Since Nashville is near Memphis, TN, I felt that I may have a chance at some incredible barbecue. Bar-B-Cutie was recommended and the long lunch line showed promise. We waited thirty minutes to be served, which set me up with empty hopes.
The baby back ribs looked promising, but all hope was lost as my teeth discovered that they were overly cooked. They tasted okay, but the meat pratically fell off the bone and I could taste that they were definitely finished off in the oven.
The barbecue chicken looked institutional, like the middle school lunch lady would award as a penalty for cutting in line. It definitely basked in the warm glow of an oven.
The best part was the pulled pork. It was average and predictable. If you want authentic barbecue, try another joint.
Last week I endured a marathon road trip to Portsmouth, VA and back to Shreveport in four days. It was somewhere on the order of 2500 miles. I went to assist a friend transport a mobile kitchen for Mercy Chefs. We only slept 3-4 hours a day so that we could cover these miles. As a result, we had our share of truck stop food.
On December 4, we decided that we needed to enjoy some fine BBQ, not once, but twice. Our first stop was at Smithfield’s Chicken ‘N Bar-B-Q in Fayetteville, NC. That evening we were passing through Birmingham, AL and had to make a stop at Dreamland BBQ.
Everyone knows that I’m a BBQ junkie. I take my fifteen year old daughter on Texas road trips to seek out and savor the best BBQ. I was pleased to sample some Carolina BBQ. I’ve heard about it and my chef buddy I was accompanying actually made Carolina BBQ on a deployment in Chambrun, Haiti. It was delicious then and I expected nothing short of perfection in North Carolina.
You may think a pulled pork sandwich is just a pulled pork sandwich. If you blindly accept that error as truth, then you live an empty life. I don’t want to sound mean, but the sweet pork tangified with the right amount of vinegar elevates this humble sandwich to something epic.
I was skeptical of the slaw on the sandwich as I really don’t like slaw. There is something unappetizing about shredded cabbage coated with a runny mayo. This slaw wasn’t runny and I had to try the sandwich as it was intended.
I’m not going to say that I became an overnight fan of slaw, but the crunch paired with the soft pork works. The fries were frozen, but were mightily fried and I hungrily scarfed them down.
My only regret is that I was too full to sample the fried chicken. The week prior, I enjoyed Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken in Little Rock, AR. I suspect that Smithfield’s chicken was insanely good. I’ve never been to a restaurant that sells sacks of fried chicken skin. If they sell chicken cracklings, the chicken itself must be unmatched. Maybe I’ll have the opportunity to pit Gus’s and Smithfield’s against each other one day, but in the meantime, I’d like to see a restaurant at home sell fried chicken skin.
Our trip back from Virginia is nearing its completion, so we had to celebrate with a second round of BBQ today. As we passed through Birmingham, AL, we decided to stop at Dreamland BBQ.
I have heard many good things about Dreamland. I actually visited the Mobile, AL location a few months ago. The ribs were tough last time, so I thought I needed to try a different location at a different time.
We started with BBQ nachos with pulled pork. Those alone are worth a visit. The nachos are loaded with meat and jalapeños and are sure to please. I also have to state that I love the sauce. It is tangy and spicy and is the perfect complement to any meat. It is served with white bread. If you are given white bread for dipping, you can feel confident that the sauce will enhance the meat.
Now for the ribs. They are hickory smoked. That is notable for two reasons. First, the hickory imparts a very unique taste to the ribs. These spare ribs had incredible flavor. However, hickory burns hot and can leave ribs tough, just like the first time I ate them. I want the meat to release from the bone with a little effort. I don’t want to fight the ribs which is what happens when you consume tough, leathery ribs. I like the flavor, but tough ribs are bad news. If you want tender ribs, just go to Tyler, TX.
As for the sides, they were nothing special. Typical baked beans and potato salad. Probably Sysco brand and they aren’t even punched up. You can punch up a can of beans and make them phenomenal. Or you can heat and serve. These happen to be heat and serve beans. If you want to be dazzled by beans, you may want to visit The Cotton Boll Grill.
Conclusion: BBQ nachos are required eating. Don’t waste your time on sides. The sauce is excellent. The hickory smoke is great. Stick with pulled pork or chicken. The leathery ribs get a ding for toughness. This establishment is worth your time as it scores three stars out of five.