Baltimore is a barbecue town these days. We've got the saucy kind, the dry-rub kind, the patriotic kind, the former Baltimore Colt kind, the food truck kind and the hometown spin kind you find in a strip club parking lot.
But when it comes to smoky meats, there's always room for more.
Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, a small chain based in upstate New York, is a new addition to the city's ever-growing list of 'que joints; the Baltimore spot is its 10th location. The restaurant, which opened on the western edge of Fells Point in September, delivers the goods, with juicy meats, tasty sides and, though the service isn't perfect, an atmosphere that is fun and friendly.
Scene & Decor The restaurant is located in a rehabbed factory on the corner of Fleet and Eden streets, where Harbor East's new development transitions into Fells Point.
The building, outfitted with a neon sign and pig decor, feels just right for the restaurant. Inside, distressed wood, some of it painted, and spare, dark floors give the space a gritty vibe.
During our Tuesday night visit, we didn't have to wait for a table, but the place was jumping, both in the dining room and bar.
Appetizers We started with a hit: the Swag Sampler Plate for one ($6.95), which included one deviled egg, one chicken wing, one fried green tomato and two boiled shrimp.
The egg and shrimp were nicely executed in classic fashion; a moderately spicy habanero cocktail sauce gave the shrimp extra zing.
We were pleasantly surprised by the fried green tomato. The slice was thin but the coating was well-seasoned and crunchy; Dinosaur's roots might be in the North, but the kitchen clearly understood this Southern specialty.
The wing, tossed in Dinosaur's slightly sweet (but mostly spicy) Wango Tango sauce, was our favorite item on the plate; we loved its slightly smoky flavor and super-juiciness.
Entrees The menu at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que is straightforward and easy to navigate: It's all about the meat. We tried as many types as we could handle.
A pick-two platter ($16.95) included several fine slices of pink-tinged brisket and a well-seasoned hunk of sausage. We'd go back for more of both. They offered a lot to love in the flavor department.
The pulled pork sandwich platter's ($10.50) meat was soft, a little tangy, very juicy and topped with thick slices of pickle — but the bun was slightly stale and didn't stand up to the filling. A quarter-rack of ribs ($10.95) was a better bet. The meaty, dry-rubbed ribs were cooked gorgeously.
Though the meat is the main attraction, we liked every side we tried, including gooey mac and cheese, well-seasoned collards with a tart edge and sweet and salty beans.
We were especially excited to spy salt potatoes on the menu. An upstate New York specialty, the small potatoes are cooked in salty water then tossed with melted butter. The end result is fluffy and wonderful. Dinosaur's version wasn't as evenly buttered as some others we've had, but the texture was terrific.
Drinks The bar menu includes 20 beers on tap; about half were locally brewed. We enjoyed the Bucktown Brown ($6) from RAR Brewing in Cambridge and an easy-to-drink pint of Brooklyn Lager ($6).
Service A moment after we were seated, a fantastically friendly waitress greeted us. She wouldn't be our waitress, she explained, but she would get us started with drinks.
Later in the meal, the same woman came back to check on us — and we wished she'd been able to stick around, since our given waitress was less attentive. Though our food and drinks arrived in a timely manner, she didn't check in with us during the meal and when we finished our entrees. Instead of offering dessert or another round of drinks, she quickly handed us the check and spirited away our not-quite-finished beer.
Dessert We managed to track her down, though, and ordered a slice of peanut butter pie ($5.50), which had the chocolate and salty peanut butter flavor and smooth texture of a Reese's peanut butter cup.
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The pie — and the meat and sides, too — were worth the awkwardness of handing back the check and asking for dessert. Thirty seconds of weirdness was a small price to pay for such a tasty meal.