My love affair with Dinosaur Bar-B-Que began long before the dinner Alex and I recently had at their new Chicago location. It actually began more than 10 (10?!) years ago when I was a college student in Syracuse, NY. Word got around quickly in the dorms that there was a biker bar downtown serving really good barbecue. It was too far from campus for me to walk to, so I made a note to take my parents there during their next visit. Well, I did and I'm pretty sure my dad thought I was crazy when we pulled up to this hole-in-the-wall place where bikers on Harleys were congregating outside... I was even a bit skeptical. Our doubts were quickly silenced once we sat down to eat though and the Dinosaur immediately became a family favorite for future visits.
I haven't eaten at Dinosaur since my graduation weekend-- not even during a visit to Syracuse several years ago (they opened late on Sundays) or on various trips to New York City (they have a newer location in Harlem, but I'm rarely uptown where that would be convenient). So when I got wind of a new location coming to Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood over a year ago, I could barely contain my nostalgic excitement! Alex and I visited the first weekend that Dinosaur Bar-B-Que was open and I immediately felt at home spotting 3 Syracuse ball caps and 2 former classmates at neighboring tables. The Chicago Dinosaur is a little more modern that the original in Syracuse, but still has that great rough around the edges feel-- this one is just a little more rustic industrial than biker chic. And a LOT bigger with a fabulous beer garden for enjoying summertime barbecue.
Alex and I started the meal by sharing the Swag Sampler Plate, which was the perfect way for us to sample a few of the smaller plates on Dinosaur's menu. I loved their crisp and not soggy fried green tomatoes served with a slightly spicy cayenne buttermilk dressing. And Alex and I agreed that the tender saucy rib hacks were the perfect way to sample the ribs without ordering a huge rack. I left the Cajun spiced deviled eggs and smoked chicken wings to Alex and he polished them off. He loves a spicy deviled egg and though normally a wing purist, really enjoyed Dinosaur's more barbecue-centric approach: spice rubbed, pit-smoked, and tossed in their super spicy Devil's Duel sauce.
There are a lot of great options on the menu at Dinosaur, but I went with my old tried and true order: The Memphis BBQ Pork Sandwich. A bun was piled high with tender pulled pork and topped with their traditional coleslaw. I topped mine with their classic Sensuous Slathering Sauce, a barbecue sauce that's the perfect blend of sweet and spicy. And for sides, I went with a few more of my favorites: BBQ beans in a thick barbecue sauce with chunks of peppers and pork and and mac and cheese. The mac and cheese at Dinosaur is thick and creamy with a slightly crunchy top and a dusting of barbecue rub. I could eat a bowl of that for dinner and be happy!
His first time at Dinosaur, Alex was a bit more overwhelmed by the menu. Our server helped him settle on the Pork-Sket sandwich, which was featured on Man Vs. Food when Adam Richman visited Dinosaur Bar-B-Que in Syracuse. This was a serious sandwich and it definitely required a knife and fork! It started with sliced bbq brisket topped with melted cheddar cheese and jalapenos followed by a ton of pulled pork, coleslaw, horseradish mayo, and a little Devil's Duel (added by Alex). He opted for more coleslaw on the side along with an order of Dinosaur's bbq fried rice. I was really intrigued by this rice and stole a few bites from his plate. It was a very traditional fried rice studded with bbq meat.. and it was surprisingly tasty!
Although we could barely eat another bite, we couldn't resist dessert. So we took home a slice each of their key lime and peanut butter pies. They aren't pictured here, but they were really delicious and there was not a bite left once we were done.
Welcome to the Windy City, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que! We can't wait to return.