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Dinosaur BBQ - a tourist's review

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magic Mar 10, 2008 09:47 AM

So I was in Syracuse for 24 hours over the weekend. Went to Dinosaur BBQ.

Had a great time! What a fun and fantastic restaurant. True to word, I had quite a long wait. About an hour and a half. But it was a Saturday night, so I wasn’t surprised. The atmosphere was so fun and relaxed the wait didn’t even bother me that much.

The food:

Ordered a platter that had ribs, pulled pork, brisket, cornbread, mashed potatoes, and carrot/raisin salad. Chicken wings to start. Key Lime pie for dessert.

The ribs were nice, but didn’t blow me away. I think the main problem with most of the meat, was that I found it a little light on flavour. I think the ribs were spare ribs, and I am partial to baby back. But that is just my preference. The sauce was nice but not overly distinctive - borderline bland. The brisket was good, not great. The pulled pork tasted nice, but oddly like shaved roast beef! It even was done medium rare, kinda like shaved roast beef. And most unusual at all, it had hardly any BBQ sauce on it. All the pulled pork I’ve ever had has been coated and smothered in sauce. To me, that is what defines good pulled pork. I had to add my own sauce, which was on our table. And when I did, the sauce gushed out everywhere, which annoyed me. I wouldn’t have had this problem if the pulled pork had come coated in its own sauce. All this said, the meat was still nice and homemade, and made with love. That was clear.

The best protein I had was easily the chicken wings appetizer, which were grilled. They were tasty and juicy, charred beautifully and had the most divine blue cheese sauce. Wow were they ever good.

My cornbread was heavenly, my mashed potatoes were just incredible, and the carrot/raisin salad (more of a slaw, really) was amazing –– a nice surprise.

To me, the star of the evening was easily the key lime pie dessert. Apparently all of the desserts are homemade. Again –– nice. The key lime might have been the best pie I’ve ever had. Certainly the best key lime. Wow.

The only other thing I ate in Syracuse was a pulled pork sandwich at the Carrier Dome. Honestly, it was far better than Dinosaur’s pulled pork. Smokey, sweet, soft, luscious. Oh my. It was a real treat. Perfect. I coulda eaten 3 of them. The smell filled up the hall of that section of the Carrier Dome and it pulled me in. Bravo.

Oh, service at Dinosaur BBQ was pretty much perfect. Friendly as anything, and didn’t miss one beat. I definitely look fwd to going back when I am in Syracuse again. So much fun.

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  1. Fred19 RE: magic Mar 10, 2008 11:23 AM

    I like Dinosaur also, but do not care for their sauce. I order the ribs dry, which isn't all that dry and they do taste good. Many places serve pulled pork without sauce, such as down in the Carolina's. They usually have a choice of one sauce, red pepper in vinegar. No matter how good the pork is, it is still pretty boring. At Dinosaur, there is a choice of a few sauces to add, and I usually find one that I like. You should really try their cole slaw, it is excellent. Lots of cold draft on tap also. It would really be great without the crowd.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Fred19
      m
      magic RE: Fred19 Mar 10, 2008 11:37 AM

      Hmm, I did not know some pulled pork is sometimes served sans sauce. Interesting.

      I think Dino’s pork would have benefitted from some sauce though. Homemade. Not sure if they use fresh made sauce or use sauce that was produced in mass quantity for their bottled sauce sales.

    2. l
      lawnguylandguy RE: magic Mar 20, 2008 06:26 AM

      All the pulled pork I’ve ever had has been coated and smothered in sauce. To me, that is what defines good pulled pork.

      That is NOT what is defined as good pulled pork.... Even in the Carolinas they add only a little to just make it a bit more "wet" or moist.... the abomination of smothered, soaked, dripping, covered until the sauce rolls off the bone, is not in any way traditional.... In factg, at most good Que places they should bring it to your table dry, and let you put the amopunt of sauce on the meat... It's all about the meat, not the sauce...you should get your pulled pork with only a hint of sauce, then ruin it yourself by adding gobs of sauce.. no thank you.. I would not ever visit a place that serves BBQ like a factory

      7 Replies
      1. re: lawnguylandguy
        c
        corky RE: lawnguylandguy Mar 20, 2008 07:22 AM

        right on lawn!!!

        1. re: lawnguylandguy
          t
          tastelikechicken RE: lawnguylandguy Mar 20, 2008 11:59 AM

          yeah, I have to agree. It's not about the sauce but the pitmaster's skill in getting the right balance of spice and smoke into the pig. The sauce is a condiment only meant to heighten the flavor overall and with Carolina Q the vinegar sauce cuts the fat. Even a Yankee like me knows that.

          1. re: tastelikechicken
            m
            magic RE: tastelikechicken Mar 20, 2008 12:26 PM

            I disagree. I think it's about the marriage between the pork and sauce. Of course the meat is important! So is the sauce. Sure there is the art of mastering a pit. Of course. I don't disagee with you there. But are you guys saying there is no skill or art in sauce making?! Wow....

            Listen, there are schools of thought on almost every anchor in cuisines around the world. Dry, saucy, white meat, dark meat, garlic, no garlic. I'm entitled to my opinion, as are those who fall into the camp I believe in. Of which there are more than a dozen I can tell you. And as for Dino BBQ, the pulled pork could've benefitted from gobs of sauce to ruin it with.

            1. re: magic
              t
              tastelikechicken RE: magic Mar 20, 2008 01:36 PM

              If we're talking about ribs or brisket, then yes, the mops and sauces need to bring everything together with the mop keeping the meat moist while cooking and the sauce giviing a good glaze at the end of cooking. And yes there is an art to making sauces, thats why culinary schools have a whole class on sauces, both the classic styles and contemporary like BBQ. In the case of pulled pork, it is most commonly associated with North Carolina. Vinegar is the most important ingredient. The simpliest sauce I ever saw served on pulled pork was apple cider vinegar and red pepper flakes. That's it, nothing else. And it was great. I prefer a little tomato product in my sauce which is accepted but not truely traditional. Keeping with tradition, pulled pork is served with cole slaw on a roll. Now for me, that's where the sauce comes from. THe dressing from the slaw mixes with the meat and it's juices and create a unique flavor combo and a great texture contrast. Like many things, there are BBQ purists(like me) and those who prefer a litlle twist(like you). Nothing wrong with that. Makes for an interesting conversation.

              1. re: tastelikechicken
                m
                magic RE: tastelikechicken Mar 20, 2008 07:25 PM

                I'll raise a glass to that tastetlikechicken. Well said.

                1. re: magic
                  Lazy Susan RE: magic Apr 16, 2008 11:52 AM

                  You can order any of the ribs, brisket, pulled pork at the Dino BBQ "wet" and they will sauce it up for you before serving it.

                  Also- try the baked beans side. Heavenly.

                  And I totally agree on your Key lime pie opinion. The best ever.

                  1. re: Lazy Susan
                    m
                    magic RE: Lazy Susan Apr 16, 2008 12:10 PM

                    The key lime pie was just mindblowing. I’ve honestly never had key lime pie like that before. I won’t forget it. I tried some of my friend’s baked beans, and you’re right, they were great.

                    As I said above, I was really impressed with their sides – much more so than their meats. The cornbread, carrot/raisin salad (really, it was a slaw, I don’t know why they called it a ‘salad’), mashed potatoes, and baked beans were superb. Key lime pie stole the show, with the mashed potatoes following not far behind.

                    Not sure if saucing the meat would’ve improved things much (I found the meats themselves so-so, sauce or no sauce), but if I go again, I will remember your suggestion. Thanks!

        2. s
          soupkitten RE: magic Apr 16, 2008 12:43 PM

          lol your pork was not "done medium rare" that's probably the pink of the smoke ring you were seeing! and they served it sans sauce so that you could appreciate it and then add the sauce of your preference. . .

          that said, we bought the dino cookbook years ago and cooked several things from it. pretty weak overall-- everything needed tweaking. never did try to make the key lime pie. seems like the food probably loses something when you take away the gimmiky atmosphere of the establishment.

          1 Reply
          1. re: soupkitten
            m
            magic RE: soupkitten Apr 16, 2008 01:27 PM

            No, I know what a smoke ring is. This seemed medium rare. It almost looked and tasted like a nicely done medium rare roast beef deli slice. Had nothing to do with a smoke ring.

          2. j
            jhopp217 RE: magic Apr 16, 2008 12:59 PM

            I have not been to the one in Syracuse, but have been to the one in NYC. I don't even want to call it plain run-of-the-mill BBQ, I want to call it plain run-of-the-mill food. Nearly everything was average. Brisket was bone dry. Pulled pork flavorless. Chicken wings -blech, BBQ chicken - decent but average, Ribs - terrible. Bakd beans - eh, mac & cheese (I didn't try but my buddy loved it), cole slaw - actually pretty darn good. The best part of the meal was the apps - peel and eat shrimp while nothing spectacular, were a great start. The fried green tomatoes were the best thing I ate there. One thing I will say is that the place was mobbed on a weeknight. There were 10 of us, so the 20 minute wait (with reservation) didn't bother us at all. That beign said the service was on point. terrific. We actually had the son of one of the owners in Syracuse as our waiter, or so he said. He was the best. I don't remember desserts, because I passed in favor of a few more beers.

            I was going to point out your medium rare faux pas, but someone else did already. I also have to disagree with the conrbread. I've had packaged cornbread the tasted better.

            The only thing that would get me to go back was the good time we had. A Friend's 40th Birthday made the food almost secondary. Plus, I'm always for giving a place a second chance.

            1. d
              Docsknotinn RE: magic May 20, 2008 07:05 AM

              Were doing a road trip in a few weeks from Detroit to Maine and will be heaed East on 90. Can any one give me some idea what the traffic is like in this area at lunch time? How long does it take to get to Dinosaur and back up to 90? Yes I can google the maps but I can't tell what the traffic flow is like in this area. Also if any one can tell me if there is good parking here I'd appreciate it greatly.

              Thanks in advance,
              Dave

              6 Replies
              1. re: Docsknotinn
                Fred19 RE: Docsknotinn May 20, 2008 07:34 AM

                I cannot imagine it taking more than 5 minutes to get there from Route 90. You will spend more time finding a parking space.

                1. re: Fred19
                  d
                  Docsknotinn RE: Fred19 May 20, 2008 08:02 AM

                  Thanks. Does the restaurant have a parking lot or is it street parking?

                  1. re: Docsknotinn
                    m
                    magic RE: Docsknotinn May 20, 2008 08:09 AM

                    If they have a parking lot, I didn’t see it. But then again, it was dark and rainy so I might have missed it. I don’t think there was parking provided. I parked on the street. Street parking was free when I parked for some reason (on a Saturday night). Free parking on Saturdays or weekends possibly??

                    1. re: Docsknotinn
                      Fred19 RE: Docsknotinn May 20, 2008 02:13 PM

                      There is street parking, some of it metered. It is on the edge of a business district. I have never found parking easily, but eventually always found a spot. There are parking lots that you can pay for. One tip is to get to the restaurant about 11:30 for lunch, because after 12 the place gets packed.
                      ~Fred19

                  2. re: Docsknotinn
                    r
                    Rasher RE: Docsknotinn May 22, 2008 10:18 AM

                    I was there last summer and found a municipal parking lot a block away. I forget street names, but facing the front of restaurant, if you walk around the left side one block and turn right, there will be a parking lot on your left. You just park and put money in a box that corresponds to your space.

                    As for the food, I found the texture and moistness of the pulled pork perfect, but actually flavorless.
                    The fried green onions with Pecorino did not impress.
                    The mac and cheese was very good.

                    1. re: Rasher
                      d
                      Docsknotinn RE: Rasher May 22, 2008 11:25 AM

                      I'm afraid I'm going to have to skip this stop. I will have too much photo gear packed to leave in street parking.

                  3. d
                    dude RE: magic May 20, 2008 09:10 AM

                    In the last 6 weeks I've eaten at the Rochester and Syracuse branches. These places scream good BBQ to me, as in Syracuse you can smell wood smoke from down the street and in Rochester the woodpile is by the front door.

                    I agree that the wings are the best, though they're clearly barbecued, not grilled. With a little sauce on them, who'd want to go to Buffalo?
                    The ribs are very good, though my own are better. I though comparable to Adam Lang's in the city.

                    Brisket was consistently underdone and short of smoke

                    Pulled pork was excellent- I'd eat it weekly if I could. Lack of sauce made the quality of preparation shine through. I've become partial to the garlic/chipotle sauce, haven't really tried others.
                    From what I've read, the Manhattan outpost is somewhat inferior to upstate.

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