646 W 131st St, New York, NY
When we’re out in the city one of my favorite places to stop by on the way back to Jersey and pick up some dinner is Dinosaur Barbecue — it’s conveniently located right off the West Side Highway in Harlem, by the 125th Street exit across the street from Fairway Market. I love the whole biker, badass image of the place — and you could almost say that it was a Disney/Epcot-like portrayal of a biker roadhouse, if it was not for the fact that real badass bikers actually go to eat there and the owner, John Stage, besides being a BBQ genius is a badass biker himself. His original restaurant up in Syracuse (which is still in business) is the real deal. Dinosaur also opened a Rochester location in 1998 as well.
Ever since the New York City branch opened in December 2004 I’ve been a huge fan of the restaurant and its food. Despite the tough biker image, the owners and the people who work there are as nice as can be and the Q itself holds up to some of the best barbecue I’ve had across the country. Stylistically, its hard to tell what BBQ region its emulating — they have both Carolina and Memphis-Style pork and also BBQ chicken and Texas-style Brisket, and have things like Churrasco chicken sandwiches and BBQ Cuban sandwiches on the menu. If pressed, I’d have to say this is really a New York Style of BBQ that is now slowly emerging and becoming its own.
Storefront on West 131st Street in Harlem.
It’s not uncommon to see a lot of these parked outside, given Dinosaur’s biker bad boy image.
I love the bar area at Dinosaur, you really feel like you are in a true roadhouse in the middle of NYC.
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The takeout counter.
The takeout menu.
A busy night at Dinosaur, shortly after its opening in December 2004.
The interior of the men’s bathroom in December 2004. Dinosaur encourages graffiti in its bathrooms. Right now that dinosaur on a hog picture is no longer visible because every square inch of the walls is covered in graffiti. I wonder if at some point they’ll paint it over and start again.
The Bevador, Dinosaur’s vintage soda cooler.
Staff, December 2004.
Owner John Stage (right) with one of the other main pit masters (2004).
Dinosaur has 3 J&R “Oyler” smoking units which in total allow the restaurant to smoke up to 2400 pounds of meat at a time. Because this is an urban setting, and smack in the middle of Manhattan, the restaurant uses any kind of BBQ-friendly woods (Hickory, Cherry, etc) that are available locally at any given time, so there is some variation in the smoke flavor depending on what time of the year you eat there. Back when the restaurant opened in 2004, a few of the initial reviews implied that the restaurant didn’t use much wood because they couldn’t smell smoke in the dining room. Having been in Dinosaur’s smoking room and seen the cords and cords of wood that the place goes thru, and having sampled their barbecue many times, I can assure you they use a TON of wood in their ‘Q. The reason why you can’t smell smoke is because the restaurant has a massive ventilation system which New York City required they install for health and safety reasons.
Dinosaur’s BBQ and hot sauces. By far my favorite is the Wango Tango, its got the sweetness and tangyness of the regular BBQ sauce, but its got a fair amount of habanero chile in it as well.
Pulled Pork Platter
BBQ Chicken with Honey Mustard Sauce. I’m a huge fan of the BBQ chicken at Dinosaur, its something they take extra care with to keep juicy and moist, unlike a lot of other BBQ places that see chicken as an afterthought.
Storefront in the evening