The next big name in barbecue has hatched on Market Street in Newark.
Dinosaur Bar-B-Que opened its doors Thursday night for an invitation-only sampling of the authentic southern fare, a New York favorite and soon-to-be talk of the town among Newarkers. The brand new eatery, situated near Mulberry Street and the Prudential Center, specializes in slow-cooked barbecue, from smoky beef brisket to tangy pulled pork and, of course, beef ribs and chicken wings smothered in owner John Stage's special recipe.
"It's supposed to pull off (the bone)," he said, debunking a common misconception among rib-eaters. "If it falls off, it's overcooked."
Stage is considered one of the best in the barbecue industry after getting his start in 1983 cooking out of a halved 55-gallon drum for East Coast motorcycle shows and festivals. His first restaurant opened five years later in Syracuse, followed by roadhouses in Rochester, Harlem and Troy.
The decision to expand his business into Newark was an easy one, Stage said. It wasn't long after catering an event for Mayor Cory Booker four years ago that the Harlem resident discovered the perfect spot for the newest Dino.
"I fell in love with the building," said Stage of 224-226 Market St., a one-time factory that was left in shambles before undergoing renovations two years ago.
Now, the ground floor of the multi-story building is a rustic, no-frills joint adorned with paintings and metal flying pigs Stage collected over the years from Louisiana. Much of the original building, like the paneled ceilings, tiled floor and exposed brick, was kept intact, including wooden beams that were repurposed into a bar top. Adding to the homey feel are dark-stained wooden booths, handmade by a Pennsylvanian carpenter, that line the front of the restaurant.
"This (restaurant) feels totally different than the other ones," said Stage.
In the basement is where the magic happens. Huge smokers are filled every day with firewood and hickory chips to slow-cook beef and pork, giving the meat an "outdoorsy" taste, Stage said. The beef brisket takes about 14 hours to cook and is a favorite of server Amira Richardson, though the 19-year-old server also raved about the pulled pork and ribs.
"I love barbecue," said Richardson, a West Ward resident who was Dino's first official hire.
The restaurant, which seats 190 people, officially opens Tuesday for dinner and Wednesday for the full menu.
"It's the real deal," said Stage. "We do barbecue the old-time way, there are no shortcuts."