. There are other places that would qualify too, but students don’t know about them. Places like Catfish Heaven or Mr. Bills – absolute bulwarks of their communities – rarely see a single UA student enter their doors. My goal with writing reviews for Druid City Eats is to draw some meager attention towards these kinds of places, places that are below student radar, that are pre-internet, that don’t have Facebook pages or people Yelping about them.
Here’s a great example of what I mean: if a Tuscaloosa meat-and-three has been around for nearly 50 years, wouldn’t you expect it to feature prominently on a list of T-Town institutions? Wright’s Restaurant in Alberta City fits that description, but it seems like no one on campus knows about it.
Wright’s Restaurant is a simple breakfast and lunch joint. It’s a single room with walls painted yellow, various religious signage hung on the walls. There’s only about 12 booths/tables in the whole place, with a few more stools at the counter by the kitchen. It’s always pretty packed, yet I’ve never once seen a single student eating there. Wright’s serves a working-class customer base, as well as lots of elderly consumers. The waitresses are attentive and legitimately nice. The whole experience looks and feels a lot like it must have back when Wright’s first opened nearly half a century ago. But all of that downhome atmosphere would be for nothing if the food wasn’t up to snuff, and the steady stream of customers at Wright’s suggests that the food is indeed a drawing point.
Let’s start with breakfast, because Wright’s serves what just might be my favorite breakfast in Tuscaloosa. Nothing flashy, no real reason why it stands out apart from simple execution. They have various meats available each day, ranging from ham to smoked sausage links to red hots. Their bacon is pretty darn good, perhaps owing to Wright’s bacon cook taking each strip off the griddle a bit early and then dunking them into a deep fryer for about 40 seconds. This method results in a crispy strip of bacon that isn’t also dry and overcooked. The pancakes are legit, the omelets look pretty good, and well, the most that I can say is that everything is cooked correctly. Breakfast foods get real sketchy real quick when under- or overcooked, and Wright’s super-efficient crew of three cooks doesn’t seem to make mistakes.
The biscuits are plenty good also, better than The Waysider’s for me. They do have biscuits & gravy on the menu, but last time I went for breakfast the gravy ran out before I got there, which disappointed a B&G fanatic like myself, but it speaks to the quality of Wright’s Restaurant: they don’t use prefabricated gravy. They make their gravy in-house each day. They make their pancake batter in-house. It’s reassuring and a sign of good things.
Lunch is less successful – about the quality of City Café — but well worth the price. Because the price is almost nothing – each lunch special costs under $5. Each day the meat-and-three menu changes. When I went on a Wednesday it was meatloaf, chicken pot pie, or a fried pork chop. Chicken & dressing is on Thursday, country fried steak is on Friday, and I won’t say any more in hopes that you’ll go find out their daily menu on your own. Wright’s also has a menu of constant lunch favorites: you can get catfish strips each day (which I have yet to try here), and their cheeseburger looks pretty legit.
While Wright’s has a small assortment of in-house pies available all the time, there’s also a special dessert for each day of the week (Monday has cherry dump cake, Wednesday has pineapple pudding, etc.).
If you’ve ever driven out on University Ave and into Alberta City, you know how utterly devastated that neighborhood was by the April 27th, 2011 tornado. At Leland Shopping Center, where Wright’s is located, essentially every other business still has particle board over its windows. When every other place closed up shop because of damage or location, Wright’s Restaurant remained in business. It’s been open for nearly 50 years and it wasn’t about to let that tornado shut it down. It is, after all, an institution.
Wright’s Restaurant is located in Alberta City at Leland Shopping Center (University Ave & 25th Ave, by Leland Lanes bowling alley, right before the Piggly Wiggly).
Monday-Friday: 5:00am-11:15am (Breakfast), 11:30am-3:00pm (Lunch)
Saturday: 5:00am-11:30am (Breakfast only)