Real smoked BBQ in New York? Get it at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que

It is often said that the sense of smell is the most powerful of all the senses due to its ability of association.  Smell can generate an image into one’s mind of an object or the taste of an irresistible meal.  

As one who spent his fair share studying behavioral psychology and the function of the brain, I would have to agree.  

Heck, I experience those associations firsthand anytime I smell my mother’s homemade vegetable soup or even by driving past my favorite fried chicken joint.  So why am I such a strong proponent of association by smell?  It’s quite simple really: when it comes to tracking down the best places to eat, my sense of smell has never steered me wrong.

Imagine a crisp summer afternoon in downtown Syracuse, New York.  

The temperature just barely cracks 75 degrees, a calm wind keeps your inner equilibrium in check when all of a sudden you are ambushed by the seductive scent of slowly smoked barbeque.  Ladies and gentlemen, you read right.  In its prime state, slowly smoked barbeque is the food equivalent of the human pheromone.  

Upon taking in such an intoxicating aroma, I was piqued at just exactly where and what was able to send my sensory perception into such upheaval.  Luckily for me, my trek was neither long nor arduous and it ended at the doorstep of Dinosaur Bar-B-Que.

Before I go into meat and potatoes of my experience (no pun intended), let me make one thing perfectly clear: Dinosaur Bar-B-Que’s exterior is definitely nothing to write home about but there was something about the sidewall art and duplex establishment that beckoned my attention.

The exterior of Syracuse's Dinosaur Bar-B-Que
Outside Dinosaur Bar-B-Que comes alive in Syracuse. //PHOTO – Dinosaur Bar-B-Que

The business doubled as both a biker bar and restaurant but I did not let that intimidate me.  Inside I was immediately greeted by the rich scent of smoked wood and meat.  Once I was able to come down off this metaphorical high, I was happily greeted by a server and promptly seated.  

Once seated in the bar area, I took the time to look around and see what building has to offer.  Much to my surprise, signed pictures of Johnny Cash, B.B. King, and Adam Richman to name a few were within eyeshot of my seat.  

I knew that if such high profile individuals ate here then I managed to stumble across a culinary stalwart, and boy was I not wrong.  Once my amazement finally subdued,  this is where the truly shining experience began.

Not only was I handed two menus, one for the food and one the beers, I was also given a rack of the various made from scratch sauces.  At first I was a little puzzled but upon further examination the range of sauces included everything from the very sweet and tangy Kansas City style glaze to a blistering hot habanero concoction crafted for only the bold and the daring.  

After some indecision, I reached out to my server for her recommendation.  

I was told that Dinosaur Bar-B-Que is best known for their fall off the bone ribs, sweet and tangy baked beans and a cold macaroni salad to help balance the entire dish.  Upon further recommendation was a bottle of Abita’s Purple Haze.  During the prep time for my meal, I pondered the saucy possibilities by thoroughly examining each option in the rack and finally let my inner dare devil take over and went habanero all the way.

After a short wait the food arrived and I dove in.  

A plate of barbeque from Syracuse's Dinosaur Bar-B-Que
Billy’s barbecue plate.

There are always two key components I look for in properly smoked barbeque: tenderness and a generous smoke ring around the meat.  I can confidently say Dinosaur Bar-B-Que knocks them both out of the park.  

The ribs were fall of the bone tender and had a smoke ring that highlighted not only the natural flavors of the pork but complemented it with a nice smoky bark on the exterior.  Needless to say, this foodie was in heaven…at least until the habanero sauce quickly brought me back down to earth.  

That was my first and only lesson that this sauce needs to be used very sparingly.  Perhaps a mix with a milder sauce would create the perfect balance? But I degris.

Barbeque is the chemistry of being able to balance the smokiness of cooked meat with a complement of additional flavor from the side dishes.  

I honestly believe there exists no wrong option for side dishes at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que.  

Heck, I would have ordered them all if my digestive system allowed.  However with the accompaniment of baked beans and macaroni salad to the delicious half rack of perfectly smoked ribs I was able to get a harmonious balance of flavor with each bite.  At the end of the day, being able to achieve that balance is what separates a true pitmaster from an amateur barbeque chef.

Dinosaur Bar-B-Que offers additional items for their guests as reminders of their experience such as t-shirts, gift cards and bottled sauces straight from their rack.  While I decided to not partake in any items, I will definitely grab a bottle of sauce upon my next visit.  

Smoked meats from Syracuse's Dinosaur Bar-B-Que
Smoked goodness. //PHOTO – Dinosaur Bar-B-Que

During the early summer evenings, live bands are booked to provide additional entertainment for the guests as well, a truly welcome change from the generic radio singles blasted over the PA in most chain restaurants.

I cannot say enough positive things about the time I spent at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que.  

While the outside was not very inviting, inside one will find a relatively quiet restaurant during the day that dishes out some of the best barbecue I have been able to experience thus far in my quest of finding my culinary Mecca.  

Be sure to arrive hungry as the portions are Jurassic in size and could easily feed two people.  I know one of the most important things people consider today is the value of their money at a restaurant, and Dinosaur Bar-B-Que provides reasonably priced entrees beginning around $10 and up depending on your selection.  And with the portion size they provide, it is more than worth it.  They provide top quality barbecue in a welcoming environment managed by a knowledgeable wait staff to ensure every guest feels at the top of the food chain when dining here, and with that, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que receives an unmatched 5 out of 5.

Dinosaur Bar-B-Que has multiple locations across New York state, and one in Baltimore, MD.  For menus, business hours, catering, and upcoming events at each location, please visit their website.   

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