Famous Dave’s BBQ vs Dinosaur BBQ

Dinosaur BBQ barbecue Bar-B-Que sign
The neon sign outside Dinosaur Bar-B-Que in Rochester, N.Y. The restaurant is housed in the former Lehigh Valley Railroad Station, built in 1905, overlooking the picturesque Genesee River.

CAGE MATCH!

Famous Dave’s BBQ vs Dinosaur BBQ

Are we in the heart of bbq country? Hell no – but even more reason to clarify the king of pig in this upper NY state city. After driving for several hours in a car with children, it is hard to imagine a time more deserving of bbq. Kids and parents alike go silent when the food arrives and there is no talk until the last finger gets licked. But there is nothing worse than looking forward to bbq and then eating less than perfect pulled pork, brisket or ribs. Admittedly bbq from a chain is kinda sacrilege but when you have kids, your expectations change and practicality reigns. Before we had kids we ate at places like the Pig Out Inn in Natchez, Mississippi, but it ain’t easy to get out that way these days.

Now, to main event, and so that you know where to go …

The combatants:

Famous Dave’s Barbecue

Famous Dave’s claims to be the most decorated barbecue restaurant in history with over 700 trophies. It also ranked 6th on the Daily Meal Top 25 chain barbecue restaurants for 2016.

Dinosaur Barbecue

Dinosaur began as a mobile bbq stand for biker gatherings. Good Morning America named Dinosaur BBQ the best bbq in America in 2009, but that is the most recent accolade, at least on the Dino website. Dinosaur ranked 15th on the Daily Meal Top 25 for 2016.

Brisket

Call me whatever name you want. My heart and soul belong to the Carolinas but my belly, at least when it comes to bbq, resides in the Lone Star state.

Famous Dave’s: The flavour was solid, and the requisite smoke ring proved that the brisket had spent time in the pit. Still, it was dry and needed sauce. Luckily, Famous Dave has some great sauces but really good brisket makes me reluctant to employee any sauce at all.

7/10

Dinosaur: Very good flavour; sufficiently moist and just enough fat. Arrived drizzled with bbq sauce, which I don’t love as I like it naked first, and in this case the brisket did not require sauce so it’s a shame it came pre-dressed.

8 ½ /10

Pulled Pork

Famous Dave’s: Good pulled pork. Sufficiently moist, sufficient flavour. Not the best I’ve had, but above average.

7 ½ /10

Dinosaur: Very good pulled pork. Sauce again unnecessary, as the pork was very flavourful and moist. Quite good.

8 ½ /10

Ribs

Famous Dave’s: Very tasty, slightly dry. Required sauce. Reminded me that we were at a chain restaurant and that the chef probably wasn’t doing it for love.

7 ½ /10

Dinosaur: Very tasty, but not the best cut I’ve had. Moist but still required sauce.

7 ½ /10

Collard Greens

I will eat collard greens every chance I get. Other than meat, there is nothing I associate with bbq more than collards. Might make a vegetarian of me yet. Best thing about collards is that even mediocre collards are good.

Famous Dave’s: Good, nothing special. With bacon.

7/10

Dinosaur: Good, nothing special. Turkey neck twist.

7/10

Fries

Famous Dave’s: Super salty. In fact everything was salty. Okay.

6/10

Dinosaur: Good fries. Not special.

6 ½ /10

Kids’ Meals

No I am not ashamed to finish my plate, Lizzie’s plate, and the girls’ plates. All for the sake of this review, of course; I took no pleasure in eating gluttonously, whatsoever.

Chicken Fingers

Famous Dave’s: Good. On the topic of cluckers, Dave does use cage-raised chickens and eggs. He vows on his website to stop using cage-raised chickens by 2025. That’s like saying, “I’ll quit smoking when I’m dead.” Still, he addresses it publicly. Nowhere on the Dino site does it mention sustainable and ethical practices.

7/10

Dinosaur: Very good. Don’t know if they’re cage raised, but moist and tasty. Note that Dinosaur offers kids homemade apple sauce as a side. That’s sweet.

7.5/10

Service

Famous Dave’s: Very good: our waitress was fun, appeared when we needed and disappeared when we didn’t. She was sensitive to the fact that we had kids with us, and they had their drinks quickly, and refills were supplied when a fight broke out over lemonade.

8 ½ /10

Dinosaur: Solid. Lizzie’s request for water required a second ask, as did a reminder that we had ordered a side of fries to share. All responded to promptly.

7 ½ /10

Decision

Famous Dave’s: 50.5/70

Dinosaur BBQ: 53.0/70

TKO – Dinosaur BBQ

They went toe to toe, but the winner of this cage match is Dinosaur Barbecue. It’s not perfect bbq, but it’s a chain that deals in satisfying meat that is properly smoked.

When in Rochester, the Dinosaur BBQ is located in the central business district. You can park on the bridge overlooking the water. If visiting with kids, book an earlier time. We visited at 5:30 which was just before the real rush. Do make a reservation: there is a wait for anyone who doesn’t plan ahead.

Famous Dave’s resides in Greece, NY, a suburb of Rochester. Easily accessible and lots of seating. When we left there was a bit of a wait, but tolerable.

Visiting Rochester and the Suffragette Icon Susan B. Anthony’s grave site

Susan B. Anthony and the Women’s Suffrage Movement

Tombstone of suffragette Susan B. Anthony with I voted stickers left during the 2016 US presidential election
Grave site of suffrage icon Susan B. Anthony in Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester. Many people placed “I Voted” stickers on the tombstone after the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

We traveled with our three daughters to Rochester, NY, less than a week after the 2016 U.S. Election. The idea had been that, upon the historic election of the first woman president, the girls would visit Susan B. Anthony’s grave in Mount Hope Cemetery, where people from across the United States had made the pilgrimage to honour her struggle for women’s suffrage. Initially we were disappointed with the outcome of the election because we had imagined that years later our daughters would look back upon this childhood trip as a symbolic moment in a struggle for equality, but we came around to the more important lesson that, had a woman won the election, it would not have meant the struggle was over. Frederick Douglass’ grave in the same cemetery is a stark reminder of that.

The girls were disappointed to have to get out of the car again; we had taken them for a walk in the lovely and accessible Mendon Ponds Park only an hour before, so the idea that we had to go for another walk seemed like unusual punishment. This didn’t set up well for this Little Lesson for the Littles, but we pushed forward. After all, what would Susan B. Anthony have done?

We explained to the girls (ages five and three) that at one time only men could vote. We asked what the girls thought of this. The three year old twins were too busy contemplating the cobblestone road we hiked to hear us, but our eldest responded simply and accurately, “That’s not fair.”

We took this cue to explain Susan B. Anthony’s contribution to the suffrage movement and that, thanks to her among others, men and women are equal under the law, which includes the right to vote. Further research shows that in Rochester in 1872, Anthony was arrested for voting. This underscores the perceived threat she represented to the establishment of the time but my first thought was someone had to provide her with a ballot and a box in order to cast that vote … and it turns out the election inspectors were complicit … and the conspiracy theory begins.

We followed the various groups of people that were travelling to her grave. As we had seen on the news, her grave, a humble stone, was peppered with “I Voted” stickers. We spent a couple of minutes at her grave, took some photos, and headed into Rochester proper for dinner. Over some legit barbecue we carried on the conversation to see what the girls had gained from the experience.

The twins, as expected, were too busy with pulled pork and apple sauce to hear us. Again though, our five year old was sufficiently worldly to consider the impact of what Susan B. Anthony’s work had on our lives today. We asked her what, if anything, she took away from our visit to the cemetery and Anthony’s grave. She replied, simply, “I remember that people who voted came to put stickers on her gravestone.”

When the girls were tucked into their hotel beds that night, we talked about what they actually took away from the visit. We agreed that the brief history lesson we provided was abstract; girls are now equal to boys (although in our home, boys are seriously outnumbered) but what resonated was the contemporary and concrete result: that people who had voted came to see Susan B. Anthony to let her know. We hope to instill in our girls that social justice is not an option; that fighting for what is right – for yourself and others – is an invaluable way to contribute. The fact that our eldest only recalled that people took the time to travel to Mount Hope Cemetery, stickers in hand, to commemorate their right to vote was enough: she saw the impact one person can have on an entire country.