Time to ‘que up. After months of waiting, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que has arrived in Baltimore.
The Fells Point location is set to open as happy hour arrives on Tues., Sept. 22. Before the doors officially opened, management let us have an early taste.
Before giving you a look, we have to be up front about one thing: This writer grew up in a suburb just outside of Syracuse, NY, where Dinosaur Bar-B-Que first opened in 1988. Along with mountains of snow and Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone, Dinosaur is one of the few things that is savored equally by Salt City residents and the rest of the country.
Since opinions are colored by things like the brief nostalgia trip that happened when spotting “Syracuse Salt Potatoes” on the takeout menu, we won’t gush about the smoked pork and brisket that’s not too slathered with sauce, St. Louis-style ribs and sides. But since we’ve been around Dinosaur Bar-B-Que at the original restaurant and countless graduation parties over the years, there are other insights to glean.
On any given night at the corner of Willow and Franklin St. in Syracuse, motorcycles are lined up outside the original Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, reflecting founder John Stage’s roots smoking for the biker community. It instantly announces that the place is a roadhouse, and that’s the feel throughout. The BBQ on the table and blues on the stage give the spot a Southern feel. While the new spot hasn’t been open long enough to attain the character that the original has, the designers have done well to play to the strengths of the building they’re in. For instance, giant windows that look onto Fleet St. may not be the hallmark of a juke joint, but they go a long way toward opening up the room.
Located at the corner of Fleet and Eden Sts., the 1885 building that used to house the Acme Box Co. once made wooden cases for the Coca Cola Co. So, they had plenty of supplies to use. There’s reclaimed wood throughout the restaurant and other industrial relics. A boiler room door occupies one wall, while a pulley system hangs above the bar.
The take-out waiting bench looks suspiciously like a church pew.
Now in its tenth location, the franchise has clearly learned to make each location its own. Along with the building, that’s also true of the stuff you can eat and drink. We saw beers from Union, as well as nearby Flying Dog and Dogfish Head among the draughts, and Old Bay is being worked into some of the offerings. There are also craft cocktails, like Fleet Street Side Car, with a local twist.
Dinosaur Bar-B-Que became successful in Syracuse by staying true to being a straightforward joint, both in food and atmosphere. Their style wasn’t necessarily of Upstate New York, but they grew to become a part of the community. It seems like they’re set up to follow that tradition in Baltimore.
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