Dinosaur BBQ: Believe the HypeNovember 29, 2010
The media frenzy surrounding the announcement of Dinosaur BBQ’s impending arrival in the Capital Region of New York was like raptors pouncing on their prey. The Syracuse-based restaurant, with locations in Rochester and Harlem as well, generated a volcano of hype (and some controversy) when they picked the riverfront location in Troy, the former home of Fresno’s. Many thought that the Dinosaur name was just that – a monster of a chain run by corporate CEOs that would devour the neighboring competition, despite creating hundreds of local jobs. Well so far, relations between the restaurant and the community have remained congenial; this could be due to the simple fact that Dinosaur BBQ is really, really good.
The first thing we noticed after stepping out of our car in the not-quite-large-enough parking lot was how great downtown Troy smelled. That was probably due to the giant smoker along the façade of the restaurant – it was nice to kick start the ol’ appetite before we even walked through the front door. And once we did, we were greeted by a very friendly reception team. The décor of Dinosaur BBQ is reminiscent of a rustic southern roadhouse – tons of natural wood, rust-colored piping, buckets on the tables for discarded bones, and a very relaxed atmosphere. This is not a sports bar in any sense of the word – the only televisions were above the bar, and the din of the dining room was filled with conversation and smelled heavenly. Speaking of the bar, they have a very good selection of draft beers, along with some interesting signature cocktails sure to compliment any food selection.
Dinosaur’s menu features a lot of typical BBQ fare, along with some unexpected twists and turns (herbivores need not apply). Appetizers include a spicy “shrimp boil” in a beer broth with herbs and spices; smoked wings; hot link sausage with cheese and crackers; Creole deviled eggs; and fried green tomatoes. We tried the eggs and the tomatoes – the eggs were whipped beautifully with mustard and Creole spices, leaving a slight burn on the tongue. I’m a big deviled egg fan, and these hit the spot. The fried green tomatoes were also great – the breading was light but very crunchy, and the tomatoes were tender but not mushy. They were topped with shredded Pecorino Romano cheese and a zesty ranch dressing, which added a nice flavor.
Entrees feature the standard BBQ meats: pulled pork, beef brisket, chicken, and St. Louis-style ribs, all of which are slowly smoked for hours and hours. They also offer some creative sandwich options like the BBS – brisket, bacon and Swiss; the “pork-sket,” which is brisket, cheese, jalapenos, pulled pork and coleslaw (this sandwich was featured in an episode of “Man vs. Food”); and the hot link sandwich with pimento cheese and pickled onions. All of the BBQ plates come with two sides; you can order the sandwiches a la carte or as a platter with two sides. Dinosaur offers standard sides like fries, coleslaw, baked beans and mac n’ cheese, along with some interesting choices like BBQ fried rice, Harlem potato salad and maple whipped sweet potatoes.
We had the Tres Hombres platter, which gave us a sampling of the pulled pork, brisket and ribs. We also tried the half chicken platter and the BBS sandwich. For sides, we tried just about everything except the collard and mustard greens. The brisket was very good – it was moist and had a good smoke flavor. The ribs had a great glaze on them and fell right off the bone. The pulled pork was my personal favorite, juicy and flavorful. None of the meats needed additional sauce, but the Dinosaur sauces on the table should not be avoided. The original BBQ sauce is smoky and sweet, the Wango Tango has a spicy habanero flavor, and the garlic chipotle pepper sauce is very spicy and delicious. The apple-brined BBQ half chicken was about the size of a normal whole chicken – a huge breast and thigh were smoked nicely, with a great char on the skin and moist meat inside. The BBS sandwich, while it won’t win any health food awards, was spectacular. The brisket and bacon was a match made in BBQ heaven, and the subtle, melted Swiss tied it all together with perfection.
The sides were all good, although some were just average. The fries were well seasoned and were cooked just right, but were a little too salty. If you’re not into vinegar, skip the coleslaw as it was definitely vinegar-heavy, but I liked it a lot. The baked beans were pretty standard, and the sweet potatoes while good, were pretty sweet. The BBQ fried rice was great – for regular fried rice. There was nothing “BBQ” about it, save for the bits of pulled pork and brisket. But honestly, it was better than a lot of the fried rice I’ve had at Chinese restaurants in the area (which says a lot about our local Chinese places). The Harlem potato salad was more like egg salad with potatoes; it had good seasoning, but wasn’t very chunky (as our server had described it). The mac n’ cheese, however, deserves special recognition. The cheese clung to the pasta like a Pterodactyl clenching prey in its talons (okay no more dinosaur analogies). It was infused with smoky BBQ flavoring, giving it a little spicy kick that was just awesome. This is the side to get, hands down.
There is no kids’ menu, but the kitchen was very accommodating – they made a grilled cheese using slider buns, and our server also suggested ordering sauce-less chicken wings for the little ones.
Do not anticipate having room for dessert, as the portions are big enough to feed a T-Rex family (sorry, couldn’t resist). The prices are reasonable, considering the size of each plate – without alcohol, the bill for our party of four (plus a small child) was just over $100 before tip. Dinosaur BBQ did not just live up to the hype; it smoked it, doused it in sauce and ripped it off the bone. Do not expect it to become extinct anytime soon.
The MHK gives Dinosaur BBQ 4 out of 5 stars!