Thursday, May 14, 2009

Review: Dinosaur Bar-B-Que

Name: Dinosaur Bar-B-Que
Address: 246 W Willow St, Syracuse, NY
Neighborhood: Downtown
Menu: View Menu
Cuisine: Barbecue
Alcohol: Full Bar
Restaurant Hours: Monday to Thursday 11 AM - 12 AM, Friday to Saturday 11 AM - 1 AM, Sunday 12 PM - 10 PM
Parking: On-Street
Accepts Credit Cards: Yes
Accepts Reservations: No
Take-out: Yes
Delivery: Yes (available through TakeOut Xpress)

There comes those days when I have a complete and overwhelming hankering for Dinosaur Bar-B-Que. I don't know if it's some kind of weather pattern or new moon or what, but every once in a while it will hit me and all I think about is getting my fingers messy and stuffing my face full of barbecue chicken.

In case you live in a bubble, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que is the itso-facto for barbecue food in Syracuse - if not all of Upstate New York. They have three locations (1 in 'cuse, 1 in Rochester, and 1 in Harlem) with the one on the corner of Willow and Franklin Streets being the original. It first opened in 1988 strictly as a take-out barbecue establishment, and by 1990 had grown to double its size while adding a full bar and waitress staff. Fast forward to 2009 when they have expanded even further - knocking down the bathrooms, moving them back, and opening up more floor space for tables, as well as expanding to the 2nd floor in a space that can seat large groups for predominantly banquets and receptions.

I walked over to Dinosaur Bar-B-Que on a Sunday evening. I suppose I could have driven over, but the walk ended up doing me good as I had one of the best meals that I've ever had at Dinosaur and in hindsight, really needed to walk off the extra weight I had amassed from such a large and wonderful meal. I was about a block away from Dinosaur when I could smell the outdoor cookers in the air. It got me so pumped. Walking up along side the building, you'll see a few picnic tables for outdoor dining, hear blues music over the PA system, and more often than not, see a row of motorcycles along Willow Street (that is, if the weather is nice - in the winter, it's not uncommon to see a row of snowmobiles).

It's a loud and rowdy biker bar, and the interior reflects that with vintage music posters, provocative bumper stickers, and name carvings adorning just about every spot on the walls and around the bar. It's a crowded, noisy, and boisterous atmosphere. It might sound intimidating or off-putting, but it isn't. It's a fun vibe and as you might not expect, the crowd demographic isn't all rough and tough. Inside you'll find a wide range of people like townies, bikers, suburbanites, tourists, white-collars, blue-collars, college students, and families.

Odds are going to be that it's crowded and you'll likely have to wait for a table, so you can grab a spot near the bar to kill some time, get a drink, or people-watch. Once it's your turn for a seat, don't expect to be lead to a table. Keep your ears open, as the hostess will announce your name over the loud speaker and tell you where to sit. On it, you'll find a vinyl table cloth (this makes the wiping the table clean of various barbecue sauces easier for the waitresses), wet naps, and a tray of hot sauces, canned hot peppers, and various Dinosaur Bar-B-Que sauces like Wango Tango, Garlic Chipotle Pepper sauce, and their Foreplay dry-rub.

The menu has everything you would imagine from a barbecue joint: pulled pork, Texas brisket, ribeye steaks, and pork sandwiches to name a few and even has a few surprises like fried green tomatoes, deviled eggs, and catfish strips. The beer selection is decent with regionals from Middle Agess Brewing Co, Ommegang, Saranac, and Ithaca Beer Co among others.

The order...

Middle Ages Ape Hanger Ale: $5
Jumbo Roaster BBQ Chicken Wings (w/ Wango Tango): $11.95
Leg, Thigh, & Ribs House Special: $12.50
1/4 lb of Drunken Spicy Shrimp: $5.95
Total Money Spent with Tax & Tip: $44.50

Pictured here is the Ape Hanger Ale from Middle Ages Brewery.

This was good. I don't know how often I would drink this beer on its own, but something about the flavor went really well with the smokiness and tanginess of food. It had an fruity and apricot finish to it that seemed to tie in really well with the barbecue chicken, shrimp, and wings.

Pictured above are the Jumbo Roaster Bar-B-Que Chicken Wings with Wango Tango sauce: spice rubbed, pit smoked, then finished on the grill. Served with blue cheese dressing, celery and carrot sticks.

These were some of the best wings that I've ever had. They might not be wings in the traditional sense of the word, but they were sooo delicious. Big pieces with juicy chicken, slightly crispy skin, with a tangy and spicy Wango Tango sauce. I wish I could come up with better words, but these wings were absolutely amazing. And you wouldn't think so coming from a place that is barbecue oriented. If you are skeptical and haven't had them yet, I would suggest giving these a shot. I want them again right now.

Pictured here is the meat combo (chicken leg and thigh, 1/4 rack of ribs, fries, macaroni and cheese, and honey hush cornbread) with a 1/4 pound of drunken, spicy shrimp.

The chicken was cooked perfectly. Nice and moist. And the skin and barbecue sauce were both amazing. A little bit of kick and very sweet. The ribs were good: tangy, tender, smokey and almost fall-off-the-bone (I hate that expression, but it's true). The peel and eat shrimp were excellent: cooked in boiled beer, Old Bay seasoning, cayenne, and other spices and served with a cold, habanero cocktail sauce. The shrimp were delicious and decent-sized too. The seasoning was good. It didn't hold on to the shrimp after peeling the shell, but the flavor is all there when you lick your fingers (which I was guilty of doing over and over again). It probably could have been a little spicier, but I couldn't complain because the cocktail sauce elevates the heat level. It was a bit more like a barbecue sauce than a cocktail sauce, but it was still very tasty. The fresh-cut fries were awesome. Lightly salted and crispy (not crunchy) left with a little bit of skin on them. Just excellent. The macaroni and cheese was good. It was a bit of kick to it, though it was a little too heavy for my liking. That didn't stop me from chowing down though. And finally, the cornbread was good. I could definitely taste the honey. Though, I thought it leaned on the dry side.

Some other things of note...

- The have a full take-out section, known as the Express, located on the side facing Willow Street

- There are very few vegetarian options on the menu

- It can be a tourist trap on the weekends and during local and University events, so plan accordingly

- Your clothes will reek of barbecue afterwards

- Happy hour is from 3:30 PM to 7 PM Monday through Friday

- The waitresses are sassy

- There's live music every night from Monday to Saturday

Overall, this was a fantastic meal. It was one of those meals that I'd be happy eating over and over again forever. 5 stars. Hands down. And I'm not giving it 5 stars just for the sake of giving it 5 stars. It's easy to do that when you're reviewing a place that is so regionally well-known and a place that you've come to love. Honestly, this was really the best meal that I've ever had here and possibly one of the best that I've had in Syracuse.

My rating of Dinosaur Bar-B-Que:

Your rating of Dinosaur Bar-B-Que:

Dinosaur BBQ on Urbanspoon


Bob and Tia said...

Yeah it always feels like a cop-out to give Dinosaur high marks, but trust me, they earn it.

A couple years ago my wife and I went to almost every rib joint in Rochester and even one in Florida. While Beale Street hung in there (have to plug a local joint), Dinosaur was ultimately the overall winner and winner in most categories used to make that determination.

Best ribs I've ever had, no lie.

nikki said...

And this year Dino was named best BBQ in the country...or maybe it was world...or maybe they said universe. Unfotunately this makes me question the research done before this claim as I have discovered that Dinosaur isn't even the best BBQ in Syracuse. I reccomend Limp Lizard, located in Western Lights- And get the Ribs! I used to disagree with my parents and get angry when they would go to the closer (to us anyway) and cheaper restaurant until I lived on my own and really started comparing the two.

PLUS Most Syracuse Coupon books will contain at least 1 for Limp Lizard!

Note-Dino's Wango Tango Chicken Wings ARE the best chicken wings you're gonna find.

Josh said...

Limp Lizard is better than the Dinosaur, but the best, by far, is Bob's BBQ in Homer, NY.

Dinosaur is just a name, these days.

F. Scott said...

Best chicken wings ever. I said it.
Add to that an eclectic crowd, a nice range of tasty sauces, and a good mix of bbq staples like brisket and ribs, and unconventional specials like cabrito quesadillas, and you've got a place that's worth running through a rainstorm for.

Kristina said...

why is it when something is done well and good people have to stomp all over it in this city. i feel like everytime something does well in syracuse people can only beat it down. dinosaur does not even compare to limp lizard....ive eaten at limp lizard A LOT...i worked across the street so you get the point.IT DOES NOT EVEN COMPARE TO DINOSAUR. the reason dino is good is because of three things. (1)The food is all homemade there is not one thing frozen there.....(2) The food is cooked the way it is supposed to be!! smoked for hours, basted, cared for, and (3) It is cooked and served by people who actually care about a product and how the customers feel about it! These three little things are why this place does so well and people come from all over the place to get it. Sooooo.....all you haters can keep kickin your local eats down like you always do but many many hundreds and thousands of people will still continue to support this place because they realize its not a chain restaurant, the food is amazing, and the place actually cares about the customer. i know all this because i used to eat at dino all the time and now i finally work there and its exactly what i thought it was!! i am proud to work there!!