Dinosaur BBQ: revisited… twice!

Ladies and gentlemen: there is nothing more patriotic, in my mind, than eating barbecue food on Independence Day. There is just something about July 4th that is forever intertwined with barbecue food for me, possibly from years at various summer camps where this tradition was always reinforced. When I am looking for excellent barbecue food these days, there are a few options in New York City which are noteworthy; the best choice for me is Dinosaur BBQ. This Harlem institution is packed every night, but the wait is always worth it:
Dinosaur BBQ
700 W. 125th Street
New York, NY
4.25 stars
In order to write this review, I visited Dinosaur on two consecutive Mondays, one of which was July 4th. My impressions represent my collective thoughts for both dining experiences. The first thing I noticed at Dinosaur was that there was a great deal of ambient noise around me, partially due to the size of the dinner crowd and the music playing at a slightly elevated level. However, the staff couldn’t have been any more friendly despite the fact that the service was slow on both occasions. The scent of great barbecue is in the air from the minute that you walk in and things only get better. I found the vibe to be quite relaxed; people seemed laid back and even the staff appeared to be informal and in high spirits. With all of that being said, I know that all of my great readers really have only one question in mind at this point: How was the food? Thanks for asking!
I started each meal with an appetizer of barbecued chicken wings. These are probably the best wings in New York City, the barbecue sauce just permeates throughout the entire wing while the outside still remains crispy and this combination of texture and flavor is outstanding. I wouldn’t call the portion of chicken wings generous; compared to other restaurants it’s fairly standard but entirely worth it. Dinosaur has a great deal of options for your entrée, from chicken to catfish even to Korean ribs. However, my favorite is always one of their great samplers. On my first visit, I tried the traditional sampler, and I was blown away: one quarter chicken, a quarter rack of ribs, and a few slices of BBQ brisket, plus sides of macaroni and cheese and sweet potatoes and cornbread all included in the price!! In terms of the meat, I will rank each one from worst to best:
3. BBQ chicken: At another restaurant or diner, this chicken would have hit the spot, but it didn’t suffice here. The skin was liberally rubbed with barbecue seasoning, and there was an ample amount of sauce on the chicken. When I diagnosed the problem, I realized that the inside of the chicken was still dry and lacked seasoning. The chef was not able to make this chicken moist and flavorful on the inside in the same way as the great chicken wings. 3 stars
2. From here, the food only gets better, and it was a very difficult call to determine which meat was second best. This award goes to the ribs, which are probably some of the best ribs I have devoured in New York City. The first thing I noticed was how tender they were; they seemed to be literally falling off the bone (but not in a strange way). The flavor was outstanding: the barbecue sauce had a nice kick of spice without being overwhelming and the entire portion of ribs was filled with the same flavors as my first bite. These are a must: 4.5 stars
1. Dear readers: Some of you might be unaware that I am Jewish, and one of our yearly holidays is Passover. (I’ll skip the religious portion and get right down to the food) My mother makes an extremely delicious brisket every year for this holiday, with a secret combination of wine, seasoning, and vegetables. This is the only brisket I ever really enjoyed and I never order it outside of my home. What is my point you might be asking? Dinosaur BBQ changed all of that. The concept of barbecued brisket seemed foreign to me when I first tried it, but I soon started to love it: Dinosaur barbecues their brisket for 14 hours (yes, really, 14 hours), and then slices it. The result is a moist, flavorful, tender slice of sweet and spicy brisket which is mind blowing if they cook it right. (During my first trip this month, I found the brisket to be overly fatty, so I asked for it to be lean next time and… perfection!) 5 stars
For my second meal at Dinosaur, I ordered the tres hombres sampler: this is similar to the traditional sampler except that it substitutes pulled pork for the chicken. I have never ordered pulled pork before, although I have tasted it when one of my friends ordered it. At Dinosaur, they take pork shoulder and barbecue it for 12 hours and then shred it into chunks. I was picturing long thin shreds of pork, but I really enjoyed the tiny morsels: they were tender, flavorful, and the barbecue sauce really held on to them. 4 stars
The sides at Dinosaur are always good and high quality, but I am starting to wonder if it’s really worth eating them. The size of the entrée portions is rather large and I always wonder why I get full so quickly. Blame it on the mac and cheese! In any case, the macaroni and cheese never disappoints: a personal mini tub of a casserole of gooey macaroni and cheese. I have tried several sides and most of them are tasty, but I am thinking that in the future I will concentrate more on the entrée and order lighter sides like vegetables or succotash.
Random notes: the cornbread is fine but nothing to write home about, the sweet tea is authentic (I should know) and necessary, desserts are appear to be delicious although I still have not tasted their chocolate ice box cake. If I have not convinced you by now to try Dinosaur BBQ for yourself, then there is something wrong with me or this review because my goal was to articulate and share my experience with all of you. This great city offers so many options for tasting food from different parts of the world, and for great barbecue food, Dinosaur is the place to be. Until next time, stay classy world!
Dan

2 thoughts on “Dinosaur BBQ: revisited… twice!

  1. Dino BBQ is amazing…. thank you for introducing me to what has become one of my very favorite food places in the city, if not my very favorite!!!

  2. My mouth watered while reading this- I always wanted to try that place & after reading will definitely check it out. Will let you know how it goes- thanks Dan 🙂

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