BBQ Mecca

I may be a bit late throwing in my 2 cents worth about barbecue, but feel constrained to do so inasmuch as no one, as far as I know, has mentioned the absolute Mecca for barbecued rib fanciers: Dreamland Rib of Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Dreamland is a few miles out of town and when you get there you may mistake it for a hazardous waste disposal site. Then you notice the “dawgs” sleepin’ in the parking lot.

About this time you’re beginning to wonder if that girl at Bama Air was putting you on. Then you notice the Bimmers, the Mercedes, the Hummers, the Cadillacs and such in the lot, and decide to venture inside. Oh yes, you have also, by now, noticed the odors of cooking meat and couldn’t leave if you wanted to. Even some vegetarians and vegans have been known to convert at this point, but they probably hadn’t taken their final vows yet.

When you walk in, what you see isn’t a whole lot more encouraging than the outside, but those smells… Across the room which, if memory serves, seats around 60 or 70 people, is the menu on the wall on a blackboard. Yup. Black slate, white chalk. It says: Whole Slab, Half Slab, Sauce On, Sauce On The Side. Are you after fries? Cole slaw? Anything else? You’re in the wrong place.

The ribs are served with plain ol’ white bread (I suspect a cheap knockoff of Wonder Bread). You can get pop or beer to drink and if you absolutely have to have something else, they’ll sell you a vending machine bag of chips or Cheetos and such. But why would you WANT anything else?

The ribs are slow cooked/smoked until the meat almost, but not quite, falls off the bone. It’s seasoned with a dry rub to die for but, to my tastes, the wet sauce isn’t much account (reminds me of Open-Pit and other yuck sauces made for people who don’t like barbecue). I don’t bother with the sauce, chips or bread. Only ribs and iced tea (unsweetened to please my Yankee tastes).

It’s mostly a family business, sons and daughters, etc. I once asked our waiter (a son) what kind of wood they used for smoking the ribs. He answered, “Well, hickory, maple, pecan, apple sometimes and something Momma won’t tell us.”

One last observation: While you’re waiting for your ribs to show up (and it won’t be long) look around at the walls and even the ceiling. You’ll see business cards for practically every sportscaster, producer, television crew, etc., from any network who has ever broadcast the “Tide” — ABC, CBS, NBC, ESPN, you name it. There’s even a bumper sticker from an unsuccessful candidate for Congress from Michigan.

Enjoy.

Whitney Ballantine
via email

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