Burger U, located on 7th Avenue, opened its doors to the public Tuesday, Feb. 19, complete with American classics and a creole-inspired flair.
Owner Dan Robinson has been in the restaurant business for more than 20 years, first as a dishwasher at age 15 in New York. Robinson opened Storyville in the French Quarter after Hurricane Katrina, serving a variety of creole classics, but decided to try his hand at college dining. After looking at LSU and Texas A&M, Robinson decided to settle in Tuscaloosa and open the first Burger U.
“I started looking at a couple different campuses going off of the concept of Burger U. It needed to be really close to campus,” Robinson said. “I thought I’d like living here. This is more than a business move. I live here, and hopefully I’ll die here.”
Burger U offers a menu unique to Tuscaloosa, complete with gulf shrimp po-boys and crawfish meat pies. Robinson recommends the chicken sandwich and any of the hamburgers.
“A lot of my food costs me a lot more,” Robinson said. “I wanted to put something together that I would eat, that I like the food.”
Manager Corey Champion, a senior majoring in criminal justice, said he prides Burger U in its food quality.
“When people ask me what to get, the first thing I always say is the burger, then you can branch out on other things on the menu,” he said.
Champion said he hopes to uphold a high standard of customer service at Burger U and will train the staff accordingly.
“I think that compared to some of the restaurants around town, we tend to care more,” Champion said. “Customer service around campus is something that’s not focused on as much as it should be. Just because we’re college students doesn’t mean we should be treated any differently.”
Burger U has a number of 60- and 70-inch TVs that Robinson promises will always have “the game” on. The outside patio has a basketball shooting game, corn-hole and an outdoor bar that will open in April.
“We’re a restaurant that has sports,” Robinson said. “You’re going to come here and eat whether there’s a game on or not, but if there’s a game on, you better be coming here.”
Because Robinson is not a southern native, Burger U is lacking in the Alabama decor. He encourages students to bring in their sorority and fraternity composites, intramural pictures and Alabama memorabilia to help decorate his establishment.
“We really want people to feel like this is their place,” Robinson said. “If you bring in a photo, it will go on the wall. We want to be on a personal level with the students.”
Robinson was happy with the grand opening last week and hopes to continue to repeat the good service as the staff gets more experience.
Burger U is located off Paul Bryant Drive at 1014 7th Ave. It is open Tuesday to Wednesday 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Thursday to Saturday 11 a.m.-2 a.m. and Sunday noon-10 p.m.
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