As Real as It Gets
—by Leslie Long, RFT Contributor
After feasting on a pile of pork ribs and blissful baked beans, I can see why they call this place Dreamland.
This mini-conglomerate now has eight restaurants in Alabama and Georgia, but the original shack still stands in Tuscaloosa where it looks as if little has changed since it opened in 1958.
The original owner’s daughter stopped to chat with us and told us that her father, John “Big Daddy” Bishop, first opened the place so he and his friends would have a place to get together. He kept his day job for years as the business grew under the watchful eye of his wife.
At first, they served just pork ribs and Sunbeam white bread — no sides at all. Bit by bit, they added a few specialties to the menu like baked beans, coleslaw and a yummy, gooey banana pudding we were all passing around as we tried to guess the ingredients. A selection of domestic and imported beers, plus the requisite sweet and unsweetened iced tea complete the menu here.
The oxblood-colored exterior looks recently painted, but, other than that, the tiny building holds on to the original feed. The small, dimly lit dining room is filled with memorabilia (including Big Daddy’s favorite easy chair), has a bar on the left, and a few rows of tables and booths where happy diners filled every available spot on the day we arrived for lunch. The adjacent outdoor porch was opened up to accommodate our group — and it’s the only addition to the original Dreamland building.
The seven additional Dreamland restaurants serve a wider menu, including more sides, chicken, and pulled pork. There’s also a mail-order business on the website where Dreamland’s specialties can be shipped.
I like the way they’ve kept the original Tuscaloosa location looking and tasting the same as it has always been. Thanks to Dreamland, when it comes to authentic barbecue the way it’s always been, you can go home again.
Dreamland BBQ (original location)
5535 15th Avenue, East
Tuscaloosa, AL 35405
(205) 758-8135 Open: Monday – Thursday: 10 – 9; Friday and Saturday: 10 – 10; Sunday: 11 – 9