of slow-cooked flesh enters the brain. Our conversations slip
from multisyllabic intricacies to onomatopoeic grunts. We
drink. We eye each other’s women. From there, it’s mere seconds
until we’re bruising one another with fists and firewood,
hollering obscenities, drawing blood. A fresh round of beer,
and we’re all happily gnawing the bones of this dizzying fare.
amalgam of African, European, Mexican and Native American
fare—may be the most truly all-American dish. It has as many
ways of preparation as there are grills and ovens, and as
much partisanship as talk radio. It’s primal. It hits the
brain’s limbic system in the amygdala, not far from the lobes
that send you mate-hunting. Everything here works together:
Fight with your mate and you can vent your pain by singing
the blues. And so there are blues performers here.
avian males sport colorful plumage to encourage courtship.
High- flying human males ride bikes. Motorcycles, that is.
Preferably Harleys. Dinosaur Bar-B-Que began as a biker bar—began,
actually, at a Harley Rendezvous near Albany in the early
1980s, when founder John Stage and a couple of friends put
together a portable barbecue rig to feed their fellow enthusiasts.
In 1988, the nomads put down roots, opening the flagship Dinosaur
Bar-B-Que in downtown Syracuse; the owners tripled its size
two years later, adding a full bar and full-service dining,
along with live music. I reviewed the restaurant for this
paper in 2001.
time, I asked Stage if an Albany Dinosaur might be in the
offing. He laughed at the idea and said he was looking further
down the road—literally to Manhattan, where a Harlem-based
unit opened in 2004 and endured a recent relocation.
may have slowed the Troy arrival a bit. Certainly the building—formerly
the unlamented Fresno’s, and Castaways before that—shows the
result of a needed makeover. The view of the river remains
one of its most charming assets; the parking lot, especially
for a busy restaurant like this place, remains a too-small
go so far as to say that the Dinosaur smoked ribs recipe is
the true and only way, but I’ll note that I’ve been smoking
meat according to the recipes in the restaurant’s excellent
cookbook for a decade now and see no reason to use any other.
And when I don’t feel like mixing up dry rub for the rib racks,
prepping the fire (which in itself takes an hour) and minding
the 16-hour cooking process, it’s nice to know that I can
score much the same thing so much closer to home.
heart, the menu has smoked ribs and brisket, pulled pork and
barbecued chicken. Ribs by the rack come in clusters of six,
nine or 12, with cornbread and two side dishes for $16, $21
or $25. The homemade sides include barbecued beans, which
I believe I’ve ordered with every Dinosaur meal I’ve ever
eaten, potato salad, whipped sweet potatoes (garnished with
bacon, an excellent touch), barbecue fried rice, cole slaw
and—I can’t believe our server talked me into this—mac and
about seeing my own offspring tuck into a bright orange pile
of the stuff when she was little put me off it forever, or
so I thought; here it’s the real thing, however, and while
it may not be fettuccine Alfredo (my preferred styling), I
enjoyed it more than I care to confess.
of my meal were a couple of old friends: sliced brisket, a
pink, perfect vehicle for that particular cut of beef, and
a pile of pulled pork, which is sui generis. I make
my own sauce at home, but I don’t dare make anything like
their Wango Tango Habanero sauce, which would piss off my
wife because it’s very spicy and annoy my daughter
with its presence of sugar. I piled it on.
usually plenty of meat when we do it at home, so Susan is
forced to find new ways to enjoy my pork. Putting it between
two buns is a lively, if slightly messy option, but it’s addictive
enough that she did it again at Dinosaur. The Memphis-style
sandwich ($7.50, $10.50 with two sides) is a good-sized meal,
made all the drippier with the addition of coleslaw, without
which no such sandwich should be enjoyed.
include fried green tomatoes ($6 for 3 pieces, $9 for 5),
smoked shrimp remoulade ($9) and an excellent preparation
of smoked chicken wings (13 for $13, with smaller portions
available) with your choice of mild to medical-grade sauce.
You’ll even find a unique preparation of deviled eggs ($4-$12).
not even getting to the skirt steak, the rib eye, the catfish,
the churrasco chicken. The fish is marinated in buttermilk
and tabasco ($15), the $25 pound of rib eye is cold-smoked.
And when you’re finished, they’ll try to sell you dessert.
The selections are homemade, sweet and sometimes silly, like
the chocolate icebox cake that was like dipping your face
in frosting. But a serving of apple cobbler with ice cream
hit the spot. After which my well-fed wife was happy. Friendly.
Pliant. I didn’t even need a Harley at that point.