Dreamland Barbecue is an Alabama Institution, But How Do They Stack Up in 2023?

Name: Dreamland Barbecue
Date: 7/22/23
Address: 1427 14th Ave S, Birmingham, AL 35205
Order: Rib sandwich (link to menu)
Pricing: $$

Monk: The only other real opportunity I previously had to try Dreamland Barbecue was on a drive when I passed through the state via I-20 on my way from Charlotte to Austin in 2009. Even though I was somewhat aware of Dreamland, on the longest day of driving (a 12-hour leg from Atlanta to Fort Worth) I prioritized driving time over scenic stops. It wasn’t until 14 years later that I was back in the state and had a chance to finally try their supposedly legendary ribs.

After a fantastic burger and some beers at Back Forty Beer Company, I knew I had a short window before meeting up with Monk cousins later in the afternoon. Luckily, we were staying very close to the Southside location of Dreamland.

After the aforementioned burger and beers, I definitely didn’t want a full rack and even a half rack would have been too much. Lo and behold, the rib sandwich. A rib sandwich is not a sandwich at all – its all about portion control as John Tanner so helpfully points out in this post – and for me it was the perfect size at roughly four ribs.

My sandwich came with a smaller fifth and sixth bone and was served on their own with a side of soft white bread with a cup of sauce. Dreamland’s ribs are smoked hot and fast over direct heat and being that I got there mid-afternoon I possibly (likely?) got some ribs that were cooked in an hour or less. Assuming that’s the case, I could tell by their lack of tenderness. If I ever decide to make it back to a different location, I will try to get there right as they open to have a better shot at getting “pleasantly chewy ribs with salty, crunchy edges” as Daniel Vaughn describes it in his article from 2015.

I will say, the sauce was an entirely new one for me but I enjoyed the tanginess of it. Perhaps it is cousin to the tangy, orange-y sauce I found at Randy’s Bar-B-Q in Savannah but I am only speculating. I do wish I had grabbed a bottle to try at home with my own ribs though.

I also took home a pint of banana pudding and proceeded to eat the whole thing in one sitting a few days later back at home in Charlotte. Well worth it.

I also did try their Magic City Dog, which is a smoked hot dog, from their stall at the Birmingham Barons minor league baseball game the night before and it was a darn good ballpark dog. Would absolutely order again.

I’ll have to admit, Dreamland Barbecue was a bit of a letdown for me, even in my limited tasting of just the ribs. But I don’t think its just me. Speedy was similarly disappointed a few years back in a visit that pre-dated the blog. My cousin who grew up in Alabama and has lived in the Birmingham area for a couple of decades said he doesn’t eat there anymore because of how far it has fallen in his eyes. Sadly, I think at this point I might only try Dreamland Barbecue again if I find myself at their original location in Tuscaloosa and only right at opening.

Atmosphere/Ambiance – 3.5 hogs
Ribs – 3 hogs
Overall – 3 hogs

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