Tony’s Taste of the Town: The Waysider

Any true southerner will tell you that at the center of all southern cooking is a nice, hearty southern breakfast. Residents of Tuscaloosa need look no further than their own back yard to find one of the tastiest breakfast restaurants in the South. The Waysider, located on 1512 Greensboro Ave. in downtown Tuscaloosa is the oldest operating restaurant in Tuscaloosa, and just one taste of The Waysider’s melt-in your-mouth biscuits lets you know why.

“We have been here since 1951 continually operating,” Restaurant owner Linda Smelley said. “We just try to try to serve good food, and people enjoy breakfast. That is the number one thing I think people enjoy in town is breakfast. I guess it’s just good southern cooking.”

The restaurant is no bigger than an average family living room and is packed every morning by loyal Tuscaloosa residents who have made a The Waysider part of their daily routine. The intimate spacing and familiar faces adds to the at-home atmosphere of the restaurant, and reminds you what it used to be like waking up and having breakfast with family.

“It is calming, people like that,” Smelley said “It has got that feel of Alabama. I just feel that it is a real homey atmosphere. Everybody comes in during football season and over time they become friends.”

For some residents, the restaurant is like a second home, one that surrounds them with old friends and old memories too.

“I’ve been coming here for years,” Tuscaloosa resident Beneta Essary said. “The food is good, especially the biscuits, there is always good service. It is just a homely place. I lost my husband 21 months ago and they are just like family to me.”

The walls of the restaurant are decorated from floor to ceiling in Daniel Moore paintings of Alabama football. The scenery provides a perfect game day experience, as the restaurant could easily double as an art gallery of past Alabama moments.

It is not just the scenery that enables Crimson Tide fans to relive past moments; the restaurant is rich in history too. Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of The Waysider is the list of important patrons it has served over the years. The most notable being former Alabama head football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. The restaurant now dedicates a corner to Bryant, and fans can actually sit in the same spot where the “Bear” used to sip his morning coffee.

However nice the scenery may be, the thing that keeps The Waysider running as one of the best restaurants in the South is its mouth-watering southern cuisine. The restaurant is known first for its golden buttery biscuits, which are served to you warm and delicious right upon being seated.

My favorite thing to order is the omelets, which can be filled with spinach, ham, sausage, bacon, or practically anything you, can think of. Unlike at other restaurants that add milk to their eggs to make them too fluffy, The Waysider cooks them just right, the way your mom used to when you were a kid.

For kids there are pancakes, which are often shaped in the form of an elephant. Smelley said that the restaurant will shape its pancakes in every way possible.

“When the other team comes in here I will serve them elephant pancakes and make them say roll tide,” Smelley said. “We make all kinds of animals, dogs and bears and cats, pretty much everything you can think up.”

If you are looking to get to The Waysider before a game it is advised that you get there close to the restaurant’s opening time of 5:30 a.m. In my experience arriving at 6:30 a.m. will still get you a seat comfortably. However show up too late and you will find yourself waiting in a line out the door.

For anyone wanting a true taste of not only the South, but Tuscaloosa as well, The Waysider is a certain can’t-miss spot.

“It is a great place,” Essary said. ““It is just a good representation of the town.”