When I told friends and colleagues I had evacuated to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, I got two responses. First, they were glad I was safe and the second? Dreamland. It seems the number one reason a food-lover would even come to this town would be to visit the original location of Dreamland Bar-B-Que.
Seeing as the restaurant was a five minute drive from the hotel and we desperately needed to eat something that didn’t come from a drive-thru, barbecue sounded pretty perfect. Since I’d never really visited this area of the South, I had no idea that Dreamland is something of a by-word in Alabama, with eight locations scattered around the state, as well as couple in Florida and Georgia.
As the website’s lore states, God appeared to John “Big Daddy” Bishop in a dream and told him to open a restaurant. With no intention of disappointing the almighty, Bishop opened Dreamland in Tuscaloosa in 1958 selling everything from “burgers to postage stamps,” but the biggest draw was his hickory-smoked ribs.
Since folks here seem to be more lax about wearing masks and social distancing, John and I decided to play it safe and order some ribs to-go. When I walked in to pick up the order, the restaurant was already packed and it was only 6pm! We weren’t starving (we were munching on chips and pork rinds all day), so we got a half-slab of ribs, potato salad, and coleslaw to share.
Typically, I’m not a rib-type of gal. I like them, but when I get barbecue I tend to go for the smoked chicken or pulled pork. Nonetheless, these were some of the tastiest ribs I’ve ever had the privilege to gnaw upon. Smoky, earthy and possessing a great chew, we devoured the ribs with ease, dipping them frequently in the accompanying barbecue sauce, if only to suck it from the bone. As I mentioned recently, BBQ sauce doesn’t usually float my boat, it tends to be way too sweet, but this stuff was something yet again. Smoky and rich with a spicy kick, we were dipping our slices of white bread into it even after all the ribs were gone.
The coleslaw was what you’d expect, though a bit sweeter than usual, and the potato salad was fantastic! I’m convinced there was some kind of seafood boil seasoning added, plus lots of mayo and yellow mustard. We also got a small cup of their banana pudding to share, a dessert I knew I’d love considering my obsession with bananas. Made with Cool Whip, fresh bananas, vanilla pudding and Bud’s Best Vanilla Wafers (a cookie company based in Birmingham), it was like we were having dessert in grannie’s kitchen.
Now I can be the one to say “You’ve got to try Dreamland!”