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JS: Texas and Memphis without a doubt. But honestly, everyone that does BBQ right does exactly the same thing. It’s about cooking meat for long periods of time over indirect heat. What makes the difference are your spices and sauces, and whether you’re slicing, pulling, or chopping. Your side dishes and ambience are also distinguishing factors.
BK Mag: What other BBQ businesses in the city do you particularly respect, and why?
JS: You know, just about everyone right now. I think there’s really good BBQ all over the city, from the new boys in Brooklyn to my friends at Blue Smoke and Hill Country.
BK Mag: What do you think are some of the most common mistakes BBQ restaurants make?
JS: Taking shortcuts, not smoking the meat properly, drenching it in sauce, doing a lot of reheating. BBQ can go from really good to really bad really quick.
BK Mag: Two other BBQ joints have recently opened in Brooklyn that are barely a stones throw away from Dinosaur. Does this worry you?
JS: We’re just gonna do what we do. We offer a different experience. The other places offer counter service, and ours is sit down. Plus, we’re going to offer different menu options that have a foot in BBQ but aren’t entirely traditional. Custom ‘cue, if you will.
BK Mag: Since all of the outposts of Dinosaur are slightly different, what about the upcoming Gowanus branch really reflects the neighborhood?
JS: I’m talking to the guys around the corner at Brooklyn Brine. We’re going to be doing some stuff with them.We have a local artist that built this whiskey bottle installation for the dining room. I found some old reclaimed wood from the Coney Island boardwalk that’s going up too.
BK Mag: What attracts you to these industrial neighborhoods, and rough around the edges locations? The Dinosaur in Syracuse is in an old auto body shop, Rochester’s in an old train station, and Harlem’s under a bridge. Now Gowanus is in an old tool shop by a slightly stinky canal.
JS: I’m a sick bastard, I know. But I’m all about architecture, and when buildings strike me, they strike me. I like a funky neighborhood. I don’t think we’d fit in if it was too proper. BBQ is a great social and economic equalizer.
BK Mag: New York is definitely not considered to be an authentic BBQ hub, although we have plenty of BBQ restaurants. Do you think we stand a chance of ever ranking amongst the big guns, like Texas or Tennessee?
JS: I think if people look beyond perception, they’d find that there’s some really good BBQ here. No, it’s not steeped in tradition like in the Midwest or South. There haven’t been smokehouses around for 100 years here like there are there. BBQ is kind of a new phenomenon. So we definitely have to play catch up, that’s for sure.
BK Mag: Is there one dish you would say that you’re unanimously known for, throughout all of the Dinosaur restaurants?
JS: I call it The Big Four. The ribs, the brisket, the pulled pork, and the chicken wings. Although the ribs are our number one best seller.
BK Mag: What’s your favorite item on Dinosaur’s menu?
JS: I pick on everything. The butt comes out and I pick on the bark, I’ll take a taste of brisket. I definitely eat brisket and pork more than I’ll eat ribs, because I’m always picking.
BK Mag: What’s your least favorite?
JS: I’m trying to avoid french fries like the plague these days. I did an experiment one time. I took everything and threw it into a bowl to see how much I pick at each day, and it was unbelievable. French fries took up about half that bowl.
BK Mag: How do you split your time amongst all of your businesses?
JS: Well, I’ve lived in Harlem for over 10 years. All of my downstate restaurants are easy to access from there. And I have a little place upstate that I stay at when I want to hit up all of those restaurants.
BK Mag: How often do you actually man the BBQ pit nowadays?
JS: It’s more supervision. I’m not working too many pit shifts right now. But I’m always messing around, especially since we’re doing menu development for Gowanus now.
BK Mag: After the dust settles with the new Gowanus branch, what’s next for you?
JS: We’re going to be opening another Dinosaur Bar-B-Que in Buffalo. I’ve always liked that city.