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Nation's Restaurant News

Nation's Restaurant NewsDale Barth had been an independent operator in Florence, SC for 15 years when, in 1993, he and his spouse Leslie came up with the idea and menu for Red Bone Alley -- a concept featuring Southern cuisine in an "old South" downtown sidewalk and street setting that creates an outdoor experience even though it's all indoors.

"We like to tout the South," says marketing director Will Green, explaining how the 40-foot-tall brick, wood, and stucco streetscape facades, complete with balconies, in the original 14,000 square foot Red Bone here, as well as the 8,200 square foot unit in Columbia, SC, express the related energy and charm one expects to find in old cities like New Orleans and Charleston.

In fact, the Barth Group now is developing a Red Bone Alley for Charleston that will encompass 10,000 square feet and feature the same specialties -- Low-country shrimp and grits, turkey on cornbread toast, "Cajun hardtack," blackened chicken and shrimp with bell peppers, Jack cheese and remoulade, and "chicken Pontalba," cheese grits topped with spicy fried chicken tenders, local sausage and hash browns -- according to Green.

The Florence restaurant even has an authentic ice cream truck as a street prop in its children's area.  Green says that despite the overstated regional ambiance, Red Bone Alley is not an "entertainment" concept.  Still, the casual feel and day-long per person average of $13.50 places the restaurant solidly in the themed dinner house arena.

"Dishes like shrimp pilau [pronounced "per-low"] were influenced by 200 years of African, English, French, Mediterannean, and West Indies cooking," Green says, noting that owner Dale Barth got to experiment with Southern regional fare while he operated the former P.A.'s, a restaurant in Florence, which he converted from a casual to a fine-dining destination.

"Our background is still locally harvested ingredients and hands-on service," Green explains. The Red Bone kitchen uses only South Carolina beekeepers' honey and rice grown in nearby Darlington County.  The daily menu also features one species of Atlantic-caught fish.

For non-regional variety, Red Bone serves three steak selections with garlic mashed potatoes -- a filet garnished with sugar peas, a New York strip topped with peppercorn butter and a marinated rib-eye with sauteed onions -- in addition to house-interpreted pasta dishes like "chicken Leo" featuring smoked ham and fried chicken on a fettucini Alfredo base.

* Reprinted by permission of Nation's Restaurant News, July 12, 1999. ©Lebhar-Friedman, Inc., 425 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10022.