Barbecue is quintessential summer food, and since Labor Day marks the unofficial end of this glorious season, it calls for some serious BBQ action. My new guy is a Syracuse alum so we spent this past weekend traveling around the area, attending a game (Go Orange?), and checking out the local food scene. Dinosaur Bar-B-Que had its start as a roadside venue, catering mostly to motorcycle shows and fairs around New York. The bricks and mortar location was opened in Syracuse in 1988, and they've been a famous local establishment ever since.
The space has lots of character- plenty of wood to soak up the smoky BBQ aromas, "decorated" almost entirely in various bumper stickers, motorcycle license plates, old advertisements and posters, and patron graffiti. Although the surrounding area was completely dead on a Sunday at noon, the place filled up quickly and we were lucky to snag one of the last tables without a wait.
The menu is enormous- you can start your meal with all the classics, from fried green tomatoes to deviled eggs to my favorite BBQ app: sausage, cheese, and crackers.
However, we jumped right to the good stuff. The Tres Hombres plate came highly recommended- with ribs, pulled pork AND brisket, it's a great way to try it all. I didn't want to roll out of the place- thankfully DBQ (great nickname!) provides the perfect alternative, the Tres Ninos ($14.95), a "less spirited" rendition of the Hombres. With two extra-meaty ribs, three thick slices of brisket, and a handful of pulled pork, it was the perfect taste of everything. DBQ has a unique mismatched cooking style: Texas-style brisket, Memphis-style ribs, and Carolina-style pork, and most impressively, they're all done well. The ribs were my favoite- super smoky and coated with a peppery dry rub and slightly spicy vinegar-based sauce.
All of the 'que plates come with cornbread and a choice of two sides. The list of sides is extensive and there are even several additional specials each day. The special of that particular day was a no-brainer for me- a broccoli and chickpea salad. Raw broccoli florets, a bit of shredded carrot and purple cabbage, and chickpeas are glued together by a thick, slightly sweet sauce reminiscent of honey mustard. New favorite way to eat broccoli? Simmered turkey neck collard greens came finely chopped and cooked down, rendering the tough greens into melt-in-your-mouth forkfuls of smoky goodness. This place knows how to make vegetables approachable to the carnivores in all of us.
If you have a personal favorite, you can order a full plate of just ribs, chicken, pork, or brisket. The Big Ass Pork Plate ($14.50) is aptly named- the plate comes with several servings of hand pulled pork coated in their signature sauce. A rack of additional sauces is available for the adventurous types (or if you prefer your BBQ extra-wet)- the garlic chipotle pepper was great on the collards as well. The cornbread is also notable, made with coarsely ground cornmeal and drizzled with honey. Dense and sweet= cornbread perfection.
I never expected to find such good 'que in the great state of New York, but Dinosaur Bar-B-Que is renowned for good reason. Although they've recently "sold out"- opening additional restaurants around NY and NJ- the original hasn't lost it's touch. But who can blame them? The obvious popularity of DBQ- for both the food and the personality- suggests they'd be successful just about anywhere.