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

While on the market, Rama Jama's is still rolling


Rama Jama’s, a restaurant on Paul W. Bryant Drive serving breakfast food, burgers and hotdogs since 1996, has been owned and operated by Gary Lewis for nearly 21 years. It first opened the day of a UA home football game, and since then Lewis has learned a thing or two about properly running a successful business.

“Opening on a home football game was probably one of the biggest mistakes of my life,” Lewis said with a laugh. “I quickly realized you have to do things a little bit differently on a game day than on a normal day-to-day basis.”

Lewis got the idea for the restaurant name while out at dinner with his wife and friends, and it’s familiar nomenclature in Alabama thanks to the “Rammer Jammer” fight song.

“There’s going to be 101,821 people yelling your name across the street at every home football game as part of the cheer, and that’s definitely what helps market the place while we’re here,” he said.

Lewis himself can regularly be spotted around the restaurant flipping burgers and greeting customers. In doing so, he establishes long-lasting relationships with many of Rama Jama’s 
recurring patrons.

“Over the years it gets more and more special because I see people that were here 20 years ago, and they’ll bring in their kids,” Lewis said. “And so I just think, am I really getting that old?”

Students and Tuscaloosa residents alike have taken note of his presence in the restaurant and often bring visitors so they can enjoy their food while also 
getting a glimpse of the owner at work.

“The first time I went to Rama Jama’s was when I toured The University of Alabama, and it definitely influenced my decision to go here because of how welcomed the owner made me feel,” said Jackson Heagy, a freshman majoring 
in finance.

Lewis, a so-called “Nick Saban look-alike,” has also turned into a bit of a community celebrity as the restaurant has grown in popularity.

“It’s kind of unusual because we’re the same age, born in the same month, basically living across the street from each other with me in the restaurant and him in the stadium, and while his favorite snack is a Little Debbie, my wife’s name is Debbie,” Lewis said. “I like to tell people Saban looks like me rather than me looking like him, but it just doesn’t have the same punch to it, does it?”

The restaurant is known for its popularity on gamedays, but it’s not just a spot popular with locals.

“If you look out into the parking lot, you’ll see license plates from all over,” Lewis said. “We’re also competitive year-round. We do equally or better over the summer months because a lot of the fraternity and sorority kitchens close over the summer and many local restaurants will also close or slow down, but we keep on going.”

Since the restaurant is open and busy year-round, Lewis puts in several hours each day to make sure everything is up and running smoothly.

“I usually get up around 3 a.m. and I’m here until seven at night Monday through Saturday,” Lewis said. “I’ll just do maybe eight or ten hours of work on Sundays.”

That being said, Lewis has decided it is about time to hang up his crimson apron and pass down the spatula.

“Rama Jama’s is on the market, and it has been for a few years now,” Lewis said. “I love to come to work and I don’t mind the long days and nights, but honestly, I’m 65 now and sometimes my 
feet hurt.”

Lewis hasn’t had a vacation in years, and what’s more, he has yet to attend a football game since he opened the 
restaurant 21 years ago.

“I love The University of Alabama, and I love our football program,” he said. “I can hear the cheers coming from the stadium and sometimes the building will even shake. But it’s so important I’m here during those games because it’s what makes our bottom line each year. In the future, I want to try to get some tickets to see another game, which may be sooner than we think.”

Customers say they will be sad to see Lewis go when the restaurant sells, but they remain confident in the future of Rama Jama’s.

“Rama Jama’s has been and always will be a home to many individuals both on and off campus,” said Ben Klemsz, a freshman majoring in civil engineering. “Even if Lewis takes a step back to enjoy a football game or two, the restaurant will never lose its history and character.”

Lewis has declined several offers that failed to meet the financial requirement and didn’t quite uphold the wishes he has for Rama Jama’s in the years to come.

“I’m not just going to give this place away to some smart business man, because this is my life, and I’ve built all of this,” Lewis said. “I’m going to make it known to prospective buyers that it is my wish to keep Rama Jama’s up and running, and I mean, why would you ever want to change this place anyways?”

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