BEST OUTDOOR DINING Miami 2003 - Barton G the Restaurant
It's been a long time since a real South Beach restaurant opened -- real meaning, of course, unreal, the sort of place that reminds one that back in SoBe's original pioneering days as a fun-in-the-sun resort, the destination beach was called Fairy-Land. Barton G is that sort of restaurant-as-theater experience, continuing the outdoor fun after the sun goes down, in an expansive, exotically planted 125-seat garden dining patio. There's no better way to show off for visitors from the frozen north than eating outside at Barton G, surrounded by palms and orchids, in the middle of winter. The food, which generally follows the "if it's worth doing it's worth overdoing" rule (instead of the usual crabcake, there's a trio of seafood cakes; the chopped salad features not one dressing but three), is as festive as the setting, much of it giving the impression of following a playful plot rather than a recipe: Popcorn shrimp is served in a movie theater popcorn container on a bed of real popcorn; the signature dessert, Big Top Cotton Candy and Over-the-Top Popcorn Surprise, invariably evokes gales of astonished laughter from first-timers as servers sweep by with the platter of purple cotton candy and chocolate truffle-centered crackerjack balls. To be honest, since many dishes are fried and/or extremely rich, the eats may not appeal to everyone. But the eating environment surely will, as will the prices -- many entrées are under $20 and only two are above $30.
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