The plan for opening day Wednesday was to start serving dinners at 5 p.m., but when a line began forming before 4 outside the newest Dinosaur Bar-B-Que restaurant at 301 Franklin St., owner John Stage decided not to wait.
“I don’t like to see people standing outside freezing,” he said, “so we just opened up.”
By 5, it seemed as if the place had been around for years. Servers were bustling about with platters of brisket, ribs and chicken. Two ESPN channels played on three large screens above a comfortably populated bar area. Hostesses cheerily told new arrivals there would be a 5- to 10-minute wait for a table.
Not quite everything was in place yet, however, at the region’s latest entry in the competitive barbecue field.
Live music won’t start until the Jony James Band strikes up at 10 p.m. Friday. A sign in front of the kitchen announced that takeouts will be available beginning Monday. As for a merchandise counter to sell T-shirts and Dinosaur’s signature barbecue sauces, Stage wasn’t sure when that would be ready.
Motorcycles, another feature of Dinosaur Bar-B-Que in other cities, were nowhere to be seen on snowy Franklin Street, but several people walked in wearing Harley-Davidson jackets and shirts.
“I’m so happy,” a woman in a Dinosaur T-shirt said as she waited for a table. “I don’t have to get a hotel and ride a bike with my boyfriend all the way to Rochester. This is going to be great.”
The only thing that seemed like an opening day glitch at first was the wait for tables while several of them remained empty.
According to Lindsay Amorese, part of the Dinosaur team from the home office in Syracuse that had been preparing for the opening for the last three weeks, this was to ensure that orders wouldn’t overwhelm the kitchen and create long waits for food.
“We don’t want to slam them all at once,” she explained. “They have to find their rhythm.”
As dinnertime progressed and the tables filled, the rhythm seemed to be quickening as Stage surveyed the big room. “So far, so good,” he said.
While Dinosaur Bar-B-Que was making its debut Wednesday, the storied chain’s lone downtown barbecue competition said that it wasn’t rattled.
Patrick Ryan, owner of Fat Bob’s Smokehouse in Allentown, said that he was confident of his product and his customer base – and that Dinosaur’s opening could bring more attention to barbecue as a whole.
“As far as being nervous and worried, we just focus on what we do and make sure we’re doing it as best as we know how,” Ryan said.
“I think everyone will want to try them out just because of the name recognition, and the draw they have. They’re great operators, obviously, and have created a great environment.”
Ryan said he expected Dinosaur to attract many of its customers from out of town who used to drive to the Rochester restaurant. He said he was also in position to pick up overflow customers.
Bruce Will, owner of BW’s Barbecue in Blasdell, said his location is far enough from Dinosaur’s that he does not feel threatened – although he acknowledged feeling envious about all the free publicity it has received.
“They’re downtown, so they won’t affect us,” Will said.
On the other hand, he added, “There are only so many mouths in Western New York, so every time someone opens something, it’s stealing mouths from somewhere else.”
Will also expressed supreme confidence in the barbecue he serves. “There is no better barbecue than mine,” he said. “You can go there and come here, and you won’t be back there again.”