In this post, the Eats Sheet and the Book Revue join forces to review the Dinosaur Bar-B-Que: the restaurant, the book, the legend.
The original Dino BBQ was a road outfit, peddling their smoked meat wares at state fairs and biker gatherings. After 5 years on the road they opened the a restaurant in Syracuse, NY in 1988. At first just take-out, they expanded to include a bar and live blues before long. In 1998 the Rochester location opened in an old station of the defunct Lehigh Valley Railroad, overlooking the Genesee River. In 2004 the Dino opened its third restaurant, in Harlem.
The Restaurant (Rochester)
The first and most important thing you need to know about the Dinosaur is that the food is absolutely fantastic. Not surprisingly, barbeque stand-bys like ribs, smoked brisket, and pulled pork are the foundation of the menu, but Stage's years on the road took him all over the south, and the Dino's brand of 'que is a dusky blend of authentic influences from Texas to Memphis. In addition, there are strands of Asian, Cuban, and Creole influences laced throughout the menu. Because the Dino is a rib joint, you would be remiss to not try the ribs, but the combo plates and the BBQ samplers are a good way to get a wide taste of the menu.
The goodness doesn't stop with the main dishes, though. Part of the Dino's appeal is the sides menu. My three favorites are the fresh cut fries (always crisp, never limp), the Cuban Black Beans (a great accompaniment to pulled pork), and the Honey Hush Cornbread. The Dino also has Saranac Root Beer available on tap (it comes in pints) and a variety of bottled root beers (including Pirates' Keg). If you're looking for wings, though, don't come here. The BBQ chicken wings are good, but they are not the Buffalo Wings that you would find in an average upstate
The great thing about the Dino cookbook is that it is not just a set of instructions to make a product. It is a book of principles that can be applied in practice to the craft and the art of fine bar-b-que food. Think of the recipes as canvases on which an artist can work. It includes important instructions on how get authentic smoker flavor out of a tiny kettle grill, how to avoid overcooking a piece of meat, and how to tell when a stake is done without piercing it with a thermometer and letting all the juices out.
The book also tells you how to develop a palette of basics from with to work your art. How to create spice rubs, sauces, and marinades. My favorite dishes out of the cookbook are the Oven Roasted Mojito Chicken, and the Cuban dish, Ropa Vieja. If you're looking for a quick meal, don't look to the Dinosaur Bar-B-Que cookbook. If you're willing to donate an afternoon or even a weekend to the creation of culinary art, this is a great place to start.
The book is available on the Dino's website, but it is cheaper if you get it from Amazon.