Hidden History: Dreamland Barbeque

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As the saying goes, ‘ain’t nothin’ like ‘um, nowhere.’ Dreamland Barbeque has come a long way since it opened as a hill-cafe in Tuscaloosa in the late 1950’s. But if it wasn’t for a dream – Dreamland could have been a final resting place.

It’s hard to stay hidden–when your ribs are the stuff of legend. But the history behind Dreamland Barbeque is a little more mysterious–just like some of their recipes. But just like the restaurant’s famous motto goes, there almost really wasn’t anything like them–anywhere. Because former brick mason and founder ‘Big Daddy’ John Bishop was contemplating opening a mortuary instead. But as the story goes — his decision was made thanks to a dream.

So in 1958, the same year the Bear started coaching at ‘Bama, Bishop opened his hillside café in the Jerusalem Heights community in Tuscaloosa. At that time – they served all kinds of things – and even sold postage. But at the end of the day, he always ran out of ribs, and he had these other items leftover, so like a true entrepreneur, he skinned his menu down to just be ribs and that was how it all began.

“We feel like we’re very good ambassadors, you know?  Food is the great equalizer. Food and sports sometimes, and if we can just be a part of that and be a part of people’s memories, their fun memories, their family members, their sports memories..That means a lot to us.”

Hidden History, a celebration of black history, is sponsored by Missouri Southern State University.

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