Our waitress said, “The chef told me, a Dreamlands rib done right should taste like a pork chop.” Well, they are tender, but not fall off the bone tender. Some meat does stick to the bone. The ribs are juicy, and you can smear juices ear to ear and feel like a 3 year old again. The ribs are huge and the serving enormous.

White bread and sauce; comes with the ribs.

Cooked to evoke the taste of a pork chop. Dreamland’s rib servings are enormous; their ribs are flavorful and juicy.

What they are not is appreciably indirectly smoked. Sauce and rich meat carries the flavor. The meat itself is cooked for 45 minutes to an hour over hickory flames.

This place is hard to find, even though we’ve been to Tuscaloosa plenty and stopped in hotels mere blocks from this place. When I set the closest location to the original Dreamlands in our GPS, I took a small wandering road through a bunch of hotels back to a more residential district. At a three way intersection, I turned right and there it was.

It is a plain, simple eatery, with very little on the menu. Sausage, ribs, and rib sandwiches pretty much are the choices. Order your food, it comes out. Servings are, as previously stated, enormous. The food is what it is. It will not be the favorite of a smoke head, but the juicy ribs are delicious nonetheless.

Other Dreamlands reviews of note:

3rd Degree Berns
Cynical Cook
Marie Let’s Eat

5535 15th Ave E
Tuscaloosa, AL 35405
(205) 758-8135

Dreamland Bar-B-Que on Urbanspoon

Fig is a pretty restaurant on McFarland, just a few minutes north of the Interstate. I had been aware of this restaurant for months, but every time I had traveled, this place had been closed, until my recent trip to Texas. This time, Fig was open, and I made sure I stopped on the way to relatives.

Fig is a small shop with an original menu. The sandwiches were enticing, and I chose one, a bacon, lettuce, and fried green tomato sandwich. If there ever was a southern riff on the BLT, this is it.

Bacon, lettuce, and fried green tomato sandwich.

The sandwich was enjoyable, the tart of the green tomatoes an interesting contrast to the normal slice of beefsteak tomato. The plating is good here, service is good and the staff a delight. If you are traveling, it is well worth the time to pause, take a few minutes to head north, and try their sandwiches.

1351 McFarland Blvd NE
Tuscaloosa, AL 35406
(205) 345-8888

Fig on Urbanspoon

It’s in a section of town that steps back in time, with small, single story buildings overrun by the larger houses that have grown up around these structures. Old, in the style of a town center. Still, it’s fashionable these days, repainted and fresh, and in this segue back to the first half of the twentieth century is the City Cafe.

It has an exceptional online reputation for being an inexpensive “meal and three” shop. Lines will form, waiting for seating. According to users of Urban Spoon, it can take as long as 20 minutes to get a meal around lunchtime. So when we arrived about 11:30ish on a Monday just after New Years, I counted myself lucky that only 7 or 8 people were ahead of us.

The deal is this: you basically wait and watch for one of the booths to open up, and when it does, you sit in it. Staff will then come by, clean up and then take your order.

Service is fast and efficient. Prices are dirt cheap. Meal and 3 costs $5.10, and you don’t have to get 3 vegetables.

I wish I could say we had no issues with the food, because so many other components of the experience were appealing. But my daughter had issues with the flavor of her catfish and my wife felt her chicken was a bit too salty. The bigger issue for me was the catfish, which either had an odd spice or was a little old that day. I couldn’t be sure. I had salmon croquettes, and they were good. So, our experience with the entrées here was hit or miss. Choose carefully. Vegetables were excellent, and made in the southern style.

Verdict: Good sides, hit or miss main dishes. Choose carefully, and you’ll be rewarded.

City Cafe
408 Main Avenue
Northport AL 35476
(205) 758-9171

City Cafe on Urbanspoon

It’s a red building, seen on your right as you head north on highway 69. It’s not the easiest to get to, nor the easiest to find parking for, though signs for parking exist and eventually will get you to the right spot. It is small, the converted house, and the size is the eventual cause of our misfortunes here, because being small and also being popular create unique issues for any eatery.

We came here for breakfast. Waysider serves a variety of breakfast items. There are good looking pancakes, good buttery biscuits, excellent buttery grits. Rich starchy foods abound. The Paula Deen axiom, “You can never have too much butter,” is in play here. Walls, like so many Tuscaloosa eateries, are covered with Bear Bryant and Alabama football memorabilia. There aren’t many staffers but they constantly move, remaking the  eatery for every new family, or group that eats here. Groups of eaters often exceed a dozen in a party.

Good juice, tiny glasses of it.


The only plate of food that came as we ordered it.

I had ordered steak and eggs.

Hash browns missing here.

Our issue with Waysider is a little exceptional, and a product of the need to feed many mouths. Our waitress didn’t get our order accurately, and to be plain, she goofed big time. I had hardly half the food I wanted, and big portions of my wife’s order were simply skipped. So much of it was missing I simply assumed that it was coming on a separate set of plates. Now, in 99% of other establishments, this gets fixed. But not in the Waysider.

When I finally told our waitress that there was a problem with the order, staff came out of the kitchen and in a loud voice exclaimed


At  that, we decided the best approach was to pay our bill and leave.

I just have a few more words to add to this. Our situation was unusual, but the actions were not hard to understand, given the crowd of eaters behind us. That said, the actions were hardly “Southern Hospitality”. In fact, we were treated quite harshly, the worst treatment I’ve suffered in my nearly 2 years of food blogging. This isn’t a failure of the waitress, or the staff. This is a wholesale management failure. Management has to step in and fix this, or decide if they want a reputation for ruthlessness  in dealing with customers to dog them the rest of their days.

Verdict: Good food. Staff is broken, literally. Recommend as long as they can get your order right.

1512 Greensboro Ave
Tuscaloosa, AL 35401
(205) 345-8239

Waysider on Urbanspoon

Dreamland BBQ creates huge amounts of controversy in Atlanta, Georgia. Opinions of this restaurant are very mixed. I was waiting to try this restaurant in Alabama where a number of reviewers have said it is a better restaurant and chain. We were traveling recently, trying to beat the cold weather into Atlanta when we saw a Dreamland sign in the Tuscaloosa area. I have coworkers who love Dreamland in Tuscaloosa so we decided to take a look and see.

It turns out there are at least two Dreamlands in the Tuscaloosa area. There is the original one on 15th street (off exit 73 from I-20), and another in Northport, a suburb of Tuscaloosa (off exit 71-B from I-20). These are my impressions of the Northport restaurant.

The restaurant is good looking. There are photos of famous football players and there are autographs all in a square near the bathroom: Gene Stallings, Jim Nabors, tons of Bear Bryant memorabilia. The restaurant itself has a kind of sports bar look to it. Above our table were football helmets: Alabama, UGA, etc.

White bread and an orange barbecue sauce came out first. Ribs and the rest of our order came out soon after. The ribs were covered in sauce but clearly had a smoke ring. Flavor was normally provided by the sauce, which I’d rate as very good. There were spots where the ribs had no sauce and in those I could taste smoke flavor. If I go back, I’m going to see if I can get the sauce on the side. Rib type are the large Saint Louis style ribs, and the serving size was plenty given the cost.

We had hot wings here and they were large, meaty, excellent. I’d rate the wings sauce as excellent. They had very good baked beans and a decent pulled pork sandwich. I had the sausage sandwich and I’d rate it as very good, the sausage tasty and spicy. My daughter loved her mac and cheese, said it was very cheesy.

Plusses include the smoke pit open to view. Anyone that wanted to could see how their ribs were being cooked, the wood being used, the smoke flowing through the meat. Watching the pit master is part of the charm here. Minuses are the delivery of the ribs covered (drenched really) in sauce. Dry and sauce on the side would be better, in my opinion. I suspect you can get them that way if you ask. As this was my first time at any Dreamland BBQ, I didn’t ask.

Service was not only good, the waitress was very personable. The service was good enough my wife was commenting on it for quite a while. Serving size, given the price, was good. There were plenty of leftovers and we would have taken them all had we been close to home.

Verdict: Given mixed opinions about this eatery in GA, was surprised by the quality of the ribs. Highly Recommended.

Dreamland Barbecue
101 Bridge Avenue
Northport, AL 35476
(205) 343-6677

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