For Sharon Thomas Ransom, barbecue is in her bones. She began learning the craft at age five, when her parents opened a barbecue restaurant in the back of their house. Today – five decades later – she owns and operates Thomas Rib Shack in the community she loves. Thomas Rib Shack is just one of many local restaurants in Tuscaloosa and Northport.
Ransom is as fixed in the community as her barbecue. A natural conversationalist, she entertains her customers and employees all day at the restaurant, and she enjoys being with people. “I love my community,” she said. “We’re resilient. We bounce back.”
About five minutes from downtown, you’ll find Thomas Rib Shack, a meat-and-three restaurant that’s never really advertised, but has thrived for 50+ years.
The food speaks for itself.
“If you have good food, the people will come, ” says Sharon Thomas. Born-and-raised in Tuscaloosa, she’s got a lot of friends, because every person that walks through the door is an old or new one, starting at 10 am and not lightening up ‘til they sell out.
The Southern dishes are down-home, authentic, and consistent, served up in a family-first atmosphere (yep, her kids work there too). Classic fried chicken, fall-off-the-bone ribs, mac-and-cheese, cornbread, and even pig’s feet and chitlins.
Sharon remembers her parents perfecting their famous BBQ sauce in the kitchen when she was just 11 years old, and it’s been the same ever since. That’s what keeps people coming back for more.
What you can expect: “Nothing fancy. Just us.” And that’s more than enough.
A positive outlook: Recently interviewed on her experience during COVID-19, Sharon shared that the most important lesson she learned was to stay focused, stay faithful, and stay committed, she said. “No matter how bad things look, don’t give up. The darkest hours are just before the dawn.”
For a true taste of the south, try Thomas Rib Shack!
If you’re looking for places to eat on gameday in Tuscaloosa, you’ve come to the right spot! Founded in 1958 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Dreamland is hailed as one of the best BBQ joints around and has been a legendary staple in our community and on game day since it began. It’s said that this famous joint serves ribs to over one million people per year.
With a slogan of “Ain’t nothing like ‘em nowhere,” they are most notably known for their hickory-smoked ribs – and it’s true – there ain’t nothing like ‘em nowhere! Over the years, Dreamland has expanded to 10 locations across Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. While they have experienced growth, the original location in Tuscaloosa remains its most unique.
Dreamland truly started with a dream. Founded by John “Big Daddy” Bishop, Big Daddy said that God visited him and told him to open a restaurant and he obliged (lucky us!!). As Big Daddy embarked on this adventure, he began cooking in his front yard. The original Dreamland, which was literally built by the hands of Big Daddy, would eventually open its doors, selling everything from ribs to burgers, and even postage stamps. But people quickly began to take note of the hickory-fried ribs, white bread, and signature barbecue sauce, and soon visitors were coming from all over.
As you enter the rustic looking location, dubbed “the original”, you are greeted with warm smiles and an invitation to “sit wherever you want”. You’ll notice license plates, Alabama football memorabilia, dollar bills and pictures on the ceilings and walls. On the tables you’ll find their famous spice called “shake”, which you can buy. The employees are dedicated – several at the original location have been there for years – and wake up at 5 am to begin preparing the food. One employee, Raymond, has been with Dreamland for over 45 years and Reggie, who manages the pit, has been there for 25 years! Knowing that many of their guests are limited on time, especially on game day, you can also expect quick and friendly service.
We had a chance to visit with the assistant general manager of the original Dreamland, Jasmine Lewis, and she shared that, “People come in from Texas, California, and all over to try our ribs and our sauce. We [the original location] are totally different from our other locations; we serve the same ribs, but everybody says it just tastes different here.”
Speaking of the ribs… after six decades Dreamland still prepares them using the same technique. They roast the pig over a hickory wood fire pit and baste them with their signature vinegar-based barbecue sauce. Also unique to Dreamland is the plain pieces of white bread served before every meal. No, it’s not toasted and it doesn’t have butter on it, but they serve it with their famous warm barbecue sauce for you to enjoy dipping the slices of bread into for an appetizer.Dreamland also makes what we believe is the best banana pudding we’ve ever had! It’s made with crispy Nella wafers and creamy vanilla pudding that makes for a great dessert to end your meal (dreaming about it as we write this). Jasmine confirmed that this, too, is her favorite menu item.
Fun Fact: Jasmine shared that, surprisingly, the busiest day for them is not game day but is actually the Fourth of July. Dreamland is filled with in-house guests, catering orders and their drive-thru, which was a positive outcome from COVID-19 [the drive-thru].
Today is also your lucky day because… drumroll please… on their website you can find detailed instruction on how to make their famous barbecue! You can also purchase many of Dreamland’s staple sauces, rubs, and seasoning online or at one of their locations. The restaurant offers t-shirts, hats, and gold gear, available to ship anywhere in the U.S.
Now, we promise we’re not exaggerating about how scrumptious this BBQ is, but if you don’t believe us, here’s what one Dreamland customer had to say!
“I’ve ate barbecue all over the US, let me say these ribs have everyone beat to a frazzle! Tender, juicy, and best flavor I’ve ever had! Beats Memphis barbecue hands down! And be sure to order the banana pudding for dessert.”Dreamland BBQ Customer
When it comes to places to eat on gameday in Tuscaloosa, there’s certainly many options to select from. Whether you’re traveling to Tuscaloosa or West Alabama for a gameday, or for other purposes, a stop at Dreamland BBQ is a must. When it comes to spots uniquely local to Tuscaloosa, Dreamland is at the top of the list! For more information about Dreamland BBQ, contact Dreamland Barbeque Tuscaloosa at 205-758-8135.
Final Insiders Tip: When you’re ready to give the famous BBQ joint a try, know that the other locations serve the same menu items as the original Dreamland in addition to burgers and chicken options. Sides include mac and cheese, coleslaw, baked beans, and potato salad.