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Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe

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I want to begin this review by admitting that I do not eat Mediterranean food often. I cannot speak about this restaurant’s authenticity or how it compares with other Mediterranean restaurants in the area. I can say, however, that as someone who is not a huge fan of Mediterranean food, I really enjoyed my meal at Taziki’s.

Taziki’s is a chain restaurant with locations around the South including locations in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia. The Tuscaloosa Taziki’s is located in Midtown Village which can be very convenient if you plan on shopping after eating (or vice versa). However, this location can pose problems if you are trying to find parking on the weekends (particularly Saturday around noon when I went for lunch). Upon entering, you see that the restaurant itself is pretty standard. It is very roomy with many tables and a few booths. There are also a few outdoor tables available. I was there on a busy Saturday at lunchtime and there were still many empty tables. If eating in, it’s an order-at-the-counter-and-take-a-number system. Someone brings your food, but you do not have a waitress. Instead, the staff is free to move around constantly throughout the restaurant and are regularly cleaning and checking on diners. If you don’t feel like dining in, they also offer larger “Dinner for Four” to-go meals after 2:00 p.m. including meals like a whole baked chicken and roasted pork loin.

The menu has a lot to offer including starters, soups/salads, desserts, beer and wine, gyros, deli choices, and Taziki’s “Feasts,” which feature various meat and fish options. They also have daily specials Monday-Friday ranging from pasta to roll-ups. In fact, I look forward to going back on a Monday for the Portobello mushroom sandwich (which Natalie loves along with the Friday Pasta). On my recent visit, I ordered the Village Veggie Gyro, which features tomatoes, cucumbers, red peppers, garden slaw, feta, and Greek dressing in a pita wrap. I opted for no Greek dressing and chose pasta salad as my side out of their many options which include fresh-cut fruit, tomato-cucumber salad, and jasmine rice. The gyro was fresh and the vegetables inside were crispy and flavorful. The vegetables were complimented and easy to taste in contrast with the surrounding pita bread. The pasta salad is some of the best I have had at the few restaurants around town that offer pasta salad. It has a tangy taste and the crumbled feta cheese adds extra tartness to counteract the olive oil. Also, the olive oil/vinegar combination, which can sometimes go awry in pasta salad, succeeds here with a good balance of the two.

Prices at Taziki’s are reasonable; for almost seven dollars I was given a large gyro, a plentiful helping of pasta salad, and a small side of chips. While Taziki’s may not be my favorite place to eat in Tuscaloosa (then again Mediterranean food is not my favorite), it is a good place to go if you want good food quickly. It is also a good place to go if you are looking for healthy alternatives to the typical Tuscaloosa fare of ribs and burgers. It is certainly worth checking out.

[Amanda Stevens]

Taziki’s is located at 1800 McFarland Blvd East #300 toward the back of the Midtown Village Shopping Center.

Monday-Saturday: 11am-9pm
Sunday: 11am-8pm

Hooligan’s

If there’s one thing Tuscaloosa has a surplus of, it’s restaurants claiming to be “Greek” or “Mediterranean-inspired.” Fig, Zoe’s Kitchen, Tazikis, Tut’s, Big Daddy’s, and Hooligan’s are the ones that immediately come to mind. The first three are stylish “Mediterranean-inspired” cafes with good food, which I take to mean “we use feta cheese.” Tut’s Place is a solid pizza/sub/calzone/gyro joint that serves “Greek and Italian foods,” while Big Daddy’s strikes me as the most authentically Greek restaurant in town. But nevermind all that. This review is about Hooligan’s.

Hooligan’s boasts an “American and Mediterranean” menu ranging from hummus, falafel, gyros, and baba ghannouj to burgers, spuds, BLTs, and chicken fingers. My personal favorites are the cheeseburger and the chicken gyro. Hooligan’s, in my opinion, has some of the best burgers in town (along with Rama Jama’s and Oasis). They’re nothing fancy, just simple, juicy and flavorful. I order the chicken gyro when I want something a little lighter, but I don’t mean to suggest that it’s anything less than filling. Again, it’s fairly basic (chicken, lettuce, tomato, and plenty of tzatziki wrapped up in a pita), but it never fails to hit the spot. I also hear good things about their spuds. Whatever you order at Hooligan’s, get the combo. Their seasoned crinkle-cut fries are always hot and always delicious.

The only thing that disappoints me at Hooligan’s is something that most people love. The only variation of sweet tea they brew is one flavored with mint. It’s a nice twist that I’ve not seen offered anywhere else (and I’m told it’s quite good), but I’m not a fan of mint so I tend to abandon my usual sweet tea order for Coke instead. If you’re weird and prefer unsweetened tea, they have an unsweetened mint tea as well.

While I love the food at Hooligan’s, the main reason I frequent it has more to do with its convenience. It’s near campus but far enough away from the Strip to allow a little peace. A couple of TVs are usually set to sports channels, and the outdoor patio is great once temperatures dip below the 90s. I chose to go to Hooligan’s for this particular meal for a combination of several reasons. I wanted good food (obviously); I needed it quickly (I had thirty minutes to eat and get to the Bama theater for a show I was attending); and I wanted to eat somewhere that wouldn’t make me feel like the most awkward person on the planet for sitting down to eat alone. Although I’d rather endure said awkwardness that settle for drive-thru. Hooligan’s atmosphere (unless they’re super busy, which doesn’t happen too often) is just chill enough that I knew I’d be able to get my food and get downtown quickly and enjoyably.

There are plenty of places I can go in this town when I want good food or a relaxed atmosphere or quick service. There are significantly fewer places that meet all of these requirements. Whether I want a quick bite by myself or a place to relax and catch up with friends, Hooligan’s menu, prices, location, and atmosphere make it a consistent contender when I’m trying to decide where to eat.

Hooligan’s is located at 1915 University Blvd (between downtown and the Strip), next to Innisfree.

7 days a week: 10am-midnight