WHERE: 377 River St., Troy. 308-0400, www.dinosaurbarbque.com
WHEN: 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11:30 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday; noon to 10 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $80.39, with tax, tip and an iced tea.
MORE INFO: A full parking lot does not mean the restaurant is full. There’s free parking in the garage half a block away, or go under the bridge to a public parking lot. It’s a nice walk along the river. Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Discover. Children’s menu available. Catering available. No reservations.
I am never ordering french fries at the Dinosaur Bar-B-Que in Troy again. I didn’t want to eat anything else.
The point of my visit was to try a lot of different things, a sampler here, a mixed platter there. I foolishly ordered the fries as a side, a luxury I don’t often allow myself. Boy, was I sorry. But let me back up.
I waited until the hoopla died down to visit the Dinosaur. They don’t take reservations and seating is a democratic wait-your-turn affair. When we arrived at 6 p.m. on a Thursday night, we were seated right away. By 6:30, all the tables were full, but the restaurant didn’t feel packed or too noisy, and by the time we left there were open tables again. It’s safe to visit.
Dinosaur arrived with a bang a few months ago, in the sweet spot at the end of the Green Island bridge at an entrance to Troy, overlooking the Hudson. It’s a long, rustic-style wood building that hugs the river. We watched a boat dock just outside our window.
I’m not a big fan of barbecue. But my companion Mary told me her 96-year-old mother loves the place. A baby gurgled from a nearby table, while a senior couple bickered behind me.
The friendly young woman at the hostess desk led us to a terrific table with windows on two sides. It was a stunning spring evening and we could see clear up the river to the federal dam. The sprawling deck was open, with a full bar going full speed.
I started with a small chopped salad ($3.95) full of color and variety, a smart house vinaigrette on the side. The grape tomatoes and radicchio provided the red-purple punch, but tiny cubes of radish and the spiced walnuts charmed me. I warmed up to the Creole honey mustard vinaigrette right away.
Mary ordered the solo sampler plate ($5.95) — a rib, a wing, a few spicy boiled shrimp, a slice of fried green tomato and a deviled egg. Where can you get a deviled egg these days? This one had a bit of mustard in it, Mary reported, and was delicious. Ditto the wing, tomato and peel-and-eat shrimp. “Shrimp can be mealy, but the texture of these is very good,” she said, approvingly.
I was thinking of husband Eric when I ordered six wings ($6.95) with Wango Tango sauce, which were about medium, our server said. The flavor was more complex than wing sauce, a bit sweet, with more spice flavor than chicken, and a kick of fresh cracked black pepper. They were hefty and crisp.
We both ordered combination platters, the Tres Hombres for Mary ($18.95) and the Tres Ninos ($14.95) for me, essentially the same offer in two sizes: a pile of pulled pork, ribs and slices of beef brisket, and of course, the sides. All plates come with cornbread and the difficult choice of two sides from a list of 12. Try the mac and cheese. It’s a scoop of tiny firm elbows in comforting creamy, cheesy sauce with the unexpected kick of jalapeno, baked until it’s browned on top. Mary’s mashed sweet potatoes were smooth and creamy enough to be dessert, and the pork and beans were robust and meaty, she said. The Ninos came on a smaller sectioned plate with the meat in the main compartment, the mac and cheese occupying the upper right triangle, and fries spilling all over the place.
This is the point at which I couldn’t speak. I was eating fry after fry, admiring the brown crunchiness of the outside, the papery skin here and there, cottony interior, and tiny gems of sea salt glinting on top. Nirvana.
The brisket refocused my attention. I had two slices of crumbly beef blackened around the outside and when I bit, it tasted like heaven. There was char; there was beef, which carried through the stronger flavors; there was smoke; and there was fat.
Oh, the fat. It melted in my mouth, oozing beefiness and smoke, and filled my head as well as my mouth with happiness. It was just a thin layer, but nothing else has the flavor and texture of fat. You can keep your lean meat.
Mary reached for a bottle of Dinosaur sauce. “This is the mild,” she said. “There’s also hot,” pointing to another bottle, “and I like that they have regular hot sauce as well.” We both mixed the sweet mild stuff into our pork, which was chunky, tender and a little fatty, like pork shoulder. Smoky and sweet works.
The last of the Hombres were the ribs, with soft meat pink from the smoker. These are serious ribs, thick with meat, not sticky or sweet, the predominant flavor being smoke. They were good, too, but I couldn’t get over the beef and fries.
You might think we didn’t have room for dessert, but I wouldn’t pass up their homemade cheesecake ($6), a slice big enough for two with caramel whisky sauce that I spooned up off the plate. The cake was almost as good as Mom’s. Mary tried the fruit cobbler ($5), served up in a tiny skillet, baked batter over real, fresh apples, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream melting on top. Desserts are homemade and big enough to share.
Our tireless server refilled our glasses, gave us boxes for leftovers, and ran the bill, all with a genuine smile. Everyone we interacted with at Dinosaur was extra nice and treated us very well. Everything I ate was tasty. I really liked it. Later, Eric gave his dinner of wings and cheesecake a thumbs-up.
The Dinosaur can be a bit noisy, and it’s not at all fancy, but the food is darn good and you can pick it up with impunity, so go enjoy the view of the river, and the experience. It’s not only safe to go, you should go, and soon. Enjoy.
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Categories: Food, Life and Arts