By Debi Lander
There's a little joint in Tuscaloosa, Alabama that seats just 68, but its reputation is known far and wide. Dreamland BBQ boasts the motto, "Ain't nothing like 'em nowhere," and I reckon that's true.
I recently visited the place and met Jeannette Bishop, the current owner and daughter of the late founder John C. Bishop and his wife Lilly. The Bishops opened their establishment back in 1958. John had purchased the land and considered building a cafe and funeral home. He figured if the food gave his patrons high blood pressure, he'd end up burying them.
Lilly flatly refused that notion, so John built the drive-thru rib joint. I wonder if the name came from his funereal plans or, as Jeannette, says, "God just whispered it into his ear."
No matter. The barbeque sauce is so renowned and tasty that a plate of white Sunbeam bread comes to every table just so you can sop it up. The slabs of barbeque ribs are cooked in an open pit for 45 minutes. Or you can try the smoked sausage or pulled pork. Up until a year ago, that was the extent of the menu.
Management now offers sides such as baked beans, coleslaw, and potato salad. Everyone eats off plastic plates, plastic cups, and plastic sporks. Yes, sporks--that clever combo of spoon and fork. Plastic bibs are available and usually necessary. The big roll of paper towels that serves as a table centerpiece comes in handy.
And for dessert... banana bread pudding. It's the house specialty and mighty good.
When the University of Alabama has a home football game, customers wait two to three hours for a table. Apparently, no one minds. They tailgate with beer and listen to the live music. Such scenes were part of "Big Daddy John's" entrepreneurial vision. The CBS and ESPN gang usually stop by when they're in town.
Dreamland has expanded to other southern city locations. You'll find one in Huntsville, Mobile, Birmingham, two in Atlanta, and many around Tuscaloosa. These restaurants use the same recipes, with additional menu items.
The original store on Jug Factory Road doesn't plan on any further changes to the menu, however. They know a sure thing and plan to keep it that way.
This review was adapted from By~Lander~Sea Food Tales.