We ordered all the main plates: pulled pork sandwich, barbeque half-chicken, whole rack of ribs, with sides of coleslaw and baked beans. Holy goly, BBQ is not like this in NYC. I haven't been everywhere, but I have been to Fatty 'Cue, Fette Sau, Wildwood BBQ, and the Big Apple BBQ in Madison Square Park. NYC BBQ cannot compare at all. It is too tidy, ungenerous, precious. A serious love affair started. We loved it so much at the fair, we went to the original brick-and-mortar location the next day.
We ordered a starter of Drunken Shrimp, boiled in beer and Old Bay, and dipped in a bbq-horseradish-tabasco sauce. This is messy, spicy, garlicky, and makes regular shrimp cocktail seem impossibly prude.
The St. Louis-cut pork ribs are thick and awe-inspiring. I typically like ribs with meat that falls off the bone. Here the meat is tender, but demands gnawing. I didn't mind. They are perfect -- spicy, sweet, smoky, complex, juicy in some parts and jerky-like in others. Perhaps because they're cooked low and slow, they're also not too fatty.
Moist chicken is one of life's greatest and simplest pleasures. Apple-brined and glazed with Dinosaur's sauce, it is transcendent.
The pillowy pulled pork invokes giggles, it is so good. The brisket was probably the weakest meat -- a little dry and thin, and lacked the voluptuous swagger of the others.
If you know me well, you know I am obsessed with chili. The Dinosaur cookbook tells me their version includes jalapenos, ancho chile, pasilla chile, ground cumin, brown sugar, oregano, bay leaves, cinnamon, beef stock, crushed tomatoes, bacon... This tells me nothing. None of those ingredients are that unusual or can solely account for the masterpiece that is this earthy, sweet, raisiny chili that is meaty yet bright.
For sides, we had collard greens with turkey neck, honey cornbread, and french fries. They were all exemplary, more reasons why I kept chanting to myself, This is good, this is really good, this is really, really good.
The Before & After Pictures. We stuffed ourselves, but looks like we hardly made a dent.
Now you might be thinking, that's a lot of food! How did you finish it? We didn't. The Tom family boasts a very healthy appetite, but this feast conquered all five of us.
I've heard that the Dinosaur BBQ in Harlem is not as good. I didn't really like the New York State Fair, but to have this food again, I'd gladly return to Syracuse.