Dinosaur Bar-B-Que Just Turned 30. Can John Stage Resurrect It?
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Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, a one of the largest barbecue players in New York and the Northeast, celebrated its 30th birthday last month. But it has a small problem.
If you’re in the New York City metro area, you may have visited Dinosaur in Harlem, Gowanus, or Newark. And if you’ve been to one of those locations in the past three or so years, you may have noticed the food hasn’t been living up to its once-mighty name. Barbecue aficionados around the city these days rarely talk about it, as food that is “fine” is not good enough in a city full of great BBQ joints.
But Dinosaur may outlive the meteor of mediocrity if co-founder John Stage has anything to say about it. Stage opened the original Dinosaur location in Syracuse in 1988. As the chain expanded, he lost control of the company to Soros Strategic Partners in 2008. Under SSP’s guidance, Dinosaur expanded quickly with mixed results and two locations — one in Chicago and one in Baltimore — shut down within a few years. Quality declined at some of its other locations as well, including in NYC.
Those days might be over now, with Stage becoming the majority shareholder of Dinosaur again in October. Stage has the experience to turn the tide, but he has not hinted yet about what big changes he has in mind.
However, he reflected on where things are right now in the Syracuse New Times. “Right now, it’s all about looking inward,” he said. “The biggest thing is the culture. … Our culture is our people. That’s our special sauce. Our people are invested. I feel it personally. They feel it personally."
I’ve seen Stage working at events like the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party in NYC and been generally impressed with Dinosaur's brisket and ribs (see above) when he’s managing the show. I’m hopeful he'll be able to take everything he’s learned over the years to bring Dinosaur back.
Founder, NYC BBQ
EAT ALL ABOUT IT
Here are the top BBQ and food stories in New York area this week:
John Brown Smokehouse, one of the best barbecue joints in NYC, was included this week in Eater’s roundup of top restaurants in Long Island City. (Also check out my photo of John Brown’s incredible burnt ends in the article!)
Ma & Pa’s Tex-Mex BBQ, a new joint in Mount Laurel, New Jersey that blends Mexican cuisine and barbecue, opened its first physical location after years as a food truck. Owner Alex Martinez says his brisket tacos and fish tacos have been among his best sellers upon opening two weeks ago.
Prime Meats, once a hotshot restaurant in Carroll Gardens that was known for quality sausages, steaks, and burgers, is closing this weekend. The owners will open a new wine bar in the space, while also expanding their Italian restaurant Frankies 457 Spuntino next door.
Macona BBQ in Collingswood was highlighted as one of the best comfort food restaurants in New Jersey. While the menu changes daily, you’ll certainly want to check out the mashed potatoes, mac ‘n’ cheese, coleslaw, and cornbread if they are available.
Eater just published its list of the 13 top classic New York steakhouses. On the list, you’ll find local favorites such as Keens, Peter Luger, and Delmonico's.
Here are the top BBQ (and related) food events coming soon to the New York metro area:
December 1: The 4th Annual Great Northeast Cheese Fest takes place this Saturday at Flushing Town Hall in Queens. Top vendors will include 5 Spoke Creamery, Beecher’s, Consider Bardwell, Lively Run, and Nettle Meadow. Buy tickets here.
December 1: The Brooklyn Whiskey and Craft Spirits Fest is happening Saturday at the Brooklyn Expo Center in Greenpoint. The event will feature more than 100 types of spirits, from whiskey to bourbon to moonshine to mezcal. Meet the distillers, master blenders, and other experts. Buy tickets here.
December 16: Kimchi Smoke, a great joint in Westwood, New Jersey is hosting two special “Omakase Sessions.” Pitmast and chef Robert Austin Cho will serve up specials and some new menu items. Buy tickets here.