How Dreamland BBQ Got Its Name

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 now deceased originator John C. Bishop and his wife, Lilly.  The Bishop’s opened their establishment back in 1958.  You see, 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. His wife flatly refused that notion, so John built the drive-thru rib joint. 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 there’s smoked sausage and pulled pork. Up until a year ago that was the extent of the menu.  But, management now offers sides like baked beans, coleslaw and potato salad.  Everyone eats off plastic plates, plastic cups and plastic sporks. Yes, sporks–a combination spoon and fork. Plastic bibs are available and usually necessary. A big roll of paper towels acts as a table centerpiece and sure comes in handy.

And, I dare not forget dessert– banana bread pudding. It’s the house specialty and mighty good, though one doesn’t have much room in their tummy after those ribs.

On Game Days (that means when the University of Alabama has a home football game) customers wait two to three hours for a table. They apparently don’t mind; they tailgate with beer and listen to the live music. That scene was part of  “Big Daddy John’s”  entrepreneurial vision. The CBS and ESPN gang love to stop by when they’re in town.

Dreamland has expanded to other southern city locations but they all use the same recipes. You’ll find one in Huntsville, Mobile, Birmingham, two in Atlanta and many around Tuscaloosa. These restaurants serve additional menu selections, but not the original store on Jug Factory Road. They know a sure thing and keep it that way. Hours are 10 AM to 9 PM Sunday through Thursday, 10 to 10 on Friday and Saturday.  Yes indeed, down-home casual Dreamland is a real happening place.

Online orders are now available.