It’s a Syracuse stalwart, a local legend, a beacon for barbecue buffs through the country: Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, the master of smoking and glazing. It’s packed every hour of the day, for good reason, and usually my first pick for a comfort meal. But for those who live outside of CNY, Dino’s revered status can be difficult to grasp.
I’m currently tugging my boyfriend—who’s visiting for the weekend—up the street towards the mural outside the Dinosaur Bar-B-Que brick and mortar. Michael is grumbling that we won’t be watching football this Sunday afternoon, especially with money riding on the game. But I’m confident that I’ll win our lunchtime dispute: this meal will be better than football. And he’ll concede defeat with just one bite.
—Gabriela Riccardi, co-editor-in-chief of Baked Magazine. Follow Gabby on Twitter @_griccardi.
1:10 pm: “It smells like America,” Mike remarks as we head to the front door. I take in a full, deep breath. He’s right—there it is, the scent of marinated meat wafting in the air. It’s freedom. It’s justice. It’s honey-glazed, sticky-fingered America the Beautiful. I wipe a tear from my eye, humbled. Or maybe that’s just a reaction to the smoker.
1:13 pm: We’ve waded our way to the hostess in the back and put in for a table. Mike’s hopping forward and back, dodging the waiters and waitresses pushing their trays through the crowd. I’m hopping forward and back, fantasizing gleefully about the tray that will push its way to me later. Barbecue, you will be ours.
Only a few minutes pass until my name comes over the PA. “There’s a table waiting for you in the front,” the hostess calls over an incoming platter.
1:16 pm: Our table has a prime view of outgoing dishes: ribs, wings, fried pickles in all of their battered glory.
I can see Mike’s commitment to the football game slowly disintegrating. He’s side-eyeing the pork sandwiches while trying to keep up a conversation about Calvin Johnson. Who is Calvin Johnson? Our waitress deposits two Diet Cokes on the table.
1:19 pm: I’ve opened my menu to the combos page, enamored. Family style? I’ll take it all, please and thanks. Mike has completely dropped the football talk. He’s lost himself in the barbecue pit plates.
1:24 pm: Our waitress is back. We request a plate of chicken wings. I’m getting pulled pork and chicken with mac ‘n cheese, rice and beans.
Mike asks about the pulled pork combo. Does it come on a bun? No. Well, how about the pork platter? That has a sandwich, right? Nope. Lost, my boyfriend pulls his eyes from the kitchen and orders what I’m having. “I panicked,” he says forlornly as the waitress heads off.
1:31 pm: The wings have arrived, and they are gorgeous: half jerk chicken, half honey-barbecue, all delicious. They’re tender and juicy, pulling neatly from the bone. I elect to eat with a fork. “I’m going in,” Mike says, forgetting to hide his glee as he double-fists drumsticks.
1:37 pm: He’s cleaned off two-thirds of the wings. Mike leans back, yawning. “You can’t fill me with this food and expect me to stay awake for the rest of the day,” he says nonchalantly. I know the truth: the beauty of the barbecue has drained his senses.
1:41 pm: I’m already anxiously waiting for the main course. Mike is falling fast. But I need our food here, now, deep-rubbed and dripping, to knock him over and clinch my mighty victory. Football will not win today.
1:46 pm: Here comes our waitress, parading towards us with her grand finale. She holds up a platter of glorious food—our feast of firm cornbread and soft macaroni, of crispy chicken and smoke-soaked pork—like a brilliant Statue of Liberty in all her splendor. Mike’s eyes are shining. And I know I’ve done it: sweet, barbecue-glazed triumph is mine.
It’s official: he’s pledged allegiance to the Dino. With the power of smoked pork and jerk-drenched wings behind me, I’m unconquerable. Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, you’ll always be my American Dream.
If you go:
246 W. Willow St, East Syracuse, NY; (315) 476-4937
Type of food: BBQ
Hours: Monday–Thursday, 11 am to 11 pm; Friday & Saturday, 11 am to 1 am; Sunday, noon to 10 pm
Sit down/Take-out/Both: Both
Alcohol: Beer and wine only