Alabama’s Best Banana Pudding Can Only Be Enjoyed in This BBQ Place, Claims Residents

When Southerners crave banana pudding, they can always turn to a BBQ place. Something about the mix of salty, smoky pork and cold, creamy pudding just works, so it’s no wonder that the state’s favorite version of the dessert is prepared by a famed barbecue restaurant.

Discover why Southern Living readers named Dreamland Bar-B-Que’s banana pudding the best in Alabama in the 2024 South’s Best Awards.

The History of Dreamland Bar-B-Que

Alabama's Best Banana Pudding Can Only Be Enjoyed in This BBQ Place, Claims Residents

Dreamland Bar-B-Que is well known in Alabama for its slow-cooked, hickory-smoked ribs, which were established by original owner John “Big Daddy” Bishop in 1958 at Dreamland Cafe in Tuscaloosa.

Bishop, a brick mason, erected the crimson cinderblock building and the original BBQ pit himself. Dreamland once sold hamburgers and hot dogs in addition to barbecue. But it was their succulent, hickory-smoked pork ribs that kept guests coming back for more, and it quickly became not only the restaurant’s most popular delicacy but also something of a regional phenomenon.

Over the next 35 years, the restaurant’s menu remained consistent: ribs, barbecue sauce, Sunbeam white bread, chips, and Coke. Until Mobile appeared in 1995.

“The people of Mobile basically said, ‘We have to choose sides, or we’re not coming back,’” CEO Betsy McAtee says. “They would actually bring their own sides into the restaurant.”

Two years later, sides (such as baked beans and potato salad) were included on the menu. Mobile created a snowball effect, and by 2000, the restaurant had expanded into a small-scale catering enterprise.

McAtee recalls piling food into the back of customers’ vans and observing pies prepared by competitors. The next day, they started planning a dessert to add to the menu. Banana pudding won because it was Southern, easy to serve for catering or dine-in, and did not require an oven (which the Birmingham restaurant lacked).

Read More: The Brown Hotel Has Kentucky’s Best Hot Brown, Claims Southern Living Readers

Dreamland’s Secret Recipe

Alabama's Best Banana Pudding Can Only Be Enjoyed in This BBQ Place, Claims Residents

Banana pudding is now available in all 11 locations and ranks as one of the company’s top three sellers. McAtee maintains that the recipe is not difficult. “It’s all things you can buy off the shelf,” she tells me. The trick, however, is in the cookie. Dreamland replaces Nabisco Nilla Wafers with vanilla wafers from long-time neighborhood favorite Bud’s Best Cookies–and, of course, “a lot of love.”

“I have people tell me all the time that next to their grandmother or mother or mother-in-law, it’s the best banana pudding they’ve ever had,” McAtee said. “Which I interpret to indicate that it is indeed the greatest, but they aren’t willing to put grandmothers under the bus.

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