After our visit with the Oxford, Mississippi Tanners and a great meal at Southern Craft Stove + Tap, Nancy and I returned to Birmingham to spend some more time with Dear and to talk to her caregivers. It was easing past lunchtime when we finished, and Nancy suggested we go to a barbecue place for lunch before we headed north. Don’t you wish your spouse was that understanding — and selfless? I decided on the Dreamland on Southside, which I’d visited a couple of years before. My Indian Springs classmate, Renaissance scholar and Scottish food maven, Sam Cohn, organized a dinner there for some Indian Springs alumni. Also, going there would let me do penance for my most recent sins (gluttony, a little covetousness — the usual) by suffering through the diabolical I 65/20/59 interchange, Malfunction Junction. It apparently was designed on the same principles as the Alabama Constitution, which has had at least 892 amendments, and they still haven’t got it right.
There are a dozen or so Dreamlands, and this one is a huge, crowded place with no parking lot, plunked down in the middle of a residential neighborhood. (I think Birmingham exempts barbecue place from all zoning regulations.) With all the smoke and noise and parking issues, the local neighbors couldn’t be happier. There’s nothing like the smell of pork cooking over hickory to add charm to a community and attract homebuyers. Wouldn’t you like to have this within walking distance?
Nancy ordered a half rack of ribs
and I ordered a rib sandwich.
Regular readers will be surprised, confused, and perhaps alarmed that Nancy got six ribs and I got four, which is a reversal of the natural order. Rest assured that I was able to restore harmony to the universe by eating two of Nancy’s.
A rib sandwich usually comes with the ribs between two pieces of white bread. Heavily influenced by Derrida, Dreamland serves a deconstructed rib sandwich.
Nancy, being from Connecticut, was unfamiliar with the rib sandwich concept. Most people are. To be clear, you don’t eat it like an ordinary sandwich any more than you’d eat a pork chop sandwich as if there were no bone. The rib sandwich is a means of portion control (four ribs vs. six), and, as you eat, you can give your fingers a cursory wipe on the bread. You then eat the enhanced bread. Dreamland has a superb rib sauce, arguably the best in the world, and you should think of the bread and sauce as a separate dish, one of the world’s great appetizers or sides. (Nancy balks at eating bread with barbecue sauce, so it fell to me to eat all of it.)
In addition to wiping your hands on the bread and licking your fingers, you’ll also need to use those wet napkins, and also wash your hands and your face after the meal.
These were very good ribs. The Dreamland locations are spread across Alabama, Georgia, and Florida, and things can be hit or miss at some of them, especially on football weekends when barbecue places can be overwhelmed by the demand. The Southside Dreamland has been a hit on both of my visits.
We also got sides, although I can’t remember which. At Dreamland, it’s all about the ribs.