Well, I went to Dinosaur yesterday, with my handmaidens NYCBBQ and Canchito. Here is the news, short form:
RUN DON'T WALK if you are interested in real barbecue. I had eaten Dinosaur's off-site product at the New York State Fair, and thought it passable, but unremarkable. I see now that this was an unfair sample. The barbecue being produced up on 131st st (just seconds off the west side highway)is on par with the next-to-top level of barbecue found throughout the southland. Let me repeat that. Dinosaur is good barbecue, not for New York, but on an absolute standard. It's not as good as Kreuz Market or Dreamland; but it's in the same rarefied air. There are some aspects to it that I would change, such as a concentration on hickory wood rather than the oak / hickory / fruitwood mix I think they are using, or the introduction of beef ribs, or the outright abolition of sliced brisket flat; but these are minor quibbles in the face of Dinosaur's achievement. Their bbq is unmistakably redolent of hardwood fumes, and stands on its own with only the most austere touch of sauce. (I am speaking of the sauce they cook and serve with -- the actual Dinosaur sauce, sold in bottles, is worse than Kraft.)The ribs are smoked right up to the point when KCBS judges begin deducting points -- that magic moment when the muscle fibers, now as red as claret, begin to separate from the bone and each other. Judges like to see firm meat with a pink ring, meat that will leave a mouth-shaped indentation after biting. But if you're anything like me, barbecue is best when transformed into a dessicated vessel for melting pork fat and the smell of smoke. This Dinosaur delivers, and in spades.
Among the lesser entities on the menu, the pulled pork is coarse and juicy, prodigal with the presence of "Mr. Brown", and as far from that cat food-like mincemeat, in its vinegar bath, as a great tagine is from Dinty Moore Stew. Chicken wings are big, and marinated (so sayeth Robby) in cuban mojo; but they are undersmoked, a sad missed opportunity. And the brisket, though moist and completely orthodox, suffers from the aforementioned flat problem. The Hooters-style waitresses are trained well, and even knew what I was talking about when I asked for meat from the "deckl"; but in fact, I got the flat, along with a small saucer of 2nd cut brisket sent by the owner, whom I had pompously informed of my identity. I ended the meal with one of the best pieces of key lime pie I can remember ever eating. I was forced to get a second piece, as what had been meant as a palate cleanser, soon joined the ribs as an (un)controlled substance.
All in all, Dinosaur was far better than I had any hope of it being, and currently the ne plus ultra of bbq in the northern states. Go there immediately.
But try to go when it's slow; it gets very crowded.
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