Syracuse, New York: Dinosaur BBQ

At this point, if you’re a regular reader, you know I’m a BBQ fanatic. Meat that’s been left to smoke for hours on end, bathing in a succulent bath of its own rendered fat, custom spice blends, and just soaking in all that fire and wood is truly a work of art.

Since I’ve been back in North America, I haven’t had a chance to smoke anything at home, due to my green egg being surrounded by a small pile of snow. So when my wife and I took a trip to Syracuse to celebrate our final days as a childless couple, there was no doubt a trip to Dinosaur BBQ was happening.

Dinosaur BBQ opened its doors over 30-years ago; initially as a road side attraction, and later as a full-fledged restaurant in downtown Syracuse. It immediately filled a void in the market place, by providing good quality BBQ to hungry locals. Before the dawn of YouTube, and specialty cooking shows, finding incredible Q in the north-western part of North America was more or less limited to Dinosaur.

We went down on a Saturday afternoon, as the morning’s good weather was quickly turning into cold, drizzly, icy rain. We waited until about 1:30, hoping our early afternoon arrival would result in a better chance to get seated quickly.

Of course, who were we kidding? This place is king, and we were told the wait time was upwards of 45-minutes. True to their word, after standing in the packed house, we were seated 43-minutes later. It speaks volumes to the quality of the food if people are crazy enough to wait 45-minutes during the “afternoon crawl” just to eat this stuff.

Going over the menu is always painful, because everything looks so incredible. Unfortunately, they don’t have the option to order “a sample of everything”. The closest thing they’ve got is the option to pick 3 cuts of meat, and 2 side dishes. I inevitably always take this option, and then spend 10-minutes hemming and hawing with the waitress over which meats to select.

Our orders appeared a short time later, and it was go time. I’d picked side ribs, smoked wings, and brisket, with beans and collard greens cooked in turkey necks. I was looking for a multi-regional blend, touching on Kansas City, Memphis, and Texas all on the same plate.

Just look at that incredible presentation. You know who cooked that? A staff that gives a shit about what they’re serving, that’s who. The brisket had that perfect mahogany color you’d expect, and just pulled apart at the touch. The wings had been cooked through, kissed with smoke, and finished with their signature sauce (which you can find on shelves nationwide around the States). And finally – the sign of a perfect rib?

Look at that smoke ring. That beautiful pink ring around the edge tells you it’s spent the right amount of time getting the love it needs. The bark was slightly crispy, with succulent pork meat coming clean off the bone with each bite. I damn near had a private moment in a very public location!

My wife, meanwhile, was enjoying her platter.

She had opted for a smoked chicken breast, topped with peppers, onions, and mushrooms, with side orders of taters ‘n gravy, and their legendary black beans and rice. Honestly, I was a little jealous she’d ordered the beans and rice, but because we often share dishes, we try not to replicate anything. I have a copy-cat recipe that’s pretty damn good, but there’s always something special about chowing down on the real deal.

Dinosaur has expanded to several locations throughout the Northern US, but if you get the chance to visit the original in downtown Syracuse, do so. The rich history, with graffiti filled walls from thousands of visitors, to the smell of the smokers hard at work as you head down the street towards the restaurant, it’s truly a special place, and one worth the visit. A million stars.

Address: 246 W Willow St, Syracuse, NY
Facebook: Dinosaur BBQ
Twitter: @Dinosaur_BBQ

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