Inside Brooklyn’s Brand New Dinosaur Bar-B-Que

It’s hard to deny that Dinosaur Bar-B-Que is, for all intents and purposes, a chain. There are currently 7 rip-roaring, oversized, relatively homogenized locations of the family friendly honky tonk joint — including Syracuse, Rochester, Harlem and now Gowanus — and more on the way. But the (still independently owned) cluster of restaurants are really a heck of a long way from becoming the next Applebee’s or Outback Steakhouse. And besides, this Syracuse University alum (whose husband is a dyed-in-the-wool townie) is exceedingly grateful that she can now get her “Big Ass Pork Plate” fix without making the requisite pilgrimage upstate — complete with an extended layover at the in-laws.

Almost a year and a half after it was first announced to the public, the newest outpost of Dinosaur has finally roared to life on Union Street, straddling Park Slope and Gowanus. In fact, it’s really the perfect location…well enough removed from potentially put out residents on the other side of Fourth Avenue, and less than a half a block’s drunken stumble to the subway.

Situated in a former tool-and-die shop, the massive, 180-seat space will easily accommodate the inevitable weeknight overflow. Like most Dino locations, it retains a good deal of its original industrial character (Syracuse is in an old auto body shop, Rochester is at the site of a former train station) enlivened by quirky touches of eye-appeal. In Brooklyn’s case, there are banquettes and tables made from 1920’s push carts, wooden walls from the Coney Island boardwalk, and a 14-by-8 foot ceiling installation featuring 116 antique, sandblasted whiskey bottles, collected from beneath various local underpasses.

As for the barbecue, Dinosaur’s smoked offerings — St. Louis ribs, brisket, chicken wings, pulled pork — tend to be sweet, unapologetically sweet. It just is what it is, so if you’re religious about dry rubs or North Carolina-style vinegar bases, this probably isn’t the ‘cue for you. It’s all cooked exceedingly well, however and (since Dino operates at a much higher capacity) there’s less chance of the good stuff running out. There’s also a fine selection of items for the red meat averse, like fried green tomatoes and drunken shrimp, along with a collection of better than average sides (spicy mac and cheese, black beans with kale, turkey neck greens). We’re not really sure what’s especially Brooklyn about the Custom ‘Cue (except for the brunch-tastic “Breakfast all Day”…smoked brisket and poblano hash served with a sunnyside egg). Although the in-laws might just want to schedule a visit to try the Korean marinated and grilled skirt steak, served with house-cured chow chow and hoisin BBQ steak sauce.

Dinosaur is undoubtedly a departure form our current crop of determinately bare-bones smokehouses, with small selections of organic cuts served by the pound on butcher paper. But there’s no reason it can’t coexist happily side-by-side with popular neighbors like Fletcher’s (although it might prove a nail in the coffin for the nearby Fort Reno). And if the Orangemen make it back into the Final Four next year, it’s definitely where you’ll find us, tucked into a refurbished booth with a Big Ass Pork Plate and a cold can of Genesee Cream Ale.

604 Union St., 347-429-7030