Physical Therapy Rotation: Ole Miss to Tuscaloosa

Physical Therapy Rotation: Ole Miss to Tuscaloosa

Whether you’re visiting Tuscaloosa, new to town, or only here temporarily, I’ve got you covered! I’m an Ole Miss Rebel through and through but that didn’t stop me from wanting to feel like a local during my time here. I was only here for 8 weeks for my physical therapy rotation at Physiolete, but I truly feel like I got a “taste” of this sweet town.

Any time I visit a place for the first time, I wanna know where all the local spots are, the perfect places to sightsee, and where the best sushi place is in town. Finding places to experience what a town really feels like makes me feel right at home. So… I’m going to help you feel right at home with a list of ‘musts' to experience for yourself in T-town if you haven’t yet. This is especially for all those foodies, coffee junkies, sports gurus, and nature lovers out there.

First, let’s talk coffee.

Heritage House was the first coffee shop I visited during my time in Tuscaloosa. It’s actually the first coffee house the town ever knew. Heritage House offers over 40 diverse coffees from all over the world, a collection of assorted teas, a variety of fresh, from-scratch, baked goods, cafe lunches, and at one of the locations, a full-service dinner! Heritage House has 3 locations - Town Center, Riverfront, and North River. North River was the first location I visited, but it certainly was not the last. I ended up visiting all three of the locations, but I will say that North River was my favorite. I’m not sure if it was because that’s when I discovered some of the best tasting coffee or the “feel” of it, but North River is also the location that offers the full-service dinner (that’s still on my list of things I want to do in Tuscaloosa when I visit again). The Honey Lavender Latte is probably my favorite coffee order from Heritage House. Bama Blitz, Sugar Daddy, and Toffee Coffee are all good choices too! Not only is their coffee amazing but also their muffins, avocado toast, and baked oatmeal are pretty incredible too. Avocado toast is one of my favorite breakfast foods, and I have to say theirs is one of the best I’ve ever eaten. The Chive Cream Cheese Spread with Avocado on Sourdough Toast is hard to beat - with an over-easy egg on top of course! If you wanna order the baked oatmeal (which I think you should), ask them to heat it up for you and add strawberries, bananas, and honey on top - bon appétit!!!

Img 6514

Monarch espresso bar is another coffee shop I would recommend. Monarch is the perfect spot to grab a coffee and catch up with an old friend. One of my friends, who went to Alabama for undergrad, introduced me to Monarch. Whenever she visited me in T-town, we went to Monarch and both ordered the “Eurythmic” which is a vanilla sweet cream cold brew. I love, love, love a good tasting cold brew. This drink really gave me a taste of the quality of Monarch’s coffee. I think I could drink their coffee black - that’s how quality it is! My friend and I also ordered their avocado toast and it was very yummy! Monarch has their own in-house syrups, and I still want to try their honey cinnamon syrup one day soon.

Sadly, Heritage House and Monarch are both closed on Sundays. I decided to go to Turbo Coffee on a Sunday when I had a friend in town. Turbo Coffee’s flagship store is actually located in Florence, AL with shops in Tuscaloosa and Huntsville. Turbo is not all about coffee either. They also serve fresh, made in-house cold-press juices, açaí bowls, and superfood smoothies. Turbo’s coffee was good, but I’m a bigger fan of their açaí bowls. These bowls are a good option if you’re hungry and are wanting some energy and good fuel for your body. Turbo is also a good place to get some work done on a Sunday afternoon!

Img 5970

Sadly, Heritage House and Monarch are both closed on Sundays. I decided to go to Turbo Coffee on a Sunday when I had a friend in town. Turbo Coffee’s flagship store is actually located in Florence, AL with shops in Tuscaloosa and Huntsville. Turbo is not all about coffee either. They also serve fresh, made in-house cold-press juices, açaí bowls, and superfood smoothies. Turbo’s coffee was good, but I’m a bigger fan of their açaí bowls. These bowls are a good option if you’re hungry and are wanting some energy and good fuel for your body. Turbo is also a good place to get some work done on a Sunday afternoon!

Strange Brew Coffee House actually opened for the first time while I was in town. It’s pretty cool that happened because the original location is actually in Mississippi, and that’s where I’m from! Crazy enough though - I had never been to Strange Brew until the one opened up here. But goodness, I’m proud to say it’s Mississippi-roasted. Strange Brew has so, so many options which is why I love it. I am the most indecisive person sometimes, so when I’m feeling overwhelmed by the list of speciality drinks, I’ll just let the server decide for me and I never regret that decision. Strange Brew has a long list of specialty drinks, but their original list is a little less overwhelming for all my indecisive people out there. I honestly haven’t tried anything on the menu that I am now not obsessed with. I definitely recommend the Albino Squirrel (their house favorite) or the Rainy Day Latte. My absolute favorite so far is their Albino Rhino. If you love blueberry cobbler, this coffee is the one for you, without a doubt! I enjoy going to the Strange Brew here because it’s located downtown, actually walking distance to Alabama’s campus. It’s in the perfect spot, and I love to sit in the chairs near the window to be able to look out and feel a little bit of sunshine shining down in the early morning.

Img 6317

Now onto food! If you’re a foodie like me, you’ll appreciate the following recommendations. All of these places are actually located in Downtown Tuscaloosa. One of my favorite things to do before or after dinner is to walk around downtown with friends, especially when the weather is nice outside! I feel like it really just adds to the experience of being in Tuscaloosa and makes me feel at home.

If you’re reading this, I really hope you’re a sushi lover because Chuck’s Fish in Tuscaloosa has some of the best I’ve ever tasted. All of the seafood at Chucks comes from the wholesale market at Harbor Docks in Destin, FL and offers an award-winning sushi bar. What more could you ask for?! Before you go to Chucks, look up their secret sushi menu - my biggest recommendation is to order the “Doing It Roll” - 10/10 quality and presentation. The secret menu has some of the best rolls, but their rolls from the original menu are just as good in my opinion. I would recommend sitting upstairs at the sushi bar to watch the sushi chefs make different sushi rolls all evening long. The chefs are super friendly and will inform you on all things sushi. They answered all of my sushi questions! I’ve heard wonderful things about Chuck’s filets and pizzas as well. Their wood-fired pizza is a pretty big hit, so I tried a bite of my friend’s pizza. I’d have to say I’m not a huge pizza person, but it tasted pretty good!

Img 6397

DePalma’s Italian Cafe is a big hit here in Tuscaloosa. Several of my patients and friends recommended this restaurant to me. Now I didn’t get the chance to experience the environment at DePalma’s but I did try an appetizer and a pizza to-go. Their Shells Florentine are giant pasta shells stuffed with spinach, ricotta, oregano, provolone, and marinara - yum, yum, yum. They were so. so. GOOD. I really enjoyed their pizza too, especially with their homemade ranch. I guess you could say I had a little bit of pizza with my ranch.

My very first night living in Tuscaloosa I ate at Avenue Pub with my roommate. Avenue Pub’s first location actually opened in Tuscaloosa in 2014. They’re known for their pub classics. It’s an enjoyable atmosphere if you’re wanting to watch a sports game during the day or late evening. I have tried their chicken bites and bacon burger. I’d have to say they are both good, but their burgers are excellent. I still want to try their Thai Nachos because I have heard such wonderful things about them and I have eyed them a time or two. Definitely a more laid back atmosphere at Avenue Pub and would recommend it to just about anyone!

Img 5694

Let’s taco ‘bout SoCal Cantina! With Southern California inspired street tacos and a variety of other Cali-Mex bites, the menu has plenty of options for just about any taste bud desiring some good, quality Mexican food. SoCal is not your typical Sunday after church Mexican restaurant, but I think that’s why I enjoy it so much. The quality is outstanding. The Anaheim tacos are the best. This taco has pulled chicken, crispy bacon, avocado, jack cheese, pico de gallo and home-made green chile ranch – YUM! Definitely order the chips and queso as an appetizer. If you order the guac, let me know how it is because I have been wanting to go back to order their chips and guacamole. If it’s as good as the chips and queso, I’m sure it’s incredible. SoCal is decorated so cute inside too!

I tried several different restaurants during my 8 weeks in Tuscaloosa but I would say these four took the cake. Urban Bar and Kitchen is also an excellent choice, and if you’re a brunch lover, Five Bar is definitely a go-to!

We all know that Alabama is really, really good at football. Unfortunately, my time here wasn’t during football season to experience a game at Bryant Denny. But as a big basketball fan, I did get the chance to attend an Alabama basketball game. The game I attended was sold out, so it was definitely a fun and exciting environment to be a part of even though I wanted to yell Hotty Toddy the whole time. I am glad I got the chance to attend a game this year since the men’s basketball team is ranked so high. I have actually never been to a sold out Ole Miss basketball game, so seeing that many people excited over a college basketball game was pretty awesome. I can only imagine how pumped people get for some Alabama football. I would definitely go to another Alabama basketball game for the thrill of it.

I also had the chance to attend not only one but two gymnastics meets during my time here. The first meet I attended Alabama competed against Florida. The other meet was against Auburn which was much more exciting. I definitely felt the tension of the Alabama-Auburn rivalry in the room that night. I would have to say Alabama performed their best against Auburn compared to their gym meet against Florida. Since we don’t have college gymnastics teams in Mississippi, it was a different, yet fun experience for me. I had not been to a gymnastics meet since my cousin competed over 10 years ago. Alabama had just as many fans at those meets as they do for other sporting events. It was awesome to see that many fans cheering on the gymnasts.

Img 5948

Now I am pretty biased when it comes to college baseball because Ole Miss are the reigning National Champions, but I did get the opportunity to attend an Alabama baseball game as well. The weather was around 75 degrees during this February baseball game, so I was able to enjoy a beautiful day of baseball. Nothing compares to Swayze Field (I did mention I was a die-hard Ole Miss fan, right?), but Alabama is going to be pretty good this year so I can imagine the environment will be rocking during SEC play. I am definitely glad I had the opportunity to attend the baseball game because sitting anywhere watching a baseball game in that type of weather makes me feel right at home!

Img 6343

Going on walks is probably one of my favorite hobbies. Whether I am walking by myself or with friends, I just love to be outside and enjoy nature - the smell of fresh air! The Riverwalk was by far my favorite place to go on walks during my time in Tuscaloosa. The Riverwalk is a paved trail along the Southern bank of the Black Warrior River near downtown Tuscaloosa. You could walk to campus from there too, but I never did that. It’s pretty lengthy if you walk along the whole trail (around 4.5 miles I believe), but it’s perfect if you want to go for either a stroll or a long walk. There are plenty of benches and areas for a picnic, and it’s dog-friendly too! On a pretty day, you might see at least one person you know if you’re staying in Tuscaloosa for a while. Without a doubt, the Riverwalk will always remain one of my favorite spots in Tuscaloosa.

Img 5611
Img 5757

Last but certainly not least - Tuscaloosa sunsets. Man, nothing can beat them. I’m from the Mississippi Gulf Coast and I’d say I’ve seen some of the most beautiful sunsets reflecting off the water there, but I’m not sure if there is anything more breathtaking than a Tuscaloosa sunset. As I’ve always said, “Sunsets are like God’s sticky notes to us.” I’m not sure if it’s the southern hospitality or the amazing people I’ve met here, but every time I see a Tuscaloosa sunset, I imagine God’s sticky note to me reads “you’re exactly where you’re meant to be - in sweet home Alabama.”

Img 5595
Img 5529
Img 6375