The skinny on this popular Stamford joint
by Carisha Swanson
Growing up in the South, the best barbecue spots were places with a homemade pit found on the side of a dirt road. You would drive into an unmarked parking area, wait for the most succulent, fall-off-the-bone ribs, and eat them on the spot. With this high standard in mind, my partner in carnivorous feasting, who has spent a good chunk of her adult life in Kansas City (known for slow-cooked meats basted in a delicious molasses and tomato sauce) joined me recently for dinner. As we entered Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, we acknowledged our unattainably high standards, but agreed to be open-minded.
It was a midweek night and clearly we’re late to the party. We walked into a bustling scene with tables full of hungry, satisfied patrons with piles of crumpled napkins strewn about their tables, evidence of the gooey goodness of the sauce on their hands and fingers. The space, with walls of reclaimed wood planks plastered with vintage posters, and chalkboards that have tattoo-inspired sketches of skulls, tires and the occasional dice roll, give the space an edgy, urban feel, but also add to the relaxed, easy vibe playing out in front of us. Certainly, if attendance and mood marks a winner, this place was already getting a gold medal.
Despite the busy scene, we were seated pretty quickly at a two-seater high top near the bar, and began with a Whiskey Smash and Sangria. The Smash was a smooth blend of Maker’s Mark, lemons, mint leaves and simple syrup. Consider it when you go. It’s a great way to introduce bourbon to novices, and perfect palate preparation for the savory spices in the BBQ sauces to come. (We also enjoyed the Sangria, but given what’s on tap, I would stick to their well-curated list of beers. Plus, if you’re not sure, they offer flights to help you make up your mind.)
We didn’t wait long to order appetizers—Creole-spiced deviled eggs, drunken spicy shrimp boil, fried green tomatoes and chicken wings in honey BBQ, sesame hoisin and Wango Tango style. The peel-and-eat shrimp, prepared in a boil of beer, herbs and spices, contrasted nicely with the crispy saltiness of the tomatoes, here deep-fried and sprinkled with Pecorino. But the eggs, with yolks that were perfectly whipped, and a dash of Creole seasoning with chives on top, reminded us of a home-cooked picnic. Another standout was the wings, all with various elements of sweet, spicy and smoky. If you like some heat, the Wango has just enough zesty tang (requiring a bite or two of a celery stick) that thankfully doesn’t overpower the flavor of the chicken. (For even more fire, you can opt for the “hotter” Garlic Chipotle or “hottest” Devil’s Duel.) We could have made a meal of the wings, and plan to in the future.
For our mains we opted for a combo that included smoked, made-in-house link sausage; apple-brined and BBQ rubbed chicken; and—of course—St. Louis pork ribs. Much to my dining companion’s joy, the ribs were saucy just the way she likes them. Dry-rubbed and slow pit-smoked, then glazed in Dino’s Sensuous Slathering Sauce (of crushed tomatoes, vinegar, mustard and a host of spices) the fall-off-the-bone ribs gained complexity and nuance. Our sides were traditional offerings of home-cut French fries, slow-cooked baked beans with pork, crunchy cole slaw, collard greens and creamy mac-and-cheese. All equally tasty complements to our feast.
If you’ve read my reviews before, you’d know I have a big appetite. So it won't surprise you to learn that I then ordered the West Texas 14-oz. rib eye. It’s an Angus beef, cold-smoked, spice-rubbed cut from Creekstone Farms that can either be topped with habanero butter or bourbon molasses steak sauce. I opted for the butter that, combined with the meat’s drippings, resulted in a mouth-watering sauce. After my first bite, I briefly wished I had eaten nothing else. It was cooked to order, and spiced with a signature blend of paprika for smokiness, sugar for caramelization, chili powder for depth, cayenne for pop, and kosher salt, onion garlic, black pepper, cumin and celery. It was more flavorful with every bite, and despite our already not-Weight-Watcher friendly meal, I ate the whole thing.
As they cleared our plates, we knew we were completely sated, but the dessert menu still beckoned, so we promptly ordered the apple pie à la mode with a cinnamon brown sugar crust and a drizzle of caramel—it lasted about sixty seconds on our table. We also asked for the sweet potato pecan pie, a traditional pastry crust with a bottom layer of sugary, pureed sweet potatoes and a top layer of molasses-infused pecans for crunch, served with whipped cream. It was a grand finale to an epic meal.
So now, picture this: two women, completely sated, leaning back on their chairs while surveying the scene. We came hoping for something that reminded us of my dirt road barbecue spot. We got a taste of that. But what we were also happy to discover what was a reminder of Grandma’s fantastic home cooking. Based on all that, we’ll surely be back.