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

Animal Butter brings fast casual street food to Tuscaloosa


Whenever the contractors weren’t there working, the staff of Animal Butter was. Putting up fixtures, cleaning and making menu boards, all in preparation for their grand opening two weeks ago.

“It was very stressful but it was also very rewarding when we were able to open the doors,” said Aly Kirkham, who manages the dining area at Animal Butter. “It was like ‘okay we’re doing it.’”

Animal Butter, located on University Boulevard next to the Children’s Hands-On Museum, opened on Feb. 17. The fast-casual restaurant serves classic street food dishes, each one with a twist. Head Chef Joel Fredrick was a chef at Epiphany for five years before it closed in December.

“We wanted to do something that was still kind of upscale but we also wanted to be able to feed the masses at the same time,” Fredrick said. “Basically make sure that everyone could come in and have a good time and just enjoy themselves without having to worry about price point.”

No item on Animal Butter’s menu, including rice bowls, sandwiches, tacos and salads, costs more than $12. And, like Epiphany, the restaurant has made a commitment to buying local food.

“We’re not fully local like Epiphany was, but were doing the best we can with it,” Frederick said. “As fast as everything sells here, it’s a lot harder on the farmers to do that so we take what we can get as it comes.”

Having a relationship with local farmers is important to Fredrick, and he said he believes taking care of local farmers can help strengthen the community. The new restaurant has also decided to use eco-friendly materials when possible.

“We try to get as much local as possible because Alabama has such a great climate for certain types of produce,” said Isaac Benjamin, Animal Butter’s kitchen manager. “I mean, you can find some of the best tomatoes in world in Alabama. … To us it’s important. We like to help out the community.”

It’s a view that’s shared by Kirkman as well.

“It not only continually grows the economy from the farmer’s perspective, it also helps the community,” Kirkham said. “If we as a community – if we are spending money and that money is being funneled back into the community then there’s only upward growth that can come from there.”

Kirkham, like Fredrick and Benjamin, also worked at Epiphany. She started when she moved to Tuscaloosa in January of last year. When the idea for Animal Butter started to come together, she said she quickly knew she wanted to be involved. The biggest challenge these past couple weeks, she said, has been working out the kinks and finding the right routine for the restaurant.

“We’re figuring out what systems work as far as placing orders, giving people numbers,” she said. “It’s all about organization. That’s another big thing because we want this to be a lasting thing.”

As for the name Animal Butter, Fredrick said it was inspired by a dish on Epiphany’s menu.

“We had a dish at Epiphany that stayed on there forever,” he said. “It was our bread service. We did slow roasted pork whipped with butter and it just kind of plays off that.”

Fredrick also said he wanted to have a fast-casual restaurant because he felt it was something Tuscaloosa didn’t already have.

“We wanted to have our own little niche,” he said. “We didn’t want to be the same as everybody else. … We want to do just something you would pick up on the street and get it to go. Just something fast and something very enjoyable.”

He said he hopes the restaurant becomes a place that everyone can come to. Within the next month, he said, they’re planning to add patio seating and begin a partnership with Crimson 2 Go.

“We’re here for the people, we’re here to serve people and we’re here to make people happy,” he said. “So we want to make sure that whatever they view the food as, we want it to come out that way while keeping the integrity of what we believe the food is. But we want to make sure that people not only learn what we do with the street food but we want them to be happy with it as well.” 

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