Here’s one for all you BBQ lovers. I went to Dinosaur Bar-B-Que in Harlem tonight and it was finger lickin’ good. For those of you who enjoy the likes of Fette Sau, Blue Smoke and Hill Country you should definitely check this place out. The location might be off-the-beaten path (literally off the West Side Highway), but when you step inside the vibe is kickin’ and the place is mobbed. Yes, even on a Sunday night in August. Luckily for me, I was running late to dinner so I missed the 45-minute wait for a table and joined right in with my friends who already knew my order. I was all set!
Like any good ‘roadhouse’ BBQ joint, the brews were flowing and everyone seemed to be enjoying a casual throwback meal. Even those waiting for their coveted tables seemed to be enjoying the experience. If you’ve been to any of the other aforementioned NYC BBQ restaurants you know the deal: Fette Sau is beer from mason jars and picnic tables full of lunch trays with ribs, brisket and tons of sides; Blue Smoke is more “upscale” as you are seated at your table, waited upon and delivered your southern cookin’; Hill Country is cafeteria-style fun where the ribs and brisket are sliced in front of you and you shuffle down the counter for your sides, etc. “Dino” is a hybrid of them all. A little more upscale with the table service and more deliberate decor, but the food is no frills and served on plastic plates (like those you would get in grade school at the cafeteria separated in thirds for each part of the meal – one third for the veggies, one third for your meat and the other for your starch. … got the visual yet?). The menu has all the BBQ classics and then some.
My standard order is a half rack of baby backs so why should tonight be any different. The pit plates come with corn bread and two sides. Another must for a proper BBQ joint – great sides! Dinosaur Bar-B-Que does not disappoint there as you can choose from 14 sides on the menu. I went with cole slaw and BBQ beans with pork. The ribs were tender and the meat came off the bone easily with each bite. Another key to good BBQ is obviously the sauce. I knew the ribs were good when I did not have to smother them in extra sauce to get adequate flavor out of them. They were already smoked with the succulent sauce and I just added a little more for that extra kick. The corn bread was tasty, the cole slaw was not overpowered by mayo and the beans were fine but could have been a little more flavorful. My other friends ordered pulled pork sandwiches and brisket, and there was also some mac n’cheese floating around the table. They are all regulars at Dino so they knew exactly what they were doing. I do not think anyone had any complaints as the table was silent during feasting time and there was barely any food left on the table when we were finished.
If you do not live uptown in Harlem and enjoy a good plate of ribs, pulled pork or brisket I would say Dinosaur Bar-B-Que is worth the dining exploration. Yes, you may have to fight off the long waits, but stop complaining and go grab yourself a beer at the spacious bar. I am sure there will be some sports game playing that will entertain your time. In terms of “strategy”, you can try your luck on OpenTable but you might get stuck with the utterly annoying 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. slots. News flash – no one wants to eat at these times! Those reservation slots are just insulting (that’s just a brief general dining rant right there).
Dino also has live entertainment on the weekends, so if you are looking for more than just a meal it might be worth checking out their calendar of events as well. I would just recommend going up there and toughing out the lines. And let me take a second to adequately set your expectations. Do not make this your next dining choice if you’re expecting some high-class meal where your are doted upon and served a five-course meal on white table cloths. What you get is simple, but it’s good and tasty. If you know anything about BBQ you’ll know that’s exactly how it should be.
Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, 700 W. 125th Street, NY, NY 10027. Phone: (212) 694-1777.
When To Book: Dinosaur Bar-B-Que takes reservations on OpenTable, but if you want a “normal” dinner time I suggest booking 2-3 weeks in advance. Otherwise, walk-ins are welcome or you can always do take out.