JOSE VALCARCEL VIA FLICKR CC-BY-NC-SA-2.0 Each restaurant in the Dinosaur BBQ chain, which originated in Syracuse, bears this logo above its doors.
There’s a hit 1987 song by the band Was (Not Was) and the chorus goes a little like this: “Open the door/get on the floor/everybody walk the dinosaur.” I don’t think it’s worth trying to figure out what “walking the dinosaur” means, but it is certainly worth your while to check out Dinosaur Bar-B-Que in Harbor East.
The restaurant in Baltimore is the ninth and southernmost outpost of this excellent Syracuse, N.Y.-based regional chain. Dino BBQ offers all the standard barbecue meats (pulled pork, brisket, ribs, chicken) in addition to some more adventurous options like pork belly, smoked sausage and even vegetarian options in the form of a fried green tomato sandwich.
I decided to stick to the basics and ordered a half rack of ribs with sides of collard greens and salt potatoes. The ribs were good, smoky and falling-off-the-bone but not dry.
That said, it was the sides that blew me away. For the uninitiated, so-called “Syracuse Style” salt potatoes are potatoes boiled in brine.
The theory is that the salt forms a crust around the small potatoes, allowing them to be cooked longer and become tender without making them soggy. Where I’m from (which is about an hour from Syracuse) grocery stores sell four-pound bags of potatoes bundled with a pound of salt.
Dino BBQ’s salt potatoes lived up to the high standard set by my childhood summertime barbecues, and it was a wonderful surprise to find them on the menu. The collard greens were tangy and were packed with smoked turkey neck, giving them surprising substance.
Dino BBQ also has a top-notch selection of beers for those who are of the legal age. I tried a Kentucky bourbon barrel ale, which was honestly one of the weirdest beers I’ve ever had. It had a smoky taste not present in most beer that would have been great in isolation but when combined with smoked barbecue meats was overwhelming.
Next time, I might try something a bit lighter — and with 20 beers on tap, there are certainly enough options. The best way to get to Dinosaur Bar-B-Que from Homewood is to take the Purple Route of the Charm City Circulator to the Inner Harbor and walk about 15 minutes to their location in Harbor East.