The original Dreamland BBQ has been serving slabs of pork ribs since 1958. Many Alabamans know the name, but John and Lily Bishop opened their first café in Tuscaloosa as a rib and juke joint. The Bishops’ kids, Jeanette and John, Jr., still operate the restaurant as their parents did. Nothing much has changed, although today’s menu has an addition of sides: potato salad, macaroni salad and coleslaw. You can still see ribs being grilled over a wood fire where your order will be freshly-made because, according to Jeanette, “…the ribs take four minutes in the pit.” But be prepared to wait for a table, because the word has spread beyond 1958’s neighborhood clientele to where Dreamland has become a Tuscaloosa food institution.
Locals drive out to rural Tuscaloosa to Nick’s in the Sticks, a.k.a. Nick’s Filet House, for great steaks at hamburger prices, like the tender small filet for $9.50! Make sure you don’t pass by because there’s no sign anymore. Owner Lloyd Hegenbarth says it blew away in Hurricane Ivan. But the winds didn’t touch the rustic décor inside. Dozens of signed dollar bills are still stapled to the ceiling, Crimson Tide posters still hang on the walls and the well-worn furnishings are still in place. Steaks, shrimp, chicken, salads, wings, burgers and other “just plain eatin’s” adorn the menu. But their signature drink, the invigorating Famous Nicodemus, is far from plain.
Downtown Tuscaloosa heats up at night. The clubs along Greensboro Avenue, University Boulevard, Fourth Street and 23rd Avenue offer a variety of entertainment. Brown’s Corner Dueling Piano Bar and Grill allows its patrons to eat good food while they listen to and interact with the pianists. The Gray Lady Bar is a sports (uh, football) bar that features the championship years of the Crimson Tide in a wood inlay floor. Don’t miss their two dollar beers and the green drink, Sex with an Alligator. Enjoy cool jazz with a young hip crowd at Little Willie’s.
For more information, go to visittuscaloosa.com.
Photos by Eleanor Hendricks McDaniel