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Dinosaur BBQ (NYC)


phaelon56
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I do agree that the Dino sauce tends toward the sweet rather than the savory but for cryin' out loud - just ask for it without the sauce if that's your deal.

Guys, is it impossible to accept that the reviewers didn't like Dinosaur? The criticism goes far beyond talk of overly sweet sauce. The titles argument -- this is barbecue, this isn't barbecue -- is moot here. Neither reviewer said, "The food is great, but how dare they call it barbecue!" They each criticized what they thought was poor food. And, presumably, Severson made her comment about irrefutable truth after she ate at Dinosaur -- and I doubt she meant it as a Nostradamian prophecy. When I read it I took it with a grain of salt. If Dinosaur were good, she would have opened the piece differently.

Yes, but at least in the Sietsema article, a key argument was based on either misinformation or disinformation. And even though I felt the Severson piece was better, I can understand Steven's position that her thesis is kind of sloppy and inherently unprovable. Is it probable that these reviewers actually don't like the food? Sure. I trust that. But why not simply say so instead of taking cheap shots or unprovable editorial stances?

Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

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I'm a bit shocked.

Two restaurant reviewer's, saying there is not enough smoke flavor.

Did the dino recently acquire apple wood, since just about a week or so we received word that only hickory was being used.

Meats cooked over a burned down to embers pit, with hot fat dripping into the heat, releasing plumes of white smoke to bathe the meat leaves a unique taste and flavor.

Meat cooked in a steel pit, bathing in wood smoke alone, produces a flavor just as that.

My point being, I really don't think either Robert Sietsema, nor Kim Severson has a clue.

Blame the city of New York for not allowing open wood fired cooking, and leave John Stage out of it.

woodburner

This doesn't make sense to me. Are you saying that I can't criticize a barbecue place by saying that I don't taste enough smoke in the meat? Isn't using the word smoky in a discussion of barbecue just a concise way of saying that meat has the unique flavor you refer to above and not a comment meant to suggest the meat tasted like a block of hickory? It seems to me that many people posting on this thread are just looking for a way to discredit these reviewers, suggesting at every opportunity that they missed this detail or misrepresented that. Fine, you know more about barbecue than Severson and Sietsema. There is validity in some of what's been said, but, to me, a reviewer's experience with barbecue is far more important than his or her knowledge of the cooking technique. I couldn't tell you much about making sushi rice, but I can tell you if it's good or not.

Is it probable that these reviewers actually don't like the food?  Sure.  I trust that.  But why not simply say so instead of taking cheap shots or unprovable editorial stances?

As criticism of the reviews, this makes the most sense to me, although I still don't think you should take Severson's "thesis" so seriously. Her saying "Driving that axiom is a simple, irrefutable truth: Regional food tastes best in its region" is a statement that suggests the complex interaction of nostalgia, expectations, and emotion that makes barbecue "taste" better from a shack in NC than from a Theme Park-like restaurant near Fairway. She could have said "Regional food is only good when eaten in its region." But I think her words were carefully chosen here.

Inspired by this thread, I walked to Dinosaur tonight with my girlfriend and had dinner. The barbecue chicken was excellent. The chicken had great flavor, clearly from having been smoked, and the skin was slightly crisp and sweet from whatever sauce Dinosaur brushed on. The two pork ribs on the outside of my 1/4 rack were great, powerfully porky and had a forceful but not overpowering smoky taste. The other ribs on the rack were good, though for some reason they had less meat and the meat they had was a bit stringy. I have never had pork ribs down South, so I can't make a comparison. Brisket I have had. This summer, for the first time, I had real Texas brisket in Lockhart -- a defining experience. Not that I was expecting Dinosaur's brisket to compare to the brisket in Lockhart, but Dinosaur's showed no signs that it ever could. It had some smoke flavor, but was very, very dry, like bad pastrami.

JJ Goode

Co-author of Serious Barbecue, which is in stores now!

www.jjgoode.com

"For those of you following along, JJ is one of these hummingbird-metabolism types. He weighs something like eleven pounds but he can eat more than me and Jason put together..." -Fat Guy

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Sighs

Why all the mention, and comparisons to Syracuse, or Rochester in the review? Half of the review is filled with these, and it's not fair. Ok, compare Dinosaur with other NY BBQ places to give we New Yorkers a fair reference point. Since I don't dine very often in Syracuse, it makes no difference to me. (No offense to my upstate neighbors.)

As written earlier, I really enjoyed the food at Dinosaur. More importantly, I always order my Q with very light sauce, as I want to taste the flavor of the meats and not the sauce. I reitterate, the pulled/chopped pork was incredibly tasty! This comes soon after recently visiting 8 of the best places in North Carolina! The best pork in North Carolina to me, was the coarse chop, and not the finely chopped Q. The chicken and the ribs are wonderful at Dinosaur. Perhaps the brisket was a bit disappointing. Then again, in NY, I can get great brisket at a Jewish style deli.

Dinosaur's menu is no bigger than any other barbeque's restaurant. As a matter of fact, I thought it had fewer selections than some. Yes, the beer on tap choices was huge, but the bbq selection was typical of any good bbq place.

Sietsema shows the pic of the wood at Kreuz's. Is this fair to compare? Kreuz's seats 600 people at a time, with tour buses. Of course they serve great BBQ, but it's not fair to compare it to Dinosaur, which seats about 200.

I still urge those that have not tried Dinosaur to give it a chance. Don't go in with preconceived notions. Just enjoy the food and the company.

Nadine

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Lets step back for a second and think about what Dinosaur BBQ is: it's a large, popularly priced volume restaurant with a menu that sounds like a theme restaurant.  When I look at their menu on the web, I think "Olive Garden" or "Chili's."  They have things on their menu like "Druken Spicy Shameless Shrimp."  Not to mention things like a Cuban Sandwich.  It's a theme restaurant!!!  It's possible they make decent BBQ.  Maybe I'll go up and find out.  But I've never seen good BBQ from a place like Dinosaur; the menu is too big.  Commenting on the NYT or Semesta as having an agenda may be interesting, but they gave stinky reviews.  And isn't there a third bad review as well?  There is a pattern.

On the subject of the menu being "big," which I've seen mentioned a couple of times now:

The Dinosaur in Syracuse actually has a bigger menu than Manhattan. There's something like 17 side dishes up there. The Dino in Manhattan actually started off with less; John 86'ed the notion of having black beans and rice, for example, because there were so many joints in the area that already made good bb&r.

And as far as the rest of the menu (the meat) being varied, scrutinize further -- a lot of it is combinations, i.e. pork & ribs, pork & brisket, chicken & ribs. It's actually very basic when it comes right down to it, so I don't see how the size of the menu would have an effect on the quality of the food in this situation.

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On the subject of the menu being "big," which I've seen mentioned a couple of times now:

The Dinosaur in Syracuse actually has a bigger menu than Manhattan.  There's something like 17 side dishes up there.  The Dino in Manhattan actually started off with less; John 86'ed the notion of having black beans and rice, for example, because there were so many joints in the area that already made good bb&r.

And as far as the rest of the menu (the meat) being varied, scrutinize further -- a lot of it is combinations, i.e. pork & ribs, pork & brisket, chicken & ribs.  It's actually very basic when it comes right down to it, so I don't see how the size of the menu would have an effect on the quality of the food in this situation.

If it serves more than one kind of meat, it is rather likely to not be decent. Real BBQ places do not serve brisket, ribs, pulled pork and chicken. I've never had decent BBQ at a place that served all four. Perhaps some place somewhere does. But not the places I know. They also don't seem to have Brunswick Stew on the menu----something very unusual for a place that serves vinegar style chopped pork. It's a theme park menu. It's also a big restaurant to be serving decent BBQ. Skill seems to be important in making BBQ and its the rare place that is going to operate three smokers, cooking different products, and doing in large quantities and doing it well. The best BBQ I've ever had all came from small places.....

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I'm looking at Arthur Bryant's menu right now. It lists:

Beef

Ham

Pork

Turkey

Chicken

Sausage

Burnt Ends

Long End – Ribs

Short End – Ribs

I'm having a lot of trouble thinking of any major barbecue places in the South that don't serve a variety of meats. Would anybody care to give, say, ten examples of generally accepted world-class barbecue restaurants so that we can derive the average number of meats on offer?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I'm looking at Arthur Bryant's menu right now. It lists:

Beef

Ham

Pork

Turkey

Chicken

Sausage

Burnt Ends

Long End – Ribs

Short End – Ribs

I'm having a lot of trouble thinking of any major barbecue places in the South that don't serve a variety of meats. Would anybody care to give, say, ten examples of generally accepted world-class barbecue restaurants so that we can derive the average number of meats on offer?

the only places you will find with one meat on the menu are in the carolina's and its all pork!

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I am agreeing with you Steven... that's why I mentioned it in my previous post. Dinosaur's menu is no bigger than any of the other well known places.

Hell-In Texas for instance- Kreutz's in Lockhart may not have the most sides, but they sure do have lots of different kinds of wonderful barbeque. Same with Black's, and Louis Mueller. Sure these places might be known for brisket, but you wouldn't believe the amount of people ordering other things there. Same for Sonny Bryans too.

In North Carolina- Allen and Sons have a great variety, as does Wilsons and Parkers. Parkers even has a big following for their fried chicken.

I know in Kansas City... Gates has a very long list of different Q also.

In all of the reviews- everyone seems to like the chicken, and that alone should be fine. Where else in NY can you get great bbq chicken that is still moist and flavorful?

Let's give Dinosaur a chance.

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They also don't seem to have Brunswick Stew on the menu----something very unusual for a place that serves vinegar style chopped pork

I don't think the NYC Dino serves Carolina style vinegar chopped pork. Somewone who's been there please correct me if I'm wrong.

They do serve pulled pork with a light dose of sauce but also offer a "Pork Carolina" with is the same pulled pork sandwich served with coleslaw on top. Perhaps that accounts for the confusion? And in all fairness... I don't think Brunswick Stew would sell very well in the Northeast - just a guess.

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Owen

Dinosaur does not serve Carolina style vinegar chopped pork, which would be Eastern Carolina Style. They serve a coarse pull.

In North Carolina, depending on where you go, you can get it finely chopped, coarse chop (my personal favorite), even sliced.

The sauce on Dinosaur's seems to be put on after for serving.

That's why I ask for mine to be very light on sauce.. or sauce on the side.

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If it serves more than one kind of meat, it is rather likely to not be decent.  Real BBQ places do not serve brisket, ribs, pulled pork and chicken.  I've never had decent BBQ at a place that served all four.  Perhaps some place somewhere does.  But not the places I know.  They also don't seem to have Brunswick Stew on the menu----something very unusual for a place that serves vinegar style chopped pork.  It's a theme park menu.  It's also a big restaurant to be serving decent BBQ.  Skill seems to be important in making BBQ and its the rare place that is going to operate three smokers, cooking different products, and doing in large quantities and doing it well.  The best BBQ I've ever had all came from small places.....

Funny - I had a BBQ pork sandwich with a vinegar based sauce just the other day in North Carolina and what was the special on the board; Brunswick Stew. It happens to be a winter special in a lot of places in NC.

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Funny - I had a BBQ pork sandwich with a vinegar based sauce  just the other day in North Carolina and what was the special on the board; Brunswick Stew.  It happens to be a winter special in a lot of places in NC.

It's more than a winter special. Brunswick stew is served as a side dish at barbecue places all over North Carolina, all year, along with hush puppies at most places. In South Carolina, you usually get hash, which serves the same purpose as a side that rounds out the plate.

Kathleen Purvis, food editor, The Charlotte (NC) Observer

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It's more than a winter special. Brunswick stew is served as a side dish at barbecue places all over North Carolina, all year, along with hush puppies at most places. In South Carolina, you usually get hash, which serves the same purpose as a side that rounds out the plate.

It's also all over Georgia, where people claim the name comes from Brunswick Island. I've had good BBQ in Georgia. I've also had good mustard sauce pork in SC, although the people working there said that was a style common in WV, where they were from.

I guess I'm showing my bias, but to me BBQ means some sort of pulled/chopped whatever pork in a sauce that is not sweet. And I've never seen it made well in any sort of large place or place with a large menu.

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I'm looking at Arthur Bryant's menu right now. It lists:

Beef

Ham

Pork

Turkey

Chicken

Sausage

Burnt Ends

Long End – Ribs

Short End – Ribs

I'm having a lot of trouble thinking of any major barbecue places in the South that don't serve a variety of meats. Would anybody care to give, say, ten examples of generally accepted world-class barbecue restaurants so that we can derive the average number of meats on offer?

the only places you will find with one meat on the menu are in the carolina's and its all pork!

And Georgia. Not to mention Floridia. I've seen pork only (as in pulled/chopped) places in all four states. It's a modified pig roast. You have a bunch of people to feed at some event, so you roast a pig. It tastes good and is cheap. My ex-co-worker from SC has family that does this for reunions and weddings and the like. She's been known to bring some back to NYC. Even after a day in the car, it's still better than anyhting I've gotten in NYC. You want to make a little money, so sell some of you roasted pig, thus the BBQ shack.

As an aside, every year I drive from NYC to Floridia by various routes (went via Charlotte last time) and stop at random BBQ places along the way.

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I'm having a lot of trouble thinking of any major barbecue places in the South that don't serve a variety of meats. Would anybody care to give, say, ten examples of generally accepted world-class barbecue restaurants so that we can derive the average number of meats on offer?

This is a very good point, although it is also worthy of note that many of these places serve one meat that is truly outstanding, while the others are just good to very good. I can't imagine that Mitchell's, for example, would be famous for their chicken. Similarly, do you want to go to Kreuz's for the pork?

This is, I think, one of the big difficulties in making outstanding barbecue outside of the barbecue regions. All the places in NYC seem like they're trying to be all things to all people: not just Texas-style brisket, but also Carolina-style pork and Kansas City-style ribs, etc. The invitable result of this, in my experience, is that none of these places quite hit the mark on any of the 6 styles they're trying to make. On the other hand, think about the barbecue regions. People in Eastern NC want lightly smokey chopped whole hog with a slightly sweet vinegar sauce. A place like Mitchell's focuses a large percentage of its efforts on making that one product as good as it can possibly be, because that's where they're doing most of their business. If a NYC place is ever going to truly succeed in making top-level barbecue, I think they have to focus on doing one signature style and doing it to the highest possible level. But, of course, the NYC places really don't have to do that. Barbecue-themed restaurants like Dinosaur and Virgil's are beating off customers with a stick.

There's gotta be a reasonable list of the top barbecue restaurants on the internet, but I can't find one.

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This is, I think, one of the big difficulties in making outstanding barbecue outside of the barbecue regions. All the places in NYC seem like they're trying to be all things to all people: not just Texas-style brisket, but also Carolina-style pork and Kansas City-style ribs, etc. The invitable result of this, in my experience, is that none of these places quite hit the mark on any of the 6 styles they're trying to make. On the other hand, think about the barbecue regions. People in Eastern NC want lightly smokey chopped whole hog with a slightly sweet vinegar sauce. A place like Mitchell's focuses a large percentage of its efforts on making that one product as good as it can possibly be, because that's where they're doing most of their business. If a NYC place is ever going to truly succeed in making top-level barbecue, I think they have to focus on doing one signature style and doing it to the highest possible level. But, of course, the NYC places really don't have to do that. Barbecue-themed restaurants like Dinosaur and Virgil's are beating off customers with a stick.

This is the point I was trying to make :smile:

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(Just linking this thread with the NYTimes DIGEST thread that you can find pinned to the top of the New York forum. I note that others have posted Ms. Severson's review elsewhere on this thread. --Soba)

The meat comes from big, black computerized smoking pits in a back room, vented to high heaven and fueled with a mix of apple and hickory woods. But the mix of technology and wood isn't working. The Texas brisket ($13.50) tasted so much like deli-sliced roast beef that the Texan in our group almost wept. On two visits, the pork ribs ($13.95, $17.95 or $20.95) were nearly void of pork flavor and so overcooked that the meat came clean off the bone in one chunk. A third visit last week brought a better version, greatly cheering two Syracuse University alums who lived on them in college.

Dinosaur Bar-B-Que (Kim Severson) (from the NYTimes DIGEST update for 12 January 2005. Scroll down for the appropriate link.)

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There's a review in the NY Press at http://nypress.com/17/51/food/gershenson.cfm

They gave it a mixed review. And note, they were not thrilled with the chicken. It seems like at best the food is inconsistant and the setting resembles a canned theme restaurant. I'm going to try this place next week, but three reviews gives me pause for what I'm gonna find.

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I'm having a lot of trouble thinking of any major barbecue places in the South that don't serve a variety of meats. Would anybody care to give, say, ten examples of generally accepted world-class barbecue restaurants so that we can derive the average number of meats on offer?

This is a very good point, although it is also worthy of note that many of these places serve one meat that is truly outstanding, while the others are just good to very good. I can't imagine that Mitchell's, for example, would be famous for their chicken. Similarly, do you want to go to Kreuz's for the pork?"

Slkinsey- When I was at Kreutz's their best seller was the incredible pork chops that day. In addition, they had just sold out their ribs too. They do a huge business with their pork, and their sausages too.

I still don't think its fair to put Dinosaur in the category of a "themed" restaurant, or to compare it to Virgils. Virgils is not authentic, aside from their biscuits. Themed dinosaurs?... btw.... what is the origin of the name? Does anyone know?

I have listed in my earlier post, some of the finest bbq places in the country, and have visited them first hand- aside from Gates. Aside from the bbq places in Lexington, NC- almost all the most respected Q places serve a variety of meats.

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Slkinsey- When I was at Kreutz's their best seller was the incredible pork chops that day. In addition, they had just sold out their ribs too.  They do a huge business with their pork, and their sausages too.

Given the size of the place, I am quite sure that Kreuz Market does huge business with everything they sell. How do you know that the pork chops were their biggest seller that day? I would be shocked if it were not the case that beef was their best seller, with brisket beiung the most popular form (they also sell shoulder clod and prime rib). Smoked sausage is another Texas regional specialty, so I bet that's their #2 best selling category of meat.

Of course, now that Kreuz Market is such a tourist attraction, they probably don't have to cater to regional tastes as much. But I know they made their bones on beef and sausage, and once you have your operation set up to make one best-of-class product, it's a lot easier to think about adding something. Still, the top places like Kreuz, et al. serving multiple meats aren't attempting to produce multiple styles, just multiple meats. That's a big difference. The pork at Kreuz has nothing in common with the pork at Mitchell's.

I still don't think its fair to put Dinosaur in the category of a "themed" restaurant, or to compare it to Virgils.  Virgils is not authentic, aside from their biscuits.

What is so "authentic" about Dinosaur that is "not authentic" about Virgil's?

--

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Slkinsey- When I was at Kreutz's their best seller was the incredible pork chops that day. In addition, they had just sold out their ribs too.  They do a huge business with their pork, and their sausages too.

Given the size of the place, I am quite sure that Kreuz Market does huge business with everything they sell. How do you know that the pork chops were their biggest seller that day? I would be shocked if it were not the case that beef was their best seller, with brisket beiung the most popular form (they also sell shoulder clod and prime rib). Smoked sausage is another Texas regional specialty, so I bet that's their #2 best selling category of meat.

Slkinsey- I happened to ask that day, because I was fascinated by the place. The day I was there, the crowd did not look touristy. The guy that was doing the slicing said the chops.. then clod, then links were selling. There was still a bunch of prime rib left over- but that might be expensive for some of their clientele. This was at abour 2 hours before closing time.

I still don't think its fair to put Dinosaur in the category of a "themed" restaurant, or to compare it to Virgils.  Virgils is not authentic, aside from their biscuits.

What is so "authentic" about Dinosaur that is "not authentic" about Virgil's?

Having eaten at both places, I think the q is much more authentic at Dinosaurs. The pulled pork tastes smoked, and not just braised. The ribs have a wonderful crunch on the outside, and tender inside, while Virgils are big slabs of meat, with a rub seemingly put on as an afterthought.

Don't get me wrong, I think Dinosaur needs some improvement, but think the absolute taste of the meats is more authentic and similar to what I have recently sampled around the country, than Virgil's

Nadine

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I really think it's pretty simple. Neither Kim Severson, Robt. Sietsema, nor the girl from the Press, whom I've eaten barbecue with, know much about barbecue. It's strange in the case of Sietsema, who loves it and has eaten it all over the country -- probably in many more places than I have. But to claim, as he did, that Dinosaur's ribs lack smoky flavor, or as Severson did, that they lack porky taste, is to betray an unfamiliarity with the most basic elements of barbecue's flavor profile. Everyone I know in the barbecue business who has eaten at Dinosaur agrees that they're legit. Some might respectfully quibble with the dry rub, or the degree to which they're cooked, but to slam them is, in my mind, a sign that the person doesn't really know, or like, the smoky art itself. There really isn't that much variation in barbecue when it's competently cooked. That's why the competition people concentrates all their power on minor variations like sauce, rubs, and the like. When I see somebody slam Dinosaur, it's like somebody telling me that Frank Sinatra isn't a good singer or that Katz's is "disgusting," or that "the jews control the media." You just have to shrug and go on your way. The shame of it is that this lady, who knows nothing about barbecue, and who thinks that pulled pork should be cat food in a vinegar bath, has the power to hurt a place like Dinosaur. For my part, if I give a bad review in the paper, I make damn sure that the place is bad for what it is, not just for what I happen to like or dislike.

Josh

Edited by Mister_Cutlets (log)
Mr-Cutlets.com: your source for advice, excerpts, Cutlets news, and links to buy Meat Me in Manhattan: A Carnivore's Guide to New York!
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So now we are saying that Dinosaur is objectively good and that there can be no criticism of it. Severson wrote that two of the times she ate the ribs they were overcooked and devoid of porky flavor. Overcooked. This could account for the lack of porky taste and betrays nothing but her ability to describe what she ate. Her disclosure was full: "On two visits, the pork ribs ($13.95, $17.95 or $20.95) were nearly void of pork flavor and so overcooked that the meat came clean off the bone in one chunk. A third visit last week brought a better version, greatly cheering two Syracuse University alums who lived on them in college." Nobody is saying that Dinosaur is disgusting. If Sietsema has "eaten [barbecue] all over the country -- probably in many more places than I have", then why are you so dismissive of his take? You're saying he doesn't know about barbecue while in the same breath saying that he's eaten at more places than you. He didn't like the ribs, implying that they were overcooked. He liked the pork plate: "The best thing I tasted on three eating visits was the "big ass pork plate" ($12.95), pale meat pulled in clumps, quite smoky-tasting."

Won't someone criticize Severson's take on the brisket? Or can we agree it's not good?

JJ Goode

Co-author of Serious Barbecue, which is in stores now!

www.jjgoode.com

"For those of you following along, JJ is one of these hummingbird-metabolism types. He weighs something like eleven pounds but he can eat more than me and Jason put together..." -Fat Guy

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The shame of it is that this lady, who knows nothing about barbecue, and who thinks that pulled pork should be cat food in a vinegar bath, has the power to hurt a place like Dinosaur.

I'm not so sure that an unfavorable review in the Times—particularly of this type of restaurant—can really do very much damage. Dinosaur will succeed or fail on its own merits.

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The shame of it is that this lady, who knows nothing about barbecue, and who thinks that pulled pork should be cat food in a vinegar bath, has the power to hurt a place like Dinosaur.

I'm quite sure that neither the Post nor the Times review will hurt Dinosaur Barbecue NYC's business one iota.

Edited to add: I see Oakapple and I are of one mind on this point, right down to the choice of quote.

Edited by slkinsey (log)

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