Saturday, September 4, 2010

Having a Yabba Dabba Doo Time in Rochester, NY

Dinosaur Bar-B-Que
99 Court Street
Rochester, NY
(also locations in Syracuse and New York City)

Hours: 11 AM-2 AM
Alcohol: 24 beers (mostly local ones) on tap, full bar
Food: tasty BBQ

Freshman year in college, there was a guy on my floor from Southern California. He would endlessly bash Northern salsa, saying we had no idea what real Mexican food tasted like.

This went on for several months until I finally picked up a bottle of Green Mountain Gringo Salsa, which has absolutely no pretensions of being "the real thing."

When I made him try some, he said that while it's not authentic by any stretch of the imagination, it's still pretty darned good.

While I can't speak for some of the Southern gentlemen on this blog, I think they'd say roughly the same thing about the Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, which styles itself as "A Genuine Rib Joint," whose main location is in an old train station in downtown Rochester, NY.

It's got quite the local following -- both my friends from the area told me I need to go here, but any place where one of the few sauces they have is called Wango Tango isn't going to pass for authentic if you're in North Carolina.

And it's not cheap by upstate New York standards -- most of the 24 beers on tap are upstate New York and Pennsylvania microbrews (also not authentic) that go for $4.50, while I paid $13.50 for the pulled pork platter I ordered.

But still, the good people of Rochester pack it out -- last time I tried going at 7 PM on a random weeknight, there was a 45 minute wait, and the place was still buzzing the last time I went there at 9:30 -- the dining room was almost full, and I had to go in the bar to get served immediately.

After a little hesitation -- I wanted to do some reading, and a noisy bar isn't the best place to do that -- I decided to go for it, largely because I couldn't think of any place not named Denny's that's open late, and some quick Googling on my BlackBerry didn't yield any other good options.

The first band had just closed out their set, and the second was in the process of eating and setting up for their set when I sat down at the bar. The server was friendly and attentive, even though she had a bunch of people to take care of.

I started by ordering a Troeg's Sunshine, mostly on the grounds that I'd never heard of it before. It's a nice, laid-back pilsner from Harrisburg, PA that's great summer drinking, but it's not worth the 50% markup over Utica Club, which, even though it's made by the people who make Saranac, goes for $3.00 instead of $4.50. It's basically a better version of one of the mass-produced beers.

The menu was also probably longer than a lot of places down south. They're clearly trying to accomodate non-BBQ people who get dragged here (there's even a portobello mushroom sandwich for the vegetarians), but they don't take the upscale-ness of the place to the point of screwing with the main thing, which is meat, too much.

The pulled pork I got was clearly hand-pulled -- nice big chunks of something that clearly had come from a pig and had been smoked for a good, long time. And the Wango Tango sauce was tasty but off-beat, and certainly not a seven on a 1-10 spiciness scale like their website claims. Definitely weak for habanero, though that's not necessarily a bad thing.

For sides, I got a disappointingly bland mac and cheese that would have been made much better if they had stuck to the upstate New York thing and used some nice sharp cheddar cheese to kick it up a notch.

On the other hand, the carrot/raisin salad I got was really good. Kind of a vinegar cole slaw texture, only crunchier. It's definitely a keeper, regardless of its point of origin.

I tend to like really sweet Southern cornbread, and while their cornbread was good, it wasn't quite as sweet as I like.

Overall, a great meal, but again, it's kind of like Green Mountain Gringo Salsa: pretty good but not even trying to be the genuine article, and if you're in Southern California, you're going to get the real thing, given a choice between the two.

It definitely doesn't stack up with burnt ends at Arthur Bryant's in Kansas City, which is probably one of my top ten dining experiences ever, or the pulled pork at any of the best places in the Carolinas.

But the atmosphere in there is great, and the meat, which is the main thing, is really good. I think I would have enjoyed it much more had I gone in there with a group, which, as a Suit, is kind of hard to do.

But really, I shouldn't be complaining, because it's probably the best barbecue within 300 miles, and I'm just some dumb Yankee who wouldn't know the real thing if it hit me upside the head.

By the time I finished eating, the second band had started up, and I was ready to go get some sleep with an early meeting the next morning. So I went back to my hotel room happy.

Rating: Would Wear Shirt if it Were Free

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