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The Sad Decline of Dreamland in Tuscaloosa

On a recent trip through the great state of Alabama fortune led me to Dreamland's Tuscaloosa location [Archibald's was closed]. I've eaten at Dreamland periodically since I was a sprout and always had good and sometimes great barbecue there.

Pitiful.

I order a rack to go with the intent of sitting down for a spell and eating a few bones then taking the rest on the road to gnaw on as I made my way to the Appalachians.

The counter man handed me my box and I actually thought for a moment they'd forgot to put the rack in it. You could've slapped a first class stamp on it and dropped it in the US mail to ship it.

It was light as a feather.

The bones themselves had very little flesh on them. The flavor was good, nice and smoky but the paucity of the meat and chewiness of what there was, was inexcusable for a smokehouse with the stature of Dreamland.

On the return trip a couple weeks later I hit Archibalds and got a rib sandwich that put Dreamland to shame. The paper plate groaned under the weight of the big, meaty bones sauced in Paulette's wonderful, vinegary concoction. It's nice to see at least one Tuscaloosa area institution's still at the top of their game.

Meanwhile across town it's a sad state of affairs at Dreamland these days.

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  1. This sounds like the same problem they are having in Montgomery. There are always better options I guess, maybe more of a drive and less sentimental.

    1. I've been going to Dreamland in Huntsville since they opened about 7 years ago. Just about every time they've been great. There was a problem about 4 years ago. One visit, no better than decent. The next, no better than poor, the one after that, inedible.
      Oddly enough we met a guy at Costco our next trip down yonder and he was wearing a Dreamland hat and shirt. Mrs. Sippi asked if he worked there. He told us he was from "Corporate" and we there to re-train the staff on how to cook the ribs.
      Since then they've been anywhere from very good to excellent.

      We had dinner there last night. Once again, great ribs.

      DT

      8 Replies
      1. re: Davwud

        The Mobile location of Dreamland is still excellent.

        1. re: dabaxter

          Im sorry but Dreamland went downhill a long time ago. The Brick Pit blows Dreamland away by a landslide!

          1. re: stvtunlvzn

            Not for ribs. No one should ever order anything but ribs at dreamland. Having said that, the brick pit is pretty good, if you're wanting pork.

            1. re: dabaxter

              I ate ribs at the Mobile location yesterday and they were pretty good.

              1. re: dabaxter

                Like a lot of chains out there in the restaurant world some are good, some are bad.

                There's probably a TGI Fridays in Galveston that's better than the one in Indianapolis or a Shoney's in Long Beach that houses the one in Kansas City.

                The impetus behind this post was to illustrate how far the original location has fallen. I'm certain if y'all started a post for the one in fill-in-the-blank city huzzahs would be forthcoming.

                So. Has anyone eaten at the Dreamland in TUSCALOOSA? The one that this thread pertains to?

                1. re: scrumptiouschef

                  I have eaten at the one in Tuscaloosa twice. Both times was underwhelmed. Ribs were a bit dry and tough. They also doused them in sauce, which I am not a fan of; I would rather taste the quality of meat and then sauce them myself if need be. I will not be going back.

                  1. re: johnnystiletto

                    Just ask for sauce on the side. Mrs. Sippi does that.

                    DT

                  2. re: scrumptiouschef

                    I haven't eaten at the original Tuscaloosa location in over a decade. It was great back then. I hate to hear that it has gone down hill.

        2. The old black lady that founded it has since retired and family has taken over. The quality has been compromised, but the sauce is for sale and as good as always.

          1. I had an unexpected trip to Montgomery and looked up restaurants so I could at least get something good to eat. Thrilled to hear that the famous Dreamland was open there. Ordered a half rack with baked beans and cole slaw. What a disappointment (my first visit to ANY Dreamland) Ribs were tough, and barely any meat on them. Really "spare". Baked beans tasted like they were straight from the can. I took two bites and shoved them away. Cole slaw okay. What a sad experience after the hype.

            1. scrumptiouschef - I'm with you about Dreamland. My go-to is also Archibald's and I can't agree more about Miss Paulette's sauce. I usually get about a half gallon to take home every May when I go thru town. Can't wait.

              1. Ate there for the first time (although I was a U of Alabama student in the 1970s) in 2009 - fabulous. Awesome. Went back in May 2010 - abysmal. I figured it was a fluke. Every restaurant has its off days. Haven't had a chance to go back.
                Ate at a Dreamland in Muscle Shoals that was horrible, and it closed up soon after. The one in Huntsville was good. The one in downtown Birmingham (Southside) was good. I'm suspicious of any that are not the original.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Southlander

                  I have *never* had decent ribs at Dreamland in Tuscaloosa. I've given it three shots and that is all they are getting. Oddly enough though, had some really good ribs at the Dreamland in Mobile once...

                2. BTW, had Archibald's barbecue this past football season and was disappointed. Didn't get ribs, it was the pulled pork. Next time, we'll just bring our own from North Alabama.