Rochester is about an hour and a half away from the Canadian border. I’ve been over the border a couple times to hit up the casino and some bars on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, and while I truly love our Canadian neighbors, I distrust them. C’mon, we all know that their establishment of Timmie’s satellite locations is secretly a ploy for some imperialistic conquest here.
To push back against their attempt to usurp the northeastern States, we’ve got to establish the strongest parts of America’s culture right here in the stronghold of Rochester. And what could be a better representation of this country’s glorious, deeply confused culture than the beloved craft of barbecue food? So, now with this incredibly long monologue finished, allow me to introduce you all to one of Rochester’s finest: Dinosaur Bar-B-Que.
The Dinosaur Bar-B-Que here is actually the second of eight locations across New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, with the other six being in Syracuse, Harlem, Buffalo, Brooklyn, Troy, Stamford, and Newark. The origins of Dino trace back even before the first spot in Syracuse, with the whole operation being a traveling festival-catering group hustle for a trio of bikers. The original Syracuse restaurant was put upin 1988. The Rochester location coming a decade later.
Dino’s history shows in its look. The place is a repurposed train station from the early 1900s and makes that apparent with its brick exterior. The restaurant has an old-school windmill from some mid-20th century farm hanging out in front. On top of the building is a bright neon sign reading “Bar-B-Que,” letting you know what kind of game they’re playing.
On the inside, Dino is a beautiful love letter to shacks and barn houses across the States’ countryside. The entire interior is wood, wood, wood. The floorboards are wood, the tables are wood, the walls are wood, the counters are wood. And on these walls are signs and relics of long-passed, but not forgotten, trips on the open road, with the occasional knick-knack and souvenir-shop piece to gussy up the place. The ceilings run high in Dino, exposing beams with all sorts of flags and Americana hanging from them.
Now let’s talk about the food. Here’s what you need to know about the food: It’s the shit. I’m a firm believer that barbecue is one of those styles of cooking that can be enjoyed any season of the year. Spring or summertime? Grab a cold beer or sweet tea and a pulled pork sandwich with a glob of coleslaw on top. Fall or winter season? Warm up with some friends by splitting a pitcher of beer, some spicy wings, a big-ass rack of ribs, and plenty of baked beans.
On this particular night I went, some pals and I split a pitcher of Yuengling, while I nabbed myself an order of six of Dino’s “wango tango” wings (easily my favorite wings in this town so far), some barbecue beans, and a pulled pork slider sans the pickles. (Sorry pickle fans, but I just can’t do it.) This was a small platter compared to what I usually get, but I was feeling a little full this day, so I lightened up — but man was that platter filling and heavy beyond belief.
Dino offers so much more than this though, and I still find myself trying something new each time I stop by with an empty stomach. Just to sample things for you, here’s some of the many things they’ve got: racks and racks of ribs at varying sizes, pulled pork Carolina sandwiches, beefy burgers, wings on wings on wings, jerk salmon, catfish, steaks of all cuts, pulled pork sliders, brisket sliders, cheeseburger sliders, fried tomatoes, and an insane amount of sides, including beans, more beans, mac and cheese, cornbread, chili, fries, coleslaw, mac salad, and mashed potatoes drenched in gravy.
All this comes in at about $15 or less on average for any of the plates, with two of the sides factored into that price. This is the place to go for all my fellow foodies out there who like to eat big and feel proud.
On top of all that, they’ve got local and distant bands coming in and playing gigs throughout the week, which they keep track of on their website’s calendar. We actually saw a band playing when we were there this week, and they were great, though I don’t remember their name, and I wish I did.
There’s a bit of a rivalry between Dino and Sticky Lips (a competitor in the area) over the barbecue throne in this town, but I haven’t seen the war from Sticky Lips’ side yet. I’ll be covering them in the future, so I’ll get back to you all about how they stack up to my already high expectations.
Dinosaur Bar-B-Que can be found in the heart of downtown at 99 Court Street, only a few minutes away from campus by Uber. Give it a try before the semester ends when you’re stressing from school, and I guarantee it’ll take your mind off whatever bogus you’re thinking about. Till next week, stay nourished, my friends.