Almost a year and a half after it was first announced to the public, the newest outpost of one of BBQ’s finest, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, has finally roared to life on Union Street in Brooklyn, straddling leafy Park Slope and industrial Gowanus. It’s really the perfect location for the rowdy, honky tonk joint — well enough removed from potentially put-out residents on the other side of Fourth Avenue, and less than a half a block’s stumble to the subway (a considerable benefit after one too many rum-laden glasses of Donkey Punch).
There’s actually been a certain amount of pushback in the neighborhood prior to Dinosaur’s opening, with locals dismissing the family friendly spot as a chain. And yes, there are currently seven oversized, relatively homogenized locations, including Syracuse, Rochester, Newark and Harlem, and more on the way. But the independently owned cluster of restaurants are a long way from becoming the next Applebee’s, Chili’s or Outback Steakhouse. To barbecue fanatics, this place is top notch.
Situated in a former tool-and-die shop, the massive, 180-seat Gowanus space will easily accommodate the inevitable weeknight overflow. Like most Dino locations, it retains a good deal of its original industrial character (Syracuse is in an old auto body shop, Rochester is at the site of a former train station) enlivened by quirky touches. In Brooklyn’s case, there are banquettes and tables made from 1920’s push carts, wooden walls from the Coney Island boardwalk, and a 14-by-8 foot ceiling installation featuring 116 antique, sandblasted whiskey bottles, collected from beneath various local underpasses.
As for the barbecue, Dinosaur’s smoked offerings — St. Louis ribs, Brisket, Chicken Wings, Pulled Pork — tend to be unapologetically and deliciously sweet, owing to a heavy hand with a tomato and molasses-based sauce. (It just is what it is, so if you’re religious about dry rubs or North Carolina-style vinegar marinades, this probably isn’t the ‘cue for you.) It’s all accompanied by a selection of way better than average sides, like jalapeno-studded Mac and Cheese, savory Black Beans with Kale, and smoky Turkey Neck Greens. Not really a fan of red meat? What are you doing at a barbecue restaurant? Just kidding — there’s a surprising number of tasty alternatives, like Fried Green Tomatoes topped with Housemade Pimento Cheese and Sweet and Sour Green Tomato Chow Chow, as well as Peel-and-Eat Drunken Shrimp, cooked in a boil of beer, herbs and spices. There’s also a selection of Custom ‘Cue like the “Breakfast all Day,” an homage to Brooklyn’s brunch scene, featuring Brisket and Poblano Hash topped with a Fried Egg. There’s even Korean Marinated and Grilled Skirt Steak, slathered in a Hoisin BBQ Steak Sauce.
Dinosaur is undoubtedly a departure from Brooklyn’s current crop of determinately bare-bones smokehouses, which tout small selections of organic cuts served by the pound on butcher paper. But there’s really no reason it can’t coexist happily side-by-side with neighbors, like Fletcher’s, Fette Sau, Delaney’s Brisket and Fort Reno. And provided that the Orangemen make it back into the Final Four next year, Brooklyn’s new location of Dinosaur Bar-B-Que is definitely where you’ll find us, tucked into a refurbished booth with a Big Ass Pork Plate and a cold can of Genesee Cream Ale.