Harlem's Secret Barbeque
It was a rainy Sunday afternoon. Church was over, all the people were squeezing through the exits, spilling out onto the sidewalk, scurrying along quickly to make their lunch plans. We were some of those people. In the icy spring air, with the rain misting all around us, I looked up, desperate for him to read my mind. He just nodded back at me, thoughtfully. He knew.
It was time. For my feeding.
That beautiful man said, "Why don't we go up to Harlem and get barbeque sandwiches at that place?"
I almost exploded with glee.
We had been hearing rumors about that place. That place up in Harlem (shhhhhh don't go there at night!), close to the water (be carrrreeeeful, don't go there!), underneath an old bridge (seriously, DON'T GO!) that had the best barbeque in New York. For Georgians? Barbeque is like the ambrosia of the Gods. We are always in the mood for it, always craving it, and never quite satiated in this Yankee-ville we have found ourselves living in. But friends of friends had mentioned that place in passing. It was like a whisper of a recommendation. And we had been wanting to try it, except... well, it's located in HARLEM.
I mean, you don't just go up to Harlem. Not unless you have a good reason. And you need a very good reason. You don't just stumble around Manhattan and find yourself accidentally in Harlem. It's a rough hood. And we didn't think there was ever a really good reason for us to try this place for dinner (since you have to walk about a mile off the subway, mostly on side streets, until you get to the restaurant, which is located on the Hudson River). It just seemed... well, like dangerous work. Like we would need a Jack Bauer escort for a complete sense of security. And we've gotten really lazy, living in wonderful cities where everything can be delivered to your door... so that place had remained simply a rumor.
But on a Sunday afternoon? A rainy one? Well, the exception had to be made. We practically skipped to the subway, rode it for an eternity up to 125th, and carefully stepped out. Time to put on my fight face. You know, to ward off attackers. Reminiscent of the time we avoided thugs in Naples in hopes of eating the best pizza on Earth. (Now that I think of it, we are making a habit of going into unsafe places at just the promise of a tasty meal, hmm what does that say about us?) Anyway, I couldn't let the hoodlums know I was practically panting at the thought of a juicy pulled pork sandwich on a hot bun. With mac & cheese.
Oh dear LORD, I prayed, get to me that barbeque place. And help me look "street"
// It's kind of like the journey to grandmother's house... instead of going over the river and through the woods, you go under the bridge and past the scary night club. //
// Yeah. This is my protector. The guy who thought that acting like Batman and running through the streets with his "wings" would ward off terror. Thanks for making us look inconspicuous, hon. //
// Once you've reached the infamous Cotton Club, you're almost there. Don't linger. DO NOT LINGER. //
// Our destination! Follow the hooded gentleman. //
So here's the deal. Once you're inside Dinosaur Barbeque, this place carries absolutely no indication that it is located on the island of Manhattan. It's wonderfully UN-pretentious, reasonably priced, and full of completely unassuming patrons. Like, there was a biker gang sitting up at the bar. I've never even SEEN a biker gang in this city (where would they park?) But at Dino Barbeque, they sat loud and proud during our entire visit. Gulping down their brew, Gaston-style. Everyone in the restaurant just seemed like they were from Georgia, Florida, Alabama and South Carolina, not the chic metropolis that is New York City. What a relief. These are our kind of people! There were normal looking families (the kind who TALK, not just shove an iPad in their kid's face to shut them up during the meal, which yes, I have seen one too many times in city restaurants). The waitress actually knew about the different ingredients in the various homemade barbeque sauces, could explain the craft brews (to Stevie, not me. I just drooled while she spoke), and recommended the mac & cheese as their best side. I almost asked her to marry me. Darn it, she got away too quick.
But she came back quickly, like an angel from Heaven, with our gigantic platters of ambrosia barbeque. A silence came upon us for a good twenty minutes. This was feeding time.
// Alright, you can't see the biker gang here, but I was kinda afraid to photograph them. THEY WERE THERE. //
// Pure. Joy. //
The Results Are In.
People. This place. Was gooooooooooOOOD. WORTH THE COMMUTE. Worth the Bauer-less safety risk. Worth it all. If you ever find yourself jonesing for a hit of BBQ in the middle of Times Square, don't settle for some pricy pampered ritzy chef's interpretation (which will probably consist of tiny portions and include at least one french ingredient that you can't pronounce.) Just get yourself to the 123 or ACE train! You can do it. Maybe just throw up your hoodie once you get off the train and take the journey westward... the divine scent of smoky pork and motorcycle fumes shall guide you. And it will be WORTH IT.