Dinosaur Bar-B-Que lovers finally know the date: Feb. 12.
That’s when the nationally acclaimed, Syracuse-based restaurant chain aims to open its first Buffalo location at 301 Franklin St., south of West Tupper Street.
“I’ve been trying to open here for years, and for whatever reasons things fell through,” said John Stage, the company’s CEO. “This is actually my third attempt.”
The third time, apparently, is the charm.
Dozens of workers buzzed through the restaurant Wednesday, moving chunky wooden tables around mismatched wrought-iron railings and repurposed stained-glass doors. Every Dinosaur location is different and painstakingly custom-built.
The honky-tonk decor of the Buffalo location features a hardwood floor salvaged from a crayon factory in Ohio, rolling fire doors from a former film storage vault in the restaurant’s basement and countless other funky, found features, many of them sourced from Buffalo’s Horsefeathers Antiques, which has supplied Dinosaur’s locations with ruggedly cool decor for years.
“It’s a barbecue joint,” Stage said. “It has to feel real.”
Adding to the real feel will be live blues and Americana bands that will play at the restaurant on Fridays and Saturdays.
Dinosaur fans will be excited to see the local menu will include all the favorites featured at Dinosaur locations – slow-smoked brisket, ribs and homemade sides – but will also add new items exclusive to Buffalo, such as barbecue meatballs and a vegetarian sandwich called the smoked broccoli Reuben, which pairs smoked broccoli with barbecue sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and barbecue mayonnaise.
Dinosaur will also offer catering for parties of 15 to upwards of 500 people, but not until a few weeks after the restaurant opens.
“We have to get our chops here first,” Stage said.
Stage, who splits his time between New York City and Syracuse, is a self-taught cook who got his start selling barbecue out of a halved 55-gallon drum at biker shows, fairs and festivals. When he tired of “the carney lifestyle,” he settled down and opened his first restaurant in Syracuse in 1988.
Since then he has opened locations in Rochester, Harlem, Troy, Brooklyn, New Jersey and Connecticut. In 2008, billionaire investor George Soros bought a major share in the company.
Each location’s manager, called a managing partner, shares in the restaurant’s profits, which Stage said keeps them invested in maintaining the restaurant’s high standards.
Many Western New Yorkers are eagerly awaiting their first taste of Buffalo Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, especially those who have tried the food in other cities or heard rave reviews from others who have.
Like many locals, Anne Patterson, of North Tonawanda, has driven to Rochester more than once just to visit the Dinosaur Bar-B-Que there and was giddy when she heard a location was destined for Buffalo.
“I won’t have to drive so far to eat anymore!” she said. “The food is just so good. It’s so fresh and homemade.”
Dinosaur’s food has been featured in several national publications and on television’s Food Network and Travel Channel, and was named the country’s best barbecue by “Good Morning America.” The restaurants – which have served Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush and first lady Michelle Obama – pull diners from a wide radius, many of whom wait upwards of an hour for a table. Buffalo’s location is expected to be just as busy.
“There’s a good energy in downtown Buffalo compared to what was here even five years ago,” Stage said. “I love that. I love being a part of it.”