Lunch time Monday morning, and I’m on the road to Atlanta again. I’m tired of Krystal and Popeyes, so I figure it’s time to give Dreamland another try. Getting off on exit 73, I take a right onto McFarland Blvd and a few minutes later, pull into the Dreamland parking lot.
It’s always good to see an active chimney on a bbq joint.
I apparently missed the lunch hour rush, and I find a booth to myself and seconds later my waitress is ready for my order. Being the original location, the Tuscaloosa Dreamland has a very simple menu. You have a choice of ribs, rib sandwich, or sausage. I go for a half rack of ribs and an order of sausage.
The first thing the waitress brings me is my glass of water and a plate of white bread and bbq sauce.
Dreamland is known for the bbq sauce and at first taste it’s not too bad. To me, it seems to be a slightly smokey, mustard based sauce with a nice trailing heat. It’s nothing too extravagant, but tasty nonetheless.
Seconds later, the waitress comes to my table with my ribs and sausage.
This is a quality smoked sausage, juicy and full of flavor, but the bbq sauce doesn’t go with it at all. The full, meaty flavor of the sausage turns Dreamland’s signature sauce into a mere afterthought.
All sausage aside, it’s time to delve into the star of the show, the ribs.
I take a rib off the top and it’s extremely lean and crispy. I try to see any evidence of a smoke ring on the meat, but it’s a fruitless endeavor. I dug for one of the ribs at the bottom of the plate to see if a meatier rib would have more flavor. Much to my disappointment I found that the rest of ribs were very moist but, apart from the bbq sauce, were completely bland.
Not wanting to leave them out, I took a few bites of my side of baked beans.
These were extremely sweet; I could tell they were baked in a brown sugar sauce. The sporadic onion pieces were a little odd and didn’t seem to bring much to the table.
I’m sure fans of Dreamland will say that I had a bad batch of ribs, but this is my third time and every time the ribs are bland and the sausage is the best thing on the menu.
I have no idea why people love Dreamland so much, and USA Today listing Dreamland as one of the “top 10 barbeque joints in the country” just confirms my suspicion that the USA Today is better for starting fires than actual reporting. My only guess it that so many Bama grads have fond memories of Dreamland from their undergrad years, and I’m sure that it’s a madhouse on game day. For me, I’ll have to find something else to eat in Tuscaloosa or resort to fast food convenience.