Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Braving Extinction in Harlem

Half BBQ Chicken -- Dinosaur Bar-B-Que
Dinosaur Bar-B-Que

This just in, folks: we have made it to Harlem.
What We Won't Do in the Name of Best Thing I Ever Ate
As our venture to Queens might have indicated, we are apparently more adept at getting ourselves across the country than we are at braving the boroughs of New York City.  And while, yes, Harlem is technically in Manhattan, the fact that it features above-ground subway trains indicates to us that it is out of our element.
What Is This Foreign Land of Which Adam Gertler Speaks?
For these reasons, it is no small feat that we have made it to Dinosaur Bar-B-Que in hopes of eating the half BBQ chicken, as recommended by Adam Gertler on the BAR-B-QUE episode of Best Thing I Ever Ate.  On our way from the monorail-like subway to Dinosaur, we are nearly plowed down by a man driving straight down the sidewalk in his quest for the McDonald's drive-thru window.  Thanks for welcoming us to Harlem in style, buddy.
Supersize Us
We enter Dinosaur and check in for our reservation (yes, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que takes reservations.  Color us shocked, too).  Though we are 45 minutes early (as we believe it takes us a full hour to make the trek to Harlem), the hostess seats us right away at a large, comfortable booth.

"I love a booth," Ginger states as we make ourselves at home.

"Automatic 5 stars," Vodka agrees.  Note to other restaurants of the world: always give us spacious accommodations -- we like to feel like we're dining in the suburbs.
Applebee's: Harlem Edition
Completely overwhelmed by the prolific food menu, we hone in on the (cheap -- thanks Harlem) list of cocktails.
A Girl's Gotta Have Priorities
"I'm surprised they don't serve boxed wine here," Vodka comments.  "I feel like it would fit in."  In the absence of cardboard-encased wine, we settle on a Tequila Sunset and a White Cranberry-Tini, both of which taste decidedly like juice (aka delicious).
SunnyD Takes on the Bar
"You know, I have found that I rarely refuse a drink," Ginger states.  "Whenever someone asks if we're drinking at a meal, I always answer 'yes.'"  And based on the proliferation of day-drinkers surrounding us at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, we find that we are one with their clientele.
Day Drinkers and Big Eaters? These Are Our Kinds of People
When our waitress helps us make sense of the food menu, we choose the Big House Special, which includes both our desired half BBQ chicken (apple brined, pit smoked, and slathered with original BBQ sauce) and a 1/4-rack of Dinosaur's famous ribs.
T-Rex Sized Dinner
Because one enormous plate of meat is obviously not enough to satiate us, we also order the Texas Brisket Plate, served with house-cured jalapenos.  Each of our platters come with two sides, so we pick the coleslaw, bar-b-que beans with pork, mac and cheese, and cajun corn.
Did We Mention We Also Get Free Corn Bread? Someone Alert Overeaters Anonymous
And with all of that, we are officially deemed "pigs."
Pull Up the Trough, It's Feeding Time
Our enormous, Hungry Man-style meal arrive within minutes, and Ginger gets down to the business of sampling bar-b-que sauces while Vodka proves to be the only fool in the joint photographing Dinosaur's creations.
We Need to Create Some Invisible Friends to Explain This Portion Size
When Vodka is satisfied with her documentation, we taste the chicken first so as to not taint our palates with the other dishes.  Each cutting off a small piece of meat, we dip it in one of our assembled sauces and dive in.
Don't Get Saucy with Us
Now, as previously stated, we believe that anyone who chooses chicken as the "best thing they ever ate" is playing with fire.  After all, it is just chicken, and how exciting can chicken really be (fried chicken aside, because fried chicken is always exciting)?
Oh Poultry, Why So Dull?
At Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, our chicken-based apathy finally comes to an end.  The meat is moist and tender, the skin crisped, and the various sauces dynamic in spicy flavor.  While we primarily enjoy bar-b-que food for the side dishes, this chicken is the notable exception to our general preferences, as it is one of the only times we remember going back again and again for another taste of meat.  This chicken really is everything that Adam Gertler had promised.
The rack of ribs proves to be almost as good as the chicken -- if we were rib people, we might even think more so.
Ribcage of Champions
Unfortunately for ribs, we tend to be down on dishes that get caught in our teeth, though compared to other varieties, Dinosaur's are definitely on the tender side (the bones are also packed with meat -- Dinosaur seems to only like hearty cows).
We Think We Have Uncovered Their Secret: These Are Actually Dinosaur Bones
The brisket is by far the most disappointing, and it is the sole food on the platters before us that we do not enjoy.  Rather than juicy and succulent, as we expect brisket to be, Dinosar's beef is downright tough and dry -- hard to cut and even harder to chew, it is the absolute outlier of the carnivorous feasts before us.
A Tough Brisket to Swallow
And now, for our favorite components, the sides: they are all, in a word, excellent.  The beans are the most surprising of the bunch, as we are not usually overly fond of them.  Dinosaur's beans, however, taste to us as though they are coated in bacon and cheese, which gives them a one-up on any other bean in the world.
Note to Self: Slather Everything in Bacon and Cheese
The cajun corn, a special on this particular day, has a kick of spice behind the sweetness.
Speak Corny to Us
The coleslaw has a thick layer of dressing, but remains highly crunchy, tangy, and peppery.
Gotta Love Some Cabbage
And finally, our beloved mac and cheese is browned and gooey, packed with thick cheesy flavor.
Almost As Good as the Kraft Box Variety....
When our hands are overcome with sloppy sauce, we look directly to our left to find our very own napkin holder on the table.  "Look at this -- everything you could possibly want," Vodka says, unloading several to clean herself up.
Simple Things By Which We Are Inevitably Impressed: Free Water. Extra Napkins. Booths
Once we have determined that we cannot possibly shove another piece of this savory goodness into our mouths, we move onto the only logical next step: pie.
What's a Day of Gorging Without Dessert?
Consulting the dessert menu, we choose one slice of chocolate ice box pie, mostly because we believe we are going to receive a heaping mound of frosting-soaked Oreo cookies.  When our pie arrives, we stare at it blankly for a few seconds, because a) the slice is small and thin and b) it looks to be all chocolate.  Where, for goodness sake, is the cream filling?  Perhaps we should start reading descriptions of dishes before ordering them.
Missing: Sandwich Cookies. Reward Offered Within
In any case, while this pie is not exactly what we had in mind, it is tasty in its own way, particularly the Oreo cookie crust (though is all cookie and no cream).  By the end of the meal, we quite literally roll out of Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, stuffed to the extreme.  Should any other Harlem drivers decide to take their vehicles to the sidewalks now, based on our inability to move faster than obese snails, they could almost certainly make us extinct.

Dinosaur Bar-B-Que's Half BBQ Chicken: 5 stars*

*Certifiable Best Thing We Ever Ate

1 comment:

  1. They opened a Dinosaur not far from me here Upstate and I have to agree... the brisket is disappointly meh. But I LURVE those beans!