Tuscaloosa/Archibald's vs. Dreamland
- Al Wilson
I've heard that Archibald's is actually better than Dreamland. Can anybody confirm this?
I haven't been to either in about five years but they are different. Archibald's has fantastic pulled pork and excellent ribs while Dreamland is ONLY ribs. Archibald's is a cinderblock shack and Dreamland is, well, Dreamland. Starve for a day or two and do both. For dessert you need to give serious consideration to returning to Birmingham and going to Johnny Ray's for their cream pies which are awesome. He also happens to have really good chopped pork,too, but Archibald's probably would be considered better.
re: Joe H.
Joe - Are we talking legitimate whipped cream pies? When I was in Birmingham, I got sucked into the Dreamland thing - Just had to try it after hearing about if for years from Keith Jackson and Al Michaels(College Football) and so I missed Johhny Ray's.
So, we're talking Banana Cream Pie with real whipped cream? Best I have ever had was at Buckhead Diner in Atlanta - Incredible.
I've had the whipped cream pie from both the Buckhead diner and Emeril's. Johnny Ray's is, at the least, as good as either. Yes, real whipped cream. As for Dreamland the Birmingham and Atlanta operations are a very real prostituition of the name which is a legend in Tuscaloosa and worth the 60 mile trip. One of the more embarassing moments of my life is when I talked my wife into driving to Tuscaloosa and stopped at Archibald's for a chopped pork and rib sandwich which we shared then went straight to Dreamland and shared a rack of ribs. Because we weren't in the mood for Moon Pies (Dreamland's featured "dessert") we drove back to Birmingham and went to Johnny Ray's. We shared slices of lemon cream, banana cream and coconut cream because we couldn't make our minds up. To this day either one of the lowest days of my life or one of my greatest achievements. To coin a new phrase, "it was ALL good!"
At four in the afternoon we ended up in bed, sleeping the Q and whipped cream off.
Below I've linked an absolutely outstanding multiday post from Chowhound where the author ate his way around the south for 12 days. The link will take you to Dreamland w/ photos and then the next day will find him at Johnny Ray's. I've actually done a similar trip-several times-as part of an 8,000 mile annual driving trip for business. I'm surprised that he didn't go to McClard's in Hot Springs and the Skylight aInn in Ayden as well as Sweatman's. Still he did an absolutly commendable and legendary job. My applause to him.
re: Joe H.
Joe - Great stuff! Thanks. Boy, I really screwed up in birmingham by choosing Dreamland vs Johnny Ray's.
Banana Cream Pie as good as the Buckhead Diner! Oh boy! Chowhounds warned me not to go to Dreamland in Birmingham, but I just had to try it for myself.
Thanks for those great pictures of the original Dreamland and I do remember not wanting to take that additional drive - we were coming from Nasheville at the time. I would never have expected it to look like that. Especially when the one in Birmingham is so commerical with that big bar, two dining rooms, and lots of Bama football stuff on the walls.
re: Al Wilson
I've been fortunate to have the banana cream pie at both Buckhead Diner (but unfortunate enough during the meal to have Bobby Weiss, then coach of the Atlanta Hawks, basically stick his rear end in my face while at the Buckhead bar celebrating a rare Hawks win) and Emeril's (made by or at least under the auspices of Emeril's legendary pastry chef, Lou "Mr. Lou" Lynch, who years ago was reported to not allow a patron to take a piece of banana cream pie home because he would no longer be in control of it and couldn't be responsible for its quality).
I'm not at all a big banana cream pie fan (Mrs. W. is the expert in that area) but you just know when you're in the presence of something good. These pies were both really really good. So, any place that can whip up a banana cream pie as good as these is definitely doing something right.
re: Joe H.
Well, I am a Tuscaloosa native(relocated to Memphis), and I will tell you this is a discussion I have had many times. First for the facts:
At Dreamland you can get ribs. Not beans and slaw etc., but ribs. The only side is white bread. You can also get a bag of chips and a moon pie if you desire.
At Archibalds you can get two types of sandwiches. Sliced pork (the other posts here have incorrectly described it as pulled or chopped, it is in fact sliced) or the rib sandwich. The rib sandwich is three to four ribs in between two pieces of bread. Obviously you take the ribs out and eat them seperately and consume the bread as a side.
Dreamland is full of character. It is an awesome place to sit at the long tables with other diners and dig into a great slab of ribs, the visitor decorated walls and ceiling provides plenty of entertainment. I have taken many clients to Dreamland without any dissappointment.
Archibalds is a tiny little "drive-thru" block building behind a tiny house. I think there are three seats at the tiny counter inside. The pit is right behind the counter and it is great to watch them pull the butts off the pit and slice the meat on the ancient wooden block that is bowed in the center from decades of slicing.
Dreamland has a tomato based sauce. It is not too thick or sweet, and perfectly spiced. The best way to eat it is to take the white bread out of the bag on the table and sop up the sauce left on the plate under the ribs!
Archibalds has a vinegar based sauce. It is spicy and has little flecks of mustard floating around in the reddish watery sauce. The same family owns Woodrows and you can get the same sauce there. I often buy it by the gallon to bring home to Memphis.
You really should make your own assessment, but since you asked for opinions I will give you mine.
I will say that Dreamland has not been the same since Big John died in the mid 90's. Although the ribs are consistent these days. Back in the day if Big John had a few too many nips one day you may get some burnt up bones. Maybe it is the mass production, or maybe it is the attention spent on the other commercialized stores, it just isn't the same. But you can not beat the atmospher and like there slogan says, "Aint nothin like em nowhere."
I am not a huge fan of sliced pork (I prefer pulled), however Archibalds sauce is my favorite anywhere. Like I say, I buy it by the gallon to take home. The backroom type atmosphere is great fun.
If I had to choose for a visitor who could only try one, I would send them to Dreamland for the atmosphere. But I'll take Archibalds sauce.