Sweet dreams

Alumna brings a tasty Crimson Tide tradition to Georgia

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Sweet dreams

Betty Hooks Underwood and husband Bobby Underwood

Photo by: SPECIAL

“Ain’t nothing like ’em nowhere.”

If that slogan sounds familiar, it should. It’s the mantra of the legendary Dreamland barbecue restaurant in Tuscaloosa, Ala., featured on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” ESPN, the New York Times, USA Today and the Food Network. What you might not know is that its co-owner is a Georgia alumna.

“Anybody who knows me… knows that I’m Georgia through and through,” says Betty Hooks Underwood (BSEd ’53).

“My Daddy was such a big Georgia man. He served as a state senator in the 1940s. If any of us had said that we wanted to go somewhere else he would have…,” her voice trails off, as if pondering an unimaginable consequence.

The late Vendie Hudson Hooks Sr. was successful in agribusiness in Emmanuel County, where Betty grew up the fifth of six children. All of her brothers and sisters attended UGA, as did many others in the extended Hooks family.

Underwood arrived at UGA in 1949 and lived in Mary Lyndon Hall her first quarter. She pledged AO∏ and lived in the sorority house for the rest of her time at UGA.

“I remember we used to hold five fingers out to catch a ride from Clark Howell to Five Points,” she says. “And the stadium wasn’t all that big. You could just walk right down into it from the dorm and sit in the student section.”

After earning a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, she met Bobby Underwood in Savannah and they married in 1957. A graduate of the University of Alabama dental school, Bobby Underwood set up a practice in Jasper, Ala., where he and Betty live today.

The rustic café Dreamland, owned by John “Big Daddy” Bishop, opened just south of Tuscaloosa in 1958. It would be 20 years before Bobby Underwood discovered it.

“A friend of mine, an athletic trainer at the university, invited me to Tuscaloosa to play golf,” he recalls. “Afterward, he said, ‘Let’s get some ribs.’ And I fell in love with the place. That was in the mid-to-latter ’70s.”

Dreamland became a regular stop for the Underwoods when they visited their children in school at UA. Bobby began talking to Bishop about opening another store.

“He kept telling me, ‘OK, we’ll talk about it,’” Bobby recalls. It was several years before Bishop relented. “He would be cooking in a back room on an open pit, and I would have a beer and smoke a pipe with him,” Bobby says. “He and I became real good friends. And then finally, one day, he said, ‘If you want to open a store, talk to my daughter.’”

That was in 1992. The Underwoods opened a second Dreamland restaurant near the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 1993. Since then, they’ve opened locations in Mobile, Huntsville, Montgomery, Northport and two locations in Georgia, Roswell and Alpharetta.

Now in their 70s, Betty and Bobby take a less active role in managing the restaurants, but still enjoy watching Georgians discover the Dreamland ribs and tradition.

—Michael Childs is the director of public information for the UGA College of Education. The original version of this story appeared in the 2009 COE magazine.