With a name that’s instantly burned into your memory and a trophy case that would rival LeBron James’, Barry Dyngles in Youngstown, Ohio is more than “just another barbecue joint.” Several of my friends, self-proclaimed “rib experts” and “foodies” (delusional for “overeaters”), strongly urged me to try out the restaurant with the tag line “FUNNY NAME…FABULOUS FOOD.” I gave in, skipped breakfast, built up my hunger pains, and had a cheat day to see what all the fuss was about. A dozen or so trips and 15 pounds later, I am penning my gluttony to paper for the good of mankind; or at least to benefit all humans who enjoy great food!
With no professional training in culinary arts or a degree in journalism, I will document my first visits to Barry Dyngles, and just for fun, let’s call it a love story.
It was a warm, overcast Sunday afternoon in June when Barry Dyngles came into my life. From the outside, it looks like any run-of-the-mill restaurant in an old weathered industrial town. It doesn’t sit in a trendy outdoor shopping mall, or surrounded by high-end retailers. Barry Dyngles’ neighbors are a tiny smoke shop, two gravel parking lots, a small Asian fast-food restaurant whose neon “open” sign is the only proof of life, and a run down hole-in-the-wall bar that looks like it could be condemned at any time. But you can’t judge a woman by her neighbors, right? When I walked in the front door, she looked absolutely gorgeous! Extremely clean, modern, and well-kept. You know exactly where you are when there’s an entire wall behind the host-stand covered with a Youngstown and Ohio sports mural, complete with autographs of those Ohio sports figures who have had the pleasure of dining there. In the spirit of their local fame, and the fact it was the Sunday special, I immediately ordered the BBQ FEAST: chicken, pork, brisket, side (I went with French fries) and salad. I threw in a half-rack of their award winning Kansas City ribs. I told you I skipped breakfast! The service was extremely friendly and didn’t miss a beat. Kaija was my server’s name and she hustled to make sure that my drink was always filled, and that my food arrived in a timely fashion, smiling all the while. One thing was quite noticeable from the moment I walked in: In spite of their highly acclaimed ribs and barbecue, there was this clean fresh smell. You can smell most barbecue restaurants from the second you park your car and when you leave, you smell like a pit-master…whether you had the barbecue or not. The scrumptious smells of flawlessly smoked barbecue didn’t smack me in the face until Kaija placed this smorgasbord in front of me. This was something that I absolutely loved; especially for a place that serves “More than just great Q” (one of their tag-lines)! Their portions could feed a small family and every piece of meat was cooked to perfection. And their famous sauce…wow! Hands down, the best I have ever tasted. I almost asked for a to-go cup so that I could sip it on my ride back home. The Kansas City ribs were so flavorful; just the right amount of smoke and sweet. The 240+ culinary awards on their resume made complete sense to me within minutes. Even the fries were out of this world! I found out they have a special seasoning that they developed in their “lab.” The locals call it “crack.” Fries for a meal was definitely in my future. This place is so magnificent that even the salad’s colorful, crisp, fresh vegetables looked primed for a photo-shoot for Salad Weekly. Needless to say, Barry Dyngles made a believer out of me. I established a bit of a crush on her that day. I left in a food coma vowing to be back for a second date!
SECOND DATE/FALLING HARD:
This time, I was greeted with the same friendly and uber-efficient service. While I wanted to go back to the barbecue, something was drawing me to their burgers. What a fantastic and creative variety on the menu! Based on my first experience in Barry Dyngles, I knew that they only use top grade meat. I was on my way to Pittsburgh so I only had time to stop in for a quick lunch. I went with the Y-town Burger (while in Youngstown, do as…). A delicious hunk of meat, Italian greens, hot peppers, and provolone served on grilled ciabatta bread. And of course, a heaping pile of fries…extra crack please! The blend of flavors just melted in my mouth. The Italian greens were so fresh. I had not tasted anything like that since my Italian grandmother used to whip up an entire meal with only what she picked from the garden but made it taste like we were eating at a 5-star restaurant. Their burgers are so artistic, yet make so much sense once you sink your teeth into them. Makes you wonder if Barry Dyngles is a barbecue restaurant or a specialty burger eatery. My second date had me already thinking marriage. Too soon?
I have been back quite a few times over the last several months. I find myself looking for excuses to drive to or through Youngstown just so I can stop and visit what has become the object of my affection. I have tried all of the burgers, barbecue prepared any way you can imagine, a juicy nine ounce USDA prime steak, and yes, even a dinner salad. I travel all over the country for my job and dine at thousands of restaurants a year. I can honestly say with no reservation, every item I have tried from their menu has been A++.
I quickly realized what separates Barry Dyngles from so many other restaurants. And I noticed it on my second visit when one of the servers introduced me to the owner, Shawn Hannon. He is always there, always working! Shawn is meticulous and everyone from his greeters, kitchen crew, servers, and bartenders know it, take pride in his passion, and love him for it. Shawn’s passion for perfection is second-to-none. Something as simple as chilled salad plates, he misses nothing. I had the opportunity to sit down with him and find out some of his secrets. For the past 25 years, he has held almost every position in the food industry. He has seen what works and what doesn’t work. He refuses to sell out or cheapen the customers’ experience and only uses top-of-the-line ingredients. There is nothing cookie-cutter about Barry Dyngles’ menu. Every menu item is something that he and his crew have developed, tinkered with, improved, and continue to put their own personal touch on. This explains the trophies, culinary awards, and the fact that their profits have increased 900% since opening their doors in 2007.
I have a feeling my relationship with Barry Dyngles will continue to grow and flourish, much like my waistline.