I stumbled upon Good Times Restaurant and Nightclub on accident. There’s a nondescript white building a couple of blocks past Stillman College that used to be home to Prime Choice lounge (and before that, a meat and three called Madear’s); driving past it, there was one of those plastic Pepsi-sponsored banners that read “Good Times. Now open! New owners, new restaurant!” If you see a new, locally-owned restaurant with a “now open!” sign outside, why not stop in?
When you walk through the door you’ll notice the menu, register, and actual pictures of the food to the right. You’ll be greeted by Shonda Witherspoon, the owner and driving force behind Good Times. She’s very warm and inviting. She talked me through the menu and it became clear very quickly that she’s proud of the food she’s serving. Shonda definitely makes you want to eat at Good Times.
Food is made to-order, so while waiting for my order I sipped on the house sweet tea. Shonda told me that this was “real country sweet tea,” and was quick to point out that she’s not serving it from a large metal container like most places do because she doesn’t like the way that the metal affects the taste. It’s a lovely glass of sweet tea, instantly one of my favorites in Tusclaoosa. It’s very sugary, yes (presumably that’s what makes it “real country sweet tea”), but it also has a nice extra kick of tea leaves flavor as you swallow that cuts through the sweetness.
Waiting for your food to cook also gives you time to appreciate the unique atmosphere that Good Times has. It’s a dimly-lit place, owing to the fact this it become a legitimate nightclub at night (an ages 25+ only nightclub, which is a genius idea). The red tablecloth dining tables are spread out amongst the bar area. Sit down where ever you’d like and your food will be brought out to you. People come in and out, dining in or picking up to-go orders, as R&B plays from the cable TV radio station. You are in full view of the club’s dancefloor – a slightly raised stage in the middle of the place that is surrounded by a white picket fence. In a back corner are a couple of tables of stuff for sale: purses, throwback caps, pairs of Air Jordans. The vibe of Good Times reminds me of places in residential areas of major cities (I got thrown back to the places I’m used to in Kansas City, where I’m from) mixed with an distinctly downhome flair.
Good Times keeps the menu simple: burgers, fried fish, shrimp, chicken tenders, wings. Stuff that works good as bar food and as a comforting lunch option. The shrimp and whiting strips are fried up very nicely with a no-frills approach to seasoning; Good Times isn’t trying to rock the boat here. Squirt on some pungent house hot sauce and get to eatin’. The wings might be the finest thing on the menu. Shonda recommended her “Sweet Fire” flavor – her specialty sauce because, so she’ll tell you, the name reflects her personality. I don’t see a reason to order wings that don’t have the tasty sweet fire sauce on them: it has a base flavor very similar to the hot sauce, but it’s balanced by a lot of sweetness. It almost tastes like an Asian wing sauce; there’s honey and orange flavors helping to tame the undercurrents of heat.
Good Times features the standard assortment of side dishes. I really enjoyed the simple, medium-cut French fries. But the fried okra is the star of the sides as far as I can tell. It’s served up in the usual style of battered slices. The batter doesn’t coat the entire slice, though. This helps the okra to still taste like okra, only more savory (so many places overwhelm the taste of the okra with their batter). This might just be my favorite fried okra in the city.
I should mention that the prices at Good Times are very fair. There’s a special each day that makes things even more affordable. You certainly get the most out of your money here. If you’re traveling out that way past Stillman, don’t hesitate to drop in to Good Times. Solid, comforting food served in one of the most unique atmospheres in Tuscaloosa.
Good Times is located on 1735 Culver Road, two blocks past Stillman College.