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Dinosaur Bar-B-Que founder on opening next week, loving Fells Point and Maryland beer

When John Stage — founder and CEO of New York's Dinosaur Bar-B-Que — visited Baltimore a couple of years ago, it was not to scout for a new location. Then he strolled around Fells Point.

"There's just so much character in the area, and then we got this amazing building that plopped in our lap," Stage said during a phone conversation on Wednesday.

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At 5 p.m. Tuesday, the building at 1401 Fleet St. will become the 10th Dinosaur Bar-B-Que location and the first in Maryland. It will serve familiar cuts of meat like beef brisket, pork ribs, chicken and more, along with side dishes like coleslaw, macaroni and cheese and collard greens.

Syracuse, N.Y. — where Stage started the first Dinosaur Bar-B-Que in 1988 — is not often thought of as a barbecue hotbed like Missouri, Texas or North Carolina, but Stage has made barbecue zealots take notice since coming onto the competitive scene. In 2009, the restaurant was voted the "Best BBQ" in the country in a poll conducted by ABC's "Good Morning America." National magazines and programs on the Food Network and Travel Channel have also stamped their approval on Stage's food.

Dinosaur Bar-B-Que's food prides itself on freshly made products, he said.

"What you're eating for lunch went into the pit in the nighttime the day before. What you're eating for dinner went into the pit that same day," Stage said. "There's no reheats. Everything is made from scratch."

For first-time customers, Stage suggests trying the chicken wings as an appetizer before moving on to brisket or ribs.

The restaurant will also serve craft beers and cocktails. As he was with Fells Point, Stage was first unfamiliar with Maryland's beer scene. After researching, he's impressed.

"I had no idea there was such a great beer movement down here," he said.

Of the 20 beers offered, Stage said, the Baltimore location will include a dozen or so local brands.

With less than a week before opening his southermost location on the East Coast, Stage is optimistic Dinosaur Bar-B-Que will catch on in Baltimore. The people he's met in the area, he said, "have been fantastic."

"We're putting together barbecue with great beers and a great bar," Stage said. "I just love the area."

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