Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Dreamland Barbecue (Roswell, GA)

10730 Alpharetta Highway
Roswell, GA 30076

Dreamland BBQ on Urbanspoon

Dreamland Barbecue in Roswell, Georgia has been calling my name for quite some time now. Originating in Tuscaloosa, Alabama in the late 1950's, Dreamland now has two locations outside of Alabama which are both in Georgia. I was curious to see how this "Alabama style" BBQ would compare to our recently visited Williamson Brothers in Marietta. Famous for their pork spare ribs, Dreamland continues to receive recognition in the Georgia-Alabama area. The Georgia Barbecue Hunt was now en route.

The Georgia Barbecue Hunt Team (consisting of myself and Jamie) arrived for lunch at around 11:30. This location is typically busy for lunch so we tried to beat the crowd while also hopefully scoring the freshest meat straight off the pit. When you arrive at Dreamland you're promptly greeted with the smell of fresh burning hickory (which I was informed is shipped weekly from Alabama). If you follow the smoke straight inside, you'll immediately see two pits when you walk in the door. I spoke with the gentleman manning the pits who told me that they typically keep their pits at around 500 degrees. I was shocked. Cooking at this high of heat takes you out of the BBQ style and straight into the grilling category. I looked closer into the pit and could see the pork butts and spare ribs cooking, grill marks covering the ribs. If you're cooking low and slow grill marks should be nonexistent. At first glance when opening their menu, I immediately noticed one beef! I then opted for their famous ribs and sausage with coleslaw and baked beans while Jamie decided on the pulled pork with green beans and mac 'n cheese.

The food arrived at our table promptly. Dreamland offers one sauce which is best classified as Memphis style, tomato based and tangy. I enjoyed their sauce as well as the Sunbeam white bread that's included with each plate. I initially tried the sausage which was juicy and flavorful. Not a lot of smoke flavor, but it was still enjoyable. Next were the "famous" ribs. After seeing how they were cooked when walking in, I felt like I knew what to expect: not a lot of smoky flavor, tough, and possibly dry. I was right...and in these cases I don't enjoy being right.  In general, spare ribs are typically a little less tender than back ribs. Quick-grilling them doesn't usually do much for their case either. Spare ribs have a lot more meat on them which makes them delicious and flavorful when properly smoked, often preferred over your typical back ribs by many BBQ fans. If they're not smoked or cooked long enough to break down the meat and fats, then you'll just be left with a tough rib and a lot of work to get the meat off the bone. I noticed these ribs were also devoid of any rub or much seasoning as well. I had a couple bites and that was it. I let our waitress know how disappointing the ribs were. She was sweet about it and the manager had more fresh ribs and sausage brought out immediately. Unfortunately these ribs weren't much better. Still tough. Still disappointing. My sides were just ok. The beans tasted exactly like a can of Bush's baked beans with nothing added. The coleslaw was good. It was crunchy with a good amount of dressing.

One of the good things about arriving early to most BBQ joints is that you'll usually get the freshest, just-smoked meats. On rare occasion you'll unfortunately get yesterday's leftovers. Jamie was unlucky enough to get yesterday's scraps. It only takes a bite to notice old pork. The under-seasoned, old pork was a disappointment to us both. After a couple small bites she was done. Luckily for her she decided to get some of the best green beans we've had in a long time as her side. They had pieces of sausage mixed into the beans and were perfectly seasoned. I would have gladly traded both of our meals for sausage, bread, and green beans. The mac 'n cheese was a little bland and definitely nothing special.

Our final assessment was that Dreamland wasn't as dreamy as we had hoped. Serving yesterday's meat is not something that will get you repeat customers. If you ever happen to find yourself at Dreamland I'd suggest not straying far from the sausage and green beans. While they use a proper pit and hickory wood, Dreamland's BBQ has a long way to go if they'd like to be considered one of the best in Georgia.


  1. I work across the street from these guys and the smell drives me wild. Every day i smell it and i'm tempted, but like you every time i go i'm disapointed. I do think their sauce is tasty. I find myself drowning my pork in sauce.

  2. I have been to 4 Dreamland BBQ locations over the years. The one near UAB in downtown Birmingham, the original in Tuscaloosa, Mobile and the one in Roswell. For some reason the 3 Alabama locations far exceed the Roswell location as far as tastiness and tenderness. I though it was just me, but you described it perfectly when you said they were day old ribs. I've eaten at The Roswell location maybe 5 or 6 times over the years hoping to get a good batch, but never have, they are always dried out. Which is a shame because I know that they can be prepared much better as I have experience that at their other stores.

  3. I've been enjoying these reviews, and where we've been to the same places in the Atlanta area we almost always agree. I've got three questions for you.

    1) Do you ever have any reason to go into Alabama, and are you interested in reviewing places there?

    2) As for the wood smoke smell at Dreamland and at Jim N Nicks (also originating in Alabama)... I've got the idea lately that a different variety of hickory might be more prevalent in Alabama than Georgia. The smoke at Alabama joints (including their satellites in GA) always smells sweeter to me, and the Georgia places smell more earthy or something. That make any sense to you?

    3) When's your next review coming out? It's been too long! :-)

  4. I buy their sliced pork sandwich, with sauce on the side, inside cut, and a side of slaw, half sweet/half vinegar slaw, which the waitress put me on to, YUM! Tried their other sides, UGH. Pecan pie, heated, with a scoop of vanilla icecream, to die for! Tried everything else, and not worth the money. Their attendence is down too. Wonder if they lost the GOOD cook. Seldom go there now, except when I need BBQ sauce. They bottle their own, good value, great taste.The one bad meal I got, was a sandwich with dried meat and hard skin instead of the inside cut I ordered. Manager very apologetic, brought a new one, and gave me my yummy dessert "on the house".
    They definitely have a special pecan pie recipe, and he and I shared conversation, about it tasting like my Mom's, in Penna. country. He really makes his customers feel like VIP's, and I still go back occasionally when I'm on that side of town.

  5. The Dreamland in Birmingham is not as popular as it
    once was. I have been boycotting (LOL)them for the past 3 years after an unpleasant experience when I ordered an additional half slab of ribs. The half slab would fit on a saucer and when I questioned this the manager told me I should have ordered the large end of the slab. I got a call from the manager after I complained and was offered another half slab. (Not worth the time.) There was a time when I would take several employees there for lunch. Now it is Full Moon BBQ.