I have to admit that my introduction to Dreamland BBQ came at the end of a 10 day Gulf Shores drinking and golf vacation. Despite my dulled senses, the atmosphere and a zippy sauce made that a Sunday night to remember.
First opened in May, 1993, near downtown and the UAB campus, Dreamland feels like an ‘ol Que joint that has been around for fifty years! You enter through the bar area and walk past crackling wood pits and the 10 or so racks of ribs smoking away and soon you are in a BBQ mood.
The walls and pit are made of red brick. It is only fitting since founder John “Big Daddy” Bishop was a mason before opening his first restaurant in 1958.
Dreamland legend is that Big Daddy wasn’t too fond of masonry work, which is some hard work. One night he got on his knees and prayed for another way to make a living. That night, he dreamed of opening a café and he made that dream a reality.
The original Dreamland Café is located just south of Tuscaloosa in an area known as Jerusalem Heights. The Birmingham location retains that southern hospitality feel. The place was full of families the night we visited. The help was mostly college students and they made us feel right at home at a heavy wooden picnic table with a red-checkered plastic tablecloth and rolls and rolls of paper towels.
Our host, Barry Darby, of Huntsville, raved about the mouth-watering ribs at Dreamland. We weren’t disappointed. The ribs were tender and pulled off the bone without being overcooked. The Dreamland sauce had a subtle sweetness too it with a solid vinegary heat on the backside.
We also dug into pulled pork and some mouth-watering chicken. My wife, Margaret Anna wasn’t all that hungry until her hickory smoked sausage arrived. I managed to get a bite and it was a bit on the greasy side but delicious. I had some baked beans and cole slaw, then finished with a true Southern favorite banana pudding.
On my next trip to the Alabama Coast, I’m going to try the original Dreamland in Tuscaloosa.