Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

City Cafe passes test of time


It’s 5 a.m., and while most businesses are sound asleep with the lights turned down low in Northport, there remains one with its light on, shining like a welcoming beacon to all who come in. City Cafe has been in the Tuscaloosa area since 1931, and although the times have changed and the people have come and gone, it still remains a classic among Tuscaloosa residents.

City Cafe has become somewhat of a family affair. The owner, Joe Barger, worked at the cafe in high school and in 1974 bought the cafe with his wife Mary Anne Barger. Customers are greeted by the friendly face of Joe’s brother Robbie Barger as soon as 4 a.m. rolls around. Joe Barger’s daughters Gin Barger and Jodi Barger can be heard bantering back and forth in the kitchen.

Regulars Scott Mitchum and Phillip Mitchum have been frequenting City Cafe for almost 30 years.

“We know everyone here, Joe; we watched the whole family grow up here,” Scott Mitchum said. “There’s good food and great people, and it’s as simple as that.”

Gin Barger didn’t have a typical childhood with her family at the cafe.

“She was actually raised in the back of a van.” Robbie Barger said.

“We actually were,” Gin Barger said. “That’s no joke because with my mom we had to come into work so early. We always got up to go in, and in the summer we had the van which had a little extension cord for the fan, and in the winter we had a little plug-in heater. It used to be in the city of Northport that since everybody would have to go through the back to get into the café, they would knock on the van and we’d wake up to go to school.”

Passing the test of time is no easy feat, but the cafe keeps the customers coming back with their sunny disposition and team effort. The wait staff agrees it’s the people who they see every day that make each day better than the last.

“I think it’s getting to see everybody every day,” Gin Barger said. “You know a lot of the customers we grew up with and you get to know everybody, and even if you don’t know their names you know their faces and their personality.”

The pictures on the walls tell the story of the Barger family and the story of Alabama football, with a portrait of Gin Barger’s son and a picture of Bear Bryant watching over the cafe. Not much has changed in the 82 years of operation at City Cafe – the counters are worn and the photos the same.

“The menu hasn’t really changed except the prices, but Joe can’t really do much about that. Our busy season is football season,” Robbie Barger said.

For most people in Tuscaloosa it’s not winter, spring or fall that is most anticipated. Instead, there is a season above all the rest that stands on its own – football season.

When asked what her favorite time of year is at the cafe, Gin Barger said “Vacation. No, it’s football games because everybody gets so excited and so do we. Sometimes we get the opposite team that comes in as well and there’s that rivalry, but it’s always fun. We do countdown to those vacations though. We have so many hormones in here with all these women, you know? Those breaks, we need them. Imagine working with your family,” Gin Barger said.

Annoyances aside, the Barger family has formed a camaraderie based on years and years of working together. The “good food, great people” mantra has candid this cafe in the hearts of Tuscaloosa residents and students alike.


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