Tuscaloosa’s Barbecue Roots
Our great state of Alabama is home to several icons, with the invention of white sauce at Big Bob Gibson’s, to the array of infamous ribs that continue to prove our place in the world of Barbeque. Tuscaloosa has more than their fair share of BBQ legends in town, with iconic institutions that have continued the proud tradition of Alabama BBQ being some of the best in the world. From the dynamic decade of the 60s to the decadent 80s, the druid city has hosted several wizards of the BBQ pit.
John “Big Daddy” Bishop grew up in a turbulent time for the south but came to rise from his job as a cement finisher to the face of his own dream. There was a brief moment where his iconic institution wouldn’t have existed, as he debated on how to provide better for his family with either his restaurant dream or opening a mortuary. Luckily one night, the legend goes; he dreamed about running a restaurant and never could get the dream out of his mind. He then opened up Dreamland the same year Paul Bryant started his coaching career at Alabama. Originally he served classic American staples like burgers but found he had a talent with barbecue. His success leads to the other items being removed from his menu and focused on his ribs. The crowd would grow with a racial diversity in a time where there was plenty of division. Students from the University of Alabama in town would mix in with the black residents who first came to dreamland. Leading to its city-wide popularity. It wasn’t just excellent ribs people came back for, Big Daddy ensured his customers felt like family at his establishment by encouraging his staff and family who worked beside him to create a welcoming atmosphere. People. This combination of legendary ribs and excellent service allowed his dream to grow beyond city limits. Today his success has lead to a franchise that extends across Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. Dreamland continues to grow, with his friendly face gracing the logo of their rib empire.
Tuscaloosa spot on the BBQ map wouldn’t have happened if the Archibald family didn’t open across the Black Warrior in Northport for business. Today, they have several locations around town, but the original house of ribs history starts back in 1962. The husband and wife duo of George and Betty Archibald quit their jobs and along with their son George Jr. opened the BBQ joint. While its location was hard to find at first, many were determined to find the source of the scented hickory smoke. Once inside people were greeted with a small menu packed with flavor with pork shoulder and slabs of ribs alongside white bread and the potato chip of the south, Golden Flake. The tiny house only offers three seats at the counter, six in a small dining room, but plenty of picnic tables to enjoy the long warm Alabama days outside. Archibald’s iconic status in Tuscaloosa wouldn’t be complete without a tie to the legendary coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. Considered to be one of his favorite spots to eat, many more people have since followed the coaches footsteps to find its hardly changed since his era. Today, the success of the Archibald family has grown into three other locations under the name Archibald & Woodrow’s BBQ, and serves the classic ribs, alongside wings, pulled pork sandwiches, and several sides. The sweet hickory smoke now wafts across the city, but its source will always be the charming little house that is packed with over 50 years of a well-smoked pit and some of the best ribs of the south.
The established barbecue scene around town had become well understood by the 80s, with Dreamland growing and Archibald’s smoke wafting over the city, locals and tourists alike came to understand the flavor found in the college town along the Black Warrior. Three university students, from Athens, Huntsville, and Tuscaloosa became close friends united in their love of southern cuisine and culture. It was in 88’ the boys met Moses Day to learn the ways of fire roasting meat. Moses had a pit set up in his backyard that grew to be well known around town. The boys would leave their southern state for the Rockies in Vail Colorado to refine their cooking skills. Eventually opening up something they came to find was lacking in the mountainside state. They boys would use the skills and pit mastery they learned from Moses to open up Moe’s Original BBQ bringing Alabama style barbecue to the North. Their popularity allowed them to come back to Bama with locations across the state, and eventually to the place where it all started. Opening their Tuscaloosa location in 2010, nine years since they began their own dream of contributing to the legacy of barbecue in Alabama.
Today, any visitor to this college town can find more than enough barbecue to satisfy their savory desires. From local legends and icons to the city’s ability to inspire the future generation of pit masters to a national level of success, it’s easy to see why we are well marked on any BBQ map.