#MeetTuscaloosa Blog

LIVIN' LOCAL: Side by Side Restaurant


Chef Chris Hastings

The Side by Side Restaurant, located in downtown Tuscaloosa at 2401 University Blvd., takes a modern approach to blending Southern, French and California-styles of cooking. The dining room and bar offer a variety of dishes and cocktails from grilled duck, seared tuna, southern cheese and ham plate, rabbit tamales and many more executed by Chef Chris Hastings and his team.

The restaurant’s L-bar offers local craft brews and beverages and feeds into the main dining room that boasts high ceilings and numerous windows. The menu and restaurant is inspired by Chris Hastings, the 2012 winner of the James Beard Best Chef in the South award and owner of Birmingham’s Hot & Hot Fish Club. He defines the flavors from Side by Side as a “modernist, contemporary Southern cuisine” and stresses the seasonal locally sourced ingredients.

Come out and enjoy an exquisite meal  at the chef’s counter with front row views of the kitchen, dining room, harvest room, or even try some delicious snacks and drinks from the bar.


L- Ben (Boyfriend) with Kane & Abby. R- Brandt with Tut & Asher

Meet our Manager of Communication & PR, Brandt Garrison. We had fun chatting with her about Tuscaloosa and her life experiences!

Q: Where did you work before coming to TTS?

BG: Most recently, I worked for Zoes Kitchen in Dallas, TX. I recently moved back to Tuscaloosa in October 2013.

Q: What is your favorite on the job experience?

BG: That is a hard one. I met Ben, my boyfriend, while I was working at Zoes Kitchen. So that is definitely a fun on-the-job memory! But at my current job, I always say that everyday is a good day. I work with wonderful people and help promote a city I love. Plus, my office has a fabulous view!

Q: What do you love about Tuscaloosa?

BG: I love that Tuscaloosa energetic beat to it. Even though it is smaller, you can have a big-city experience with the arts. But on the flip side, it is so nice to get in mother nature away from the hustle of the city. My boyfriend and I often take our dogs out to the arboretum. Sunset out there is gorgeous!

Q: While at TTS, what are you looking most forward to working on?

BG: Tackling the challenge of helping the community and the visitors understand what all Tuscaloosa has to offer!

Q: Tell us one of your favorite memories of Tuscaloosa.

BG: I have lived in Tuscaloosa 3 times (college, graduate school and now). So I have different favorite memories from different times. Ben and I recently took his fishing boat out on the Black Warrior at night. We went down near the dam, and there were huge fish jumping. It was pretty wild and kind of scary in the dark of the night.

Q: Are you involved in any athletic activities?

BG: I played soccer for a large portion of my life. In fact, that is how I ended up in Tuscaloosa (for the first time). Don Staley recruited to play at The University. After I hung up the boots, I have dabbled in different sports. Mostly, I run to try to stay in shape, but recently I bought a road bike! We will see how that goes.

Q: Do you have any favorite hobbies?

BG: TRAVELING. I love it and wish I could do it full-time! I am not sure you would call this second one a hobby, but I love learning about wine. I have worked in the wine industry and after traveling to vineyards, I just absolutely love it. Lastly, Ben has lots of fun outdoor hobbies so it is always interesting to learn new things from him (fishing, kayaking, road biking, mtn biking, hunting, and more! Haha!)

Q: What is your favorite tourist attraction in Tuscaloosa.

BG: The water!!! Boating, fishing, water sports, relaxing, etc.

Q: Describe your perfect weekend in Tuscaloosa.

BG: Taking all four dogs on hike then some kind of water sport after that we would head down to the wine store for a glass of wine and finish at the Chef’s table at Epiphany.

MEET: Bill Buchanan

Q: Where did you work before coming to TTS?

BB: I went into the newspaper business after graduating from UA in 1976. I was hired by Ben Smith of Smith Newspapers, Inc., which at that time, owned four newspapers. The company grew rapidly, at one time managing 50 newspapers in 20 states. I worked for newspapers in Missouri, South Dakota, West Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Louisiana before returning to Alabama as a Vice President/Group Manager at the home office in my hometown of Fort Payne. I then worked with Ben’s oldest son, Phillip, in his newspaper group, PTS, Inc. In 1992 PTS, Inc. moved to Tuscaloosa, where I have been ever since.

Bill (R) with his wife Ava (L) and niece Blake (M).

Bill (R) with his wife Ava (L) and niece Blake (M).

Q: What was the biggest adjustment from living outside the south?

BB: Cold weather. People are the same wherever you go. If you treat them well, they will do the same. But cold weather doesn’t respond to kindness. I thought I was going to freeze in Missouri. One winter day, after trying for several minutes to get my car started, the back of my head felt strange. I felt my hair. It was frozen. I came into the office, threw down my briefcase and coat, and told my co-workers, “Y’all are all stupid for living in this weather. I am stupid for living in it, too, but the difference is that this time next year, I will be out of here!” I was right. I got transferred to South Dakota, which made Missouri look like the beach. I really thought I might die once in a blizzard, and it was April! I said, “Did they not tell y’all up here that it is Spring?” The good thing was that I met my wife, Ava, while living there.

Q: What do you love about Tuscaloosa?

BB: I have always been a huge Alabama football fan, so naturally, that is a good fit for me. The thing I love most is that my college roommate David Fuhrman and his wife, Cissy, who are my best friends, live here. So it was wonderful moving back and getting to see them so often. The arts are great here. My wife, Ava, has been heavily involved in local theatre, and some of our best friends are people we have met through Theatre Tuscaloosa. Kentuck is a terrific art festival. There is great programming at The Bama Theatre, both movies and music. The symphony here is about as good as you will hear anywhere, including New York. And that is not just my opinion. Judy Collins said basically the same thing when she played a concert at The Bama. I belong to “The Dudes Book Club”, a group of quality guys who meet once or twice a month to discuss books, and so much more. I love living in a college town. The students pump so much energy into this town, and the University brings in great lectures and programs. We have the quality of life of a large city without the crime and traffic. I have always said that Tuscaloosa is a large small town. You run into so many people you know at games, plays, restaurants, etc. – and people blow the horn at you on the street when they see you just like they do in small towns. I would not want to live anywhere else.

Q: If you could choose to do anything for a day, what would it be?

BB: Spend a day with great friends laughing and tailgating, then going to an exciting football game and beating Auburn. Actually, that is what I did this past Saturday. Having Notre Dame get beaten soundly the same day is a nice bonus.

Q: Tell us one of your favorite memories of Tuscaloosa.

BB: While I was still in high school I drove to Tuscaloosa one weekend to visit my cousin, who was in school here. He and his girlfriend (now his wife) took me to see my first rock concert, Grand Funk Railroad. Grand Funk was the first album I ever owned, and to see them in person was amazing. The concert was louder than a bomb going off and I yelled throughout, so after the show I could neither hear nor speak, but I had a blast. I knew I couldn’t go anywhere else to college but UA.

Q: What makes you happy about work on a Friday?

BB: The sense of accomplishment you get from having worked hard and achieved something that week.

Q: What is your favorite holiday and why?

BB: Thanksgiving. A few years ago Ava and I started a tradition with Paul and Susan Looney, who we met through Theatre Tuscaloosa. We started our “Strays and Orphans Party” for friends who either had no family or could not be with their family for Thanksgiving. Each year we have between 8-12 people who come over to our house for a day of fun. Those who want to play games, play games and those who want to watch football, watch football. If you have never watched theatre people play Charades, you have missed something truly special.

Q: What is your favorite tourist attraction in Tuscaloosa.

BB: Wow, there are several. The Bryant Museum if you are a football fan. The Kentuck Museum always has neat artwork, and if Steve Davis is working on a project it is fascinating to watch. The galleries in Tuscaloosa and Northport have some great art. The UA campus makes for a lovely tour, and it is interesting to see the names and dates of the football captains’ walk of fame at Denny Chimes.

Q: Describe your perfect weekend in Tuscaloosa.

BB: Catching a play at Theatre Tuscaloosa or a musical event at The Bama on Friday with Ava, then out to dinner at a good local restaurant with friends. Getting up on Saturday and going to Bryant Denny to watch the Tide win another one. Hard to beat that.

MEET: Kelsey Colglazier (soon to be RUSH!)

Q: Where did you work before coming to TTS?

TTS is actually my first and only job out of college!  I began working for TTS in late 2010 after doing a summer internship in Charlotte, NC with a company called ALSAC.  ALSAC is the fundraising arm for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and was a company that I was very involved with throughout college.  I found the TTS job shortly after my internship finished!

Q: What is your favorite on the job experience?

There are so many things that I enjoy about this job, but I’d say seeing the finished product of an event and all of our hard work pay off is one of my favorite things.  There’s so much behind the scenes that people do not realize, so to see it all come together and watch it impact our community in a variety of ways is so rewarding.  Also, the adrenaline that I have during event weekends/days is something that I can’t describe, but I love it so much!

Q: What do you love about Tuscaloosa?

Being born and raised a Kansan, (go KSU Wildcats!) I love the weather.  Cold winters are not for me!  I also love learning about the history of Tuscaloosa as well – whether that is the Civil Rights history, the Native American history or how the Black Warrior River has impacted our community over the years – it’s all pretty awesome!  Oh, and I have to mention my fiancee! If it wasn’t for Tuscaloosa, we wouldn’t be together! 1975128_10152430971348595_7233095913234414038_n

Q: What is your favorite event to work on?

Every event is fun!  The Tuscaloosa Regional Air Show, USA Triathlon, Warrior Dash, Tuscaloosa Half Marathon, Alabama All Veterans Reunion, Druid City Arts Festival…. they’re great events and all very rewarding to be a part of!

Q: Tell us one of your favorite memories of Tuscaloosa.

This might be cliché, but I love to take advantage of the Tuscaloosa Riverwalk.  It’s where I run more often than not and our offices are located there.  I’ll never forget the night the Richard and I had a blind date, we met on the Riverwalk to walk our dogs and a concert was going on at the amphitheater as well.  The weather was perfect, the atmosphere was exceptional and the company was great.  I think we walked for over three hours… it’s a night I’ll never forget!

Q: Are you involved in any athletic activities?

Richard and I are pretty active people.  We really enjoy running (maybe me more so than Richard, haha), playing tennis, shooting basketballs or playing softball.  I’d love to learn golf!

Q: Do you have any favorite hobbies?

I’m kind of a mile wild, inch deep kind of person.  I like to do so many things.  Richard and I have two dogs, I love to travel and learn about new places, I enjoy going out in to the country and shooting guns, I play the piano and can sing even though I don’t do it very often anymore and I love to get caught up in a few good tv shows! If there was one hobby that I wish I could get back in to, it would be riding horses!

Q: What is your favorite tourist attraction in Tuscaloosa.

The Transportation Museum is so neat!  I learned so much about Tuscaloosa and love the history behind the building.  I also love Lake Tuscaloosa and North River – it’s where I’m getting married!

Q: Describe your perfect weekend in Tuscaloosa.

Perfect weekend in Tuscaloosa would include a nice dinner at Five on Friday night with some live music and friends, a walk with the dogs at the old UA Golf Course/Arboretum on Saturday morning, a late evening home football game Saturday night while we tailgate or grill out and a relaxing day on Sunday enjoying local outdoor activities or spending time with family and friends!


Meet our new Director of Sports! Jay Kasten is the newest TTSC team member. We sat him down and asked him a few questions.312240_10101353891362819_768719549_n

Q: What was your previous title? 

JK: Senior Operations Director at Bruno Event Team

Q: What is your coolest on the job moment?

JK: Meeting my wife while working on the 2009 Regions Charity Classic in Birmingham.

Q: What do you love about Tuscaloosa?

JK: The communities passion for Tuscaloosa.  The team spirit is very apparent around UA sporting events, but I really fell in love with Tuscaloosa when I saw everyone rally for their community after the 2011 tornado.  The progress since then is astounding.

Q: What are you most looking forward doing while working at TTSC?

JK: Making an impact…The Tuscaloosa area has something for everybody, and I look forward to bringing people in from all different parts of the world to spend time and money in Tuscaloosa.

Q: Do you play sports? If so, which ones?

JK: I currently play tennis, golf and distance running, but I need to start playing basketball again.

Q: Do you have any favorite hobbies?

JK: I’m pretty positive my BBQ should be award winning.  I realize the competition is stiff in T-Town, but I would like a shot at the title.

Q: What is a unique fact about you?

JK: Here are a few-

  • I’m an avid college basketball fan…While I always root for the Crimson Tide in everything they do, Kansas Jayhawks basketball is a big passion of mine.
  • I grew 8 inches while in eighth grade, and attempted to eat all of my parents food in the process.
  • I share childhood hometowns (Alton, IL) with the worlds tallest man, the gentle giant, Robert Wadlow who was 8’ 11” 439 lbs.
  • I’m a whiffle ball wizard on the mound.

Q: What is your favorite tourist attraction in Tuscaloosa.

JK: Tuscaloosa Amphitheater…My wife and I attend several shows a year.  We love stopping in downtown and walking down to a concert.


MEET: Gina Simpson

1. What is your professional background? 

Mark and ginaI’ve spent my career as an educator and entrepreneur. I have taught Entrepreneurship and Leadership classes at The University of Alabama and I adore the students. My husband and I have owned and sold several businesses in Tuscaloosa. The business most people recognize is VeloCity Pro Cycle, a bicycle shop. While we owned that business, I founded and grew the Tour de Tuscaloosa, which is a great, two day bicycle race. That is how I originally became involved with the Tuscaloosa Tourism and Sports Commission.

2. What is your coolest on the job moment?

Taking everyone at TTSC out to volunteer for United Way at Hospice of West Alabama. We helped with the landscaping on a super-hot day. We were sweaty and dirty but we were aphoto (1) team working together to give back to the community that is so good to us. That’s easily my coolest moment on the job at TTSC so far but I’m looking forward to many more!

3. What do you love about Tuscaloosa?

That it is a big, small town. There are plenty of activities to keep me and my family busy as well as great restaurants to enjoy. However, the small town Southern hospitality culture is very prevalent. Tuscaloosa is a fun place with super nice people.

4. What are you most looking forward to doing while working at TTSC?

Developing Tuscaloosa as a great tourist destination that is attractive to visitors year round.  We all know that football season here is legendary, but as a longtime resident, I know how cool Tuscaloosa is year round. I’m anxious to develop an aggressive marketing plan to get that word out!

5. What is a unique fact about you?

I once saw a whale in Mobile Bay! Not really, but this is a great story. At around the age of 4 or 5, I went on a road trip to Mobile, AL with my dad. This was the first time I ever saw salt water. As we were crossing the Bay I saw a shadow and was convinced it was a whale. I went nuts screaming about seeing a whale! I love that my Dad never corrected me. I can remember his chuckle now when I said it! (I was quite a Daddy’s girl!)

6. Do you play sports? If so, which ones?

Not as much as I used to. Prior to motherhood, I was a triathlete and runner. Now I spend most of my time chasing our 6 year old daughter, Della. I rarely catch her!

7. Do you have any favorite hobbies?

In the summer, I’m on my stand up paddle board as much as possible at either Lake Nicol or in Lake Tuscaloosa. In the winter, I love to mountain bike at Lake Lurleen and Sokol. Also, I really enjoy being in the kitchen. I’m quite a foodie!paddleboard

8. What is your favorite tourist attraction in Tuscaloosa? 

That’s a hard one! I love so many things in Tuscaloosa that it is impossible to pick a favorite!

9. What does a perfect weekend look like for you?

I want to be outdoors so a perfect weekend would include my family, the farmers market, my kitchen and any type of outdoors event that draws tons of people to Tuscaloosa. The weekend of the Druid City Arts Festival (DCAF) is a great example. It started with a visit to the Farmer’s Market at the Rivermarket to choose some great ingredients for dinner on Sunday night. Next, I headed to DCAF, which is a blast! Downtown Tuscaloosa was overrun on a Saturday with people enjoying the festival, restaurants, attractions, and shops. I was able to enjoy the day with my husband and daughter so it never felt like work. The smiles on everyone’s faces were priceless! It would be perfect to end the night with a great dinner at a local restaurant and a concert at The Amphitheater. On Sunday, I would spend the morning in the gorgeous Tuscaloosa outdoors on either my paddle board or mountain bike followed by brunch downtown. In the afternoon, I’d let our dog play at the Will May dog park. Then I would finish the day in my kitchen cooking my finds from the Farmer’s Market. I’m making myself hungry!


Sweet Home Food Barphoto

Be Social. Eat well.

Here at Sweet Home Food Bar our desire is to bring friends and family together for good times, to laugh, and have a great meal. After an absence of fifteen years from the restaurant business, we have finally returned to what we love most; cooking delicious comfort foods, with fresh, locally sourced, seasonal ingredients.

Falling in love with Tuscaloosa was simple once my son, Dylan, attended the university. We couldn’t say no to Alabama football and all the beautiful scenery Tuscaloosa has to offer. We found the perfect place downtown to open our restaurant, where we will serve breakfast, lunch, tapas, and Sunday brunch. Eat in or take out, we will be open from 7:00am to 6:00pm. If you don’t feel like cooking dinner, call us by 3:00pm, and we’ll have dinner ready for you to pick up and bring home.


Debra Rubino & George Harsch

MEET: Carpe Vino & John McCulley

Hi! My name is John McCulley, and I am the owner of Carpe Vino in downtown Tuscaloosa. Carpe Vino is a specialty wine store that sells wines from all over the world by the bottle or the glass. Lately, we’ve started carrying specialty beers as well.


I’m originally from Montevallo, but I came to Tuscaloosa for law school and stayed to practice in town. I love wine, and that’s why I wanted to bring a store like Carpe Vino to Tuscaloosa. I want everyone to have a special experience with wine, especially if that person has never tasted it. I take pride in helping people find a wine that perfectly suits their tastes, and if I can help someone find that, I consider my business a success.

Carpe Vino opened in Timmerson Square in 2007, but we moved in between Epiphany and Mugshots in 2010. I chose this location because I love the way downtown Tuscaloosa is growing and I knew I wanted to be a part of it and do my part to help this city thrive.

We try to offer wines that you won’t find anywhere else and all types of varietals at all price points. We have bottles ranging in price from six dollars to $300, and we have wine tastings so you can sample your wine before buying it. Our wine tastings are every Thursday, Friday and Saturday and we have beer tastings on Wednesdays for just five dollars. You’re welcome to bring food with you. I want everyone to enjoy themselves and feel at home. Tuscaloosa is a great city that has made me feel at home since I moved here, and I’m glad to give that experience back to the other people who live here.

We are located at 515 Greensboro Avenue. We would love to meet you in person and connect with you online. Our website is www.carpevinottown.com. We are also on facebook and on twitter @carpevinottown.com. Come in and try something!

MEET: Dreamland BQQ & Matt Kilgore

Hi! My name is Matt Kilgore, and I work at Dreamland BBQ.

Dreamland BBQ is a local BBQ restaurant that has been in operation for more than 50 years. John “Big Daddy” Bishop opened the doors to his restaurant in 1958, the same year that Paul “Bear” Bryant began coaching at the University of Alabama. What a good year for Tuscaloosa!

Big Daddy and Mrs. Lilly, his wife, opened up the original Dreamland BBQ on land next to their home in the Jerusalem Heights area of Tuscaloosa. This location is now covered up in old license plates and rib slab boxes signed by customers and other memorabilia from years of visitors, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. From football coaches to ESPN personalities to your favorite Alabama football players, you never know who you might run into at Dreamland BBQ.

Froog2.10.650Although the number of restaurants locations has increased and as we have grown each location , we strive for that family friendly atmosphere and the owners want you to feel at home. Each restaurant also still serves ribs and sauce just like Big Daddy used to make them, along with white bread for dipping. We’ve also started to serve new favorites like hickory-smoked sausage and banana pudding.

Dreamland BBQ is constantly receiving accolades and awards for our ribs and sauce. We’ve been named in Forbes 50 Best of America, featured on Food Network and in USA Today.

We hope you’ll visit our original location or our Northport location. We’ve been meeting Tuscaloosa locals and visitors for more than 50 years, and we would love to meet you. Stop by and test our ribs, and you’ll see what we mean when we say “Ain’t nothin’ like ‘em nowhere!”

MEET: Bow Regards

Hi! My name is Riley Crutchfield and I’m the owner of Bow Regards, a specialty gift shop located in Tuscaloosa.

I’m a Tuscaloosa native. I worked at Bow Regards while I was a student at Tuscaloosa Academy, and I always knew I wanted to own a gift shop. After going to college at Mississippi State, I decided to come home to pursue my dream.262486_10100649997242376_1282513747_n

Bow Regards has been in business for 15 years, and I became the owner in September of 2013. I love my job, because I get to be around people all day long and help them pick out the perfect gift for their special occasion, whether it’s for a graduation, a wedding or a new baby.

We are starting to sell local products with Tiki Soaps and Clara Bell and The Hen shirts. Supporting other local businesses is important to me, not only because I’m also a small business owner, but because I want to see Tuscaloosa succeed.

I chose to come back to Tuscaloosa because it’s my home, and I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. It’s big enough and small enough at the same time. I love that Tuscaloosa is growing so much! I really enjoy trying out the new restaurants!334570_176757162401919_1784890027_o

At my job, I get to work with the people I love in the place that I love. I would love to meet you, so please come visit Bow Regards! You can find us on Facebook to see what we have in store for you when you visit.