Years ago when I first visited Birmingham, The Astronomer treated me to lunch at Dreamland Bar-B-Que. I ordered a pulled pork sandwich, while he had a half slab of ribs. There was also a side of macaroni and cheese and a tall stack of white bread, if memory serves me right. It was one hell of an introduction to ‘Bama style ‘cue; one that inspired me to seek out something smokey and saucy on my visits thereafter.
Our barbecue explorations thus far have taken us to Miss Myra’s for its intriguing white sauce, to Full Moon for its famously tangy chow chow, to Saw’s for its vinegar-based mop sauce, and to Jim ‘N Nick’s for just about everything. Even with our consistent efforts, we’ve barely made a dent in Birmingham’s ever-growing barbecue scene.
On our most recent trip to the city, I insisted on lunch at Dreamland even though there are dozens of barbecue shacks left to try. It’s always been one of my favorites and sometimes, it’s plain nice to dine somewhere familiar.
John “Big Daddy” Bishop opened the first Dreamland in 1958 in the town of Tuscaloosa. According to barbecue lore, he was torn between setting up a mortuary or opening a restaurant to support his family. He prayed to God for a sign and received one in the form of a dream. While he was sleeping, God told Big Daddy to build a restaurant next to his home. And thus, Dreamland was born.
On this lunchtime visit, we were joined by The Astronomer’s lovely friend Miho. She ordered a pulled pork sandwich ($7.45), her Dreamland standby. The tender pork, which had a nice balance of meat and fat, came tucked between a soft bun with plenty of sauce and dill pickles.
On the side was a serving of well-executed baked beans. The seasonings weren’t too sweet, while the texture was just done.
The Astronomer and I shared a full slab ribs ($19.50), which arrived lightly dressed in Dreamland’s signature sauce. The ribs could’ve been a touch more tender, but the smoky flavor was pitch perfect and the caramelized edges spot on.
On the side was a stack of fluffy white bread and some extra sauce for dippin’. Dreamland’s sauce is thinner than most, with a vinegary undertone and spicy kick. Best of all, it’s ladled up nice and warm.
I ordered an additional side of macaroni and cheese ($1.45) because I have a soft spot for the mushy Southern variety.
A feast at Dreamland isn’t complete without a small dish of nana puddin’ ($2) to finish. The layers of ripe bananas, wilted ‘Nila wafers, sweet vanilla pudding, and rich whipped cream married together harmoniously. Hands down, this is my favorite dessert in all of Birmingham.
Thank God for Dreamland. Literally.
1427 14th Ave South
Birmingham, AL 35205