John “Big Daddy” Bishop was a cement finisher when he prayed to God for an idea for a new career and the answer came: open a restaurant. In the segregated south, Bishop wanted a place “where black people could gather” and the original location in Tuscaloosa took three years for him to build. It was popular from the beginning due to its variety of dishes but most of all, for its signature BBQ sauce. There are persistent rumors that the original sauce contained moonshine, but whether it did or not, the “orange-hued liquid miracle, uh condiment” (according to an AL.com writeup) has been the core of Dreamland’s lasting success.
It's not just the tender ribs served with soft white bread and slightly hot sauce that are perennial crowd pleasers. Various locations offer the “legendary” BBQ sandwich, fried okra, Brunswick stew, and a savory banana pudding that, like the BBQ sauce, is prepared according to a secret recipe. If you are unable to get to a Dreamland location in time for the next special occasion or game day, you can make some of their signature dishes at home, for their website offers recipes for everything from Dreamland’s BBQ pork & collard skillet pizza to corn & sausage fritters with honey BBQ sauce.
But what is the secret in the sauce? Many people want to know what the mystery behind the tangy and inimitable flavor is. According to a 2008 article for USA Today, the trailblazing Bishop never disclosed the secret ingredient before he passed away in 1997, and no one has since. Whatever the ingredient is, people keep coming to Dreamland as its ten locations and sixty years in business attest. Undoubtedly, “Big Daddy” Bishop’s legacy will continue as future generations keep eating at the legendary restaurant, for as long as they have ribs the adage will hold true: “Cook 'em, and they will come.”