Dinosaur Bar-B-Que routinely finds its way onto a fair number of Best NYC BBQ lists, but though the massive Harlem restaurant has been open since 2005, tales of long lines and epic waits always kept me away. The Dino BBQ family keeps growing however, so when a new outpost opened on a semi-sleepy stretch of Gowanus (bordering Park Slope) in June, I figured now’s my chance to check out Dino’s much-loved ribs, before everyone in else in Brooklyn gets the same idea. Yeah, too late. When my party of three arrived at 6:00 on opening-weekend Saturday, we were greeted with a warm smile and a promise of a ”60- to 70- minute wait” for a table. But because it was an exceptionally pleasant early-summer’s evening, we joined the throngs on the sidewalk. And, in the end (it was actually only like 45 minutes), were glad we did.
Now, if you’re only talking about the meat–its intensity, juiciness, deliciousness–Dinosaur Barbecue Brooklyn isn’t as good as say, Mighty Quinn’s in the East Village, or Briskettown in Williamsburg, or even Gowanus neighbor Fletcher’s, just down the road a piece. But for families, for packs of friends, and for anyone looking for a party to go along with their smoked meat, the appeal of a Dino BBQ dinner is clear. This is a fun place, with a big crowd-pleasing menu, lots of alcohol options, and an ample bar area at which to get loud and scope the crowd before your meal. It may not be for everyone, the Dino BBQ scene, but it’s obviously for a lot of people.
The three of ordered as much as we could from the Dinosaur Barbecue menu/mini-book, and enjoyed, but weren’t wowed by, pretty much everything we tried. To begin our feast the Swag Sampler Plate seemed to be the way to go, featuring, in order of tastiness from best to less best: chewy, dense Fried Green Tomatoes, meaty Chicken Wings, decent Drunken Spicy Shrimp Boil (though these are mostly about the horseradishy cocktail sauce), just ok Deviled Eggs. Skip the Sausage, Cheese and Crackers starter: all three elements here are bafflingly bland.
Dinosaur Bar-B-Que’s core reason for being is, of course, the things the kitchen can do to cows, pigs, and chickens, and we managed to try a healthy variety of the menu’s meaty options. The St. Louis Ribs were the clear winner here, whether ordered in a “Pit Plate” or as part of Combo Platter, the pork fatty and tender–though a tad too chewy around the ends (I know, the ends are good chewy, but not this chewy)–the rub and sauce giving it a nice kick. The BBQ Chicken was also quite good, for all of the same reasons, though we only tried the dark meat.
The sides, and we had many, were consistently upper-tier, from the Mac-n-Cheese to the Black Eyed Peas (these were my favorite) to the Turkey-Neck Greens to the Mashed Potatoes with Gravy. The only semi-clunker at this stage of the game was the Pork BBQ Sandwich, topped with sweet sauce and crunchy cole slaw, none of which was uninteresting on its own, but piled together on a bready roll just became kind of a glob. Keeping it simple seems to be key at Dino BBQ Gowanus.
Dinosaur Bar-B-Que Brooklyn is located in Gowanus, on Union Street between Fourth and Third Avenues. Dino BBQ is open every day at 11:30 a.m., and until 11:00 p.,m. on Monday to Thursday, until 12:00 midnight on Friday and Saturday, and until 10:00 on Sunday. Reservations are accepted for parties of all sizes, though they obviously keep a lot of tables free for walk-ups. Lots more information can be found on their website.