"Where can I find the best wings in town," I asked the 20-something counter girl at the Rochester Airport rental car desk. I was completely geared up for tasting something close to the original even if that was still in Buffalo, some 75 miles to the west of where I happened to be standing.
My employer sent me on a serious whirlwind tour of the United States doing meet-and-greets and data gathering at our various offices and this particular whistle stop dropped me in the great Great Lake city of Rochester, New York. That was exciting in itself because my previous experience in "Upstate" New York ended at West Point. Aside from Kodak I knew little about Rochester but wasn't going to be in the area long enough to add on a trip to Buffalo. Still, I learned enough about the signature dish of Rochester before going to know that I wanted absolutely no part of a "Garbage Plate." I can barely fit in a coach seat as it is!
"Buffalo Wild Wings," came the gum-chewing response along with the keys to my rental. I shook my head in the sigh of the aged when faced with the ignorance of youth and drove off in to town. Now I do enjoy "The BWW" but this is Upstate New York for crying out loud! I was truly surprised that one would be there and still in operation instead of failing miserably and being run out of town, polished chicken bones and coleslaw fringed garbage plates being heaved in its wake. What to do for dinner? I was only in town for the one night before pressing on to the next stop of the tour and wanted a strong memory of a town I might seriously not see again soon.
"Try the Dinosaur," said the desk clerk at my hotel. BBQ? In Upstate New York? Come on, now, said my expression. This is a Texan yer a-talkin' to. "No, really," they implored. Well, if nothing else, I can at least say I toldja so when I got back from dinner.
Toldja so, nothing, I was absolutely flabbergasted from the moment I smelled the place a full block before I got to the restaurant. Ahh...a smoke pit, I thought. Good start so far. Situated along the river, the wood and brick building advertised authenticity, wood flooring, wagon wheel and all, but how was the food?
The Dinosaur would more than hold its own in Texas, that's the simplest way to put it. I enjoyed, almost couldn't finish, the Smoke Pit Combo Plate of ribs, brisket and sliced pork. The ribs were meaty, the brisket fork tender and the sliced pork equally out of this world, all drizzled with a sauce of perfection and washed down with sweet tea by the gallon. The service was fast, efficient and team oriented; any one passing my table either cleared plates or topped off beverages. The price was in line with my per diem and other bbq joints back home.
Two other restaurants operate in Syracuse, the original, and New York City near the Cotton Club in Harlem. I'm just still shaking my head at the irony of smoke pit barbecue THAT good being available that far up north. I hope they don't over reach or grow too fast: the other secret to good barbecue is that it's worth traveling for!