If you haven’t guessed by now, for just about anything, I push the envelope as far as I can, then I try to push it just a little more. Some people aren’t on board with that style, and that’s fine. Some people are, and those are the people I am proud to call my readers.
I pulled out all the stops on the writeup for my first trip to Dinosaur BBQ in Troy, NY. I had a few first time readers who claimed I was too negative on that trip, and, while that’s their opinion, they missed out on much of what goes on with this blog in general. There’s also a large sect of the general public who will not accept a bad review of Dinosaur BBQ, so I knew what I was getting into.
Well, contrary to the first line of the above post, I went back. And…of course there’s a story to tell.
A few weeks ago, a young lady, Siobhan (@SiobhanGK on twitter) invited me to an event to raise money for Joseph’s House and Shelter, an organization “whose purpose is to prevent and alleviate homelessness.” If you do not know Siobhan, there’s nothing bad anybody can ever say about her; she is always smiling. Her smile is very difficult to say no to, even though the event was at Dinosaur BBQ.
My first inclination was to send a check and skip the event, but she actually urged me to come, so I said, “what the hell,” and told her, “yes.” The plan was to enjoy the event, but not partake in dining. [although, truth be told, I have returned to take away wings since the time of the first review, so this wouldn’t be the first return since then]
On April 12, 2011, derryX returned to Dinosaur BBQ. The group for Joseph’s house was at the back of the restaurant. They had a DJ who volunteered his equipment and time for the event, and also had a table of food, which was actually donated to Joseph’s House by the gracious owner of Dinosaur BBQ for the sake of the event. There were two types of wings, wango tango and devil’s duel, and pulled pork for pulled pork sliders. I like the wings, so I sampled some of those as well as a spoonful of pulled pork.
I don’t think it would be fair for me to judge the establishment based on free food they put out for a donation, but let’s say for arguments sake, the pulled pork was good enough to convince me into ordering a platter as take out just in case my first experience was an anomaly. This is coupled with the fact that Daniel B of FUSSYlittleBLOG has had much to say in a recent a saga at Dino BBQ made me curious about the sausage. So, on the way out of the Joseph’s house event, I ordered a platter to go.
Before anybody gets on me, I sought to eliminate the variables which people focused on the first time around, so, I had someone drive me to the place while I was blindfolded, I got the food as takeout, I made sure to include ribs in the order, I ate alone, and I chose to cheat on my “all meat” diet. I ordered the “Ode to Lockhart” which is described as follows: our own homemade smoked “hot link” sausage, beef brisket and 1/4 rack of ribs . . . $18.95. The dish comes with two sides of your choice. For science, I ordered the maple whipped sweet potatoes (which is already mushy, so the car ride between preparation and consumption would be eliminated as a variable) and the chopped salad (which serves as a control between the two visits).
Let’s stop at the salad for a second. I ordered the salad plain, but the nice girl at the counter argued that I should pick a dressing. I was planning on just using some olive oil and balsamic vinegar at home, but she twisted my arm, and I chose honey mustard. Let the record show that I arrived home with no dressing for my salad.
I’d also like to have the record show that a small tub of BBQ sauce can be seen in the right of some of the above images. I did ask the young lady for this sauce and was not required to pay for it. This is in response to a comment I left on Tablehopping where I implied that I assumed sauce was part of a hard sell.
I ate the ribs first. They were good. They do not fall right off the bone, which people like Daniel B. and myself would argue is bad for BBQ ribs, great for braised ribs, bad for BBQ ribs. The crust on the ribs is thick, and the smoke flavor is present and not overpowering. If this makes any sense, they don’t taste as saucy as they look.
I’m indifferent on the sausage. It was very tasty, but it didn’t seem like much more than an average pork sausage with fresh herbs (mainly parsley) placed in a smoker. I do want to give some props for using natural casing. Being the son of a butcher who has made sausage for almost 40 years, I have little tolerance for synthetic casing. Things like cellulose (i.e. wood) or collagen (i.e. flavorless gelatin) should not be considered part of a decent sausage. Back to Dinosaur’s sausage, you can taste the smoke, and it’s good, but the sausage is fairly forgettable.
The brisket was also decent but not outstanding. Overall, it was better than the brisket I had there on the first visit. There was certainly less fat presented to me this time. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for cooking a brisket in all of it’s fatty glory. Before it comes to the table, however, it should be trimmed. In speaking with other BBQ wizards in the area, a fat line of 1/4 the total width of the brisket is fully acceptable; that’s approximately what I was served this time, and I’m fine with it. The Dinosaur brisket is served lightly sauced, with the goal to be to get you to taste the smoke flavor, and you can certainly pick it out, as brisket is a great medium for this style of cooking. For BBQ brisket in the area, it was average on this visit.
The maple mashed sweet potatoes were awesome. Next to the Devil’s Duel wings, this is another menu item I can say is outstanding at the Troy Dinosaur BBQ. I am a fan of the flavor locked inside of a sweet potato. Couple that with a rich texture and maple sweetening, and struesel on top, and it’s a winner.
The chopped salad was alright. Aside from the little incident I described above, there’s really not much more I can say about it. I said it was a control, and, between the two visits, it was consistent. The first time, I was agitated with the size of it and the mixup in the sides I ordered, but this time, I’d say it was just about the same salad, only a little bigger (perhaps it appeared bigger because it was in a round cup and not a paper boat, but I didn’t weigh the salad in either case). Either way, I didn’t bother much with the salad because I was busy with the meats. I doubt I’d ever order this again unless I were hardcore dieting.
The corn bread this time tasted delicious. On my first visit, I described the corn bread as dry and flavorless. This time, it was quite the contrary. It was slightly sweet, well seasoned, and moist. It’s tough to say whether it came out of the kitchen this way or whether it was the result of a short trip in an enclosed container exposed to the intoxicating fumes of the rest of the items. Either way, it was much better than the first time.
So we’re at the point where there’s an impasse between my own opinions on Dinosaur BBQ in Troy, NY. On one hand, there’s my first dining experience there, which, for arguments sake, we’re going to say was poor. On the other hand, there’s the above experience which we can say is average with a high point. Now’s where I’m going to throw the wrench in and talk about the price. $18.99 (over $20 including sales tax) is on the high side to pay for a take out dinner for one person. Similar platters retail at other local BBQ establishments for at least $2 to $3 less, and usually even give you 1/3 or 1/2 rack of ribs. Given the range in quality I’ve experienced at Dinosaur (and I understand two points poorly define a curve), on a normal basis, I would prefer to go somewhere else, throw down my twenty bucks, know that my dinner will not be in the poor to average range, and hopefully get change back.
I also do not recant my first “derryX dines” post about Dinosaur BBQ in Troy. I firmly stand behind that experience and everything I wrote about it. I am glad that Siobhan gave me a reason to go back and to have been inspired to try the food again. Knowing that the place is capable of serving an average meal is certainly reassuring.
Believe it or not, my biggest fear is that a third trip will prove to blow me away. In the small picture, you’d wonder why I’d complain about having a great meal; however, in the big picture, inconsistency ranging from poor to excellent is probably one of the worst things a restaurant can have. Sure, quality is going to fluctuate between times when fresh ingredients are involved, but for the same person to go in three different times and have three completely different experiences speaks volumes for quality control, where what’s being produced should be within a certain tolerance.
All in all, I will be back, Dinosaur BBQ, but unless it’s amazing next time, this will be the last time I speak about it…