My dear wife Karen had the perfect dinner suggestion while she was preparing to leave the Little Bitty for SMG.
She’ll cook after she gets home from work? Not this sunny day.
I’ll cook because I’ve got the day off? Not this second consecutive day off for me after my final seven-stretch at the store.
How about the Dinosaur, my smart spouse wondered out loud. My positive part of the plan was to grab the keys to my Chevy Cruze to drive her the 3 1/2 miles downtown so we would have just one car after our dinner later.
You may have heard of the Dinosaur Bar-B-Que. It’s been growing legs — and restaurants — around the northeast and even further. In fact, the Dino started more 25 years ago right here, a half-block away from the big daily, in the former location of the N&H, the neighborhood bar/restaurant run by the Hrim family that fed and liquored-up the newspaper crowd for two generations.
So we all went to the new joint and fell in love with the great food put out by owner John Stage and his former partners. And the atmosphere they nurtured. For me, then, of course I took to the blues music they put in the place every night, first in a tiny corner and then up on a ledge and eventually upstairs, too, as they grew the joint.]
My timing was fine. Karen was walking toward me from the office after I parked the car in my favorite spot outside the old big daily building.
Hover over any gallery photo for a description. Click on any photo for an enlarged slide show.
We thought perhaps we’d beat the crowd a couple of minutes before six on a weekday. Not so. The hostess told us we’d have a half-hour wait. Karen found us two stools at the corner off the bar, and her colleague from work stopped by to chat as we drank a bottle of Blue Light and glass of Merlot.
Our turn came in what seemed like no time, and we were led to our tiny table for two tucked against the wall.
Our vantage point allowed a great view of the Dinosaur-themed wall artwork by local guy Jeff Davies, honored by a plaque with his name and the date he created the murals. Some of them were as covered with graffiti as the table right in front of us. Interesting, this joint, more and more as the years roll by.
Karen went for the Pork Carolina, pulled pork on a roll with the Cole slaw piled on top, with one side only, the fries, because she wanted an app of fried green tomatoes to start.
I chose the bacon cheeseburger, cheddar, with the intriguing soup of the day roasted poblano and naked mac and cheese (no creole on top, please) as my two sides allowed.
They fed us well, still.
Even though I’d told Karen she’d be flying solo on the app, I managed to fit in the last of three tasty fried tomato rings when she talked me into it. It was warm and seasoned perfectly. The first time I ever tried a fried green tomato was at the Dinosaur, you see, and the little booger was too darn hot. It adhered to the roof of my mouth and burned the heck out of me, worse than any pizza slice incident, ever. That and only that was the reason for my initial wariness.
My medium burger was as big as the third-of-a-pound in the menu promised, and so juicy that I cut ‘er in half for better food management. The pepper soup was spicy to just the right heat kick. My mac and cheese was rich enough that I left at least a third on my plate.
Karen loved her pork-and-slaw, and allowed me to pick on a few perfectly seasoned fries, too. Our waitress spotted the leftover pork pulls stuffed into my leftover poblano cup and brought a lid, best to bring home for Ellie B aka Dogamous Pyle.
We laughed when she asked if we wanted dessert. Too full!
I spent about 10 bucks at the bar, and Karen took care of the 28 or so for the meal, including a generous tip.
Taking the long way out along the length of the bar, we said hello to my old pal, owner Stage, seated and smiling along the back wall. We chatted about my new job at the Liverpool Public Library starting Monday his new pizza joint just opened across the street. He joked that what he’d most like to talk to me about was music.
We also got to say hi to waitresses Debbie and Missy, friends forever and still bright spots at the Dinosaur.
On the way out, we noticed that folks were enjoying the 60º F night around the building’s sidewalk seating as well.
Some folks around Syracuse complain that since Stage has sold a portion of the business to corporate partners and spread the Dinosaur name, things here have gone downhill. Portions. Prices. Atmosphere. Imagine that.
I thought the napkins were a little thin for a barbecue joint.
Perfect suggestion my dear wife, indeed.
What do you like to order best at a barbecue joint? Have you ever heard of the Dinosaur, and would you like this place to put a franchise in your town? What’s your favorite photo and why?