Inside Barton G., L.A.'s "Most Instagrammed" Eatery
Samurai swords! Wheelbarrows! Marie Antoinette's head for dessert! The Miami original brings its "Vegas on a plate" ethos to the West Coast.
If Los Angeles' flourishing food scene is starting to feel a little humdrum, you may want to consider an evening at Barton G. — a Restaurant Row eatery with all the subtlety of an episode of RuPaul's Drag Race. But it's not the waiters who come dolled up in eye-popping getups: It's the food itself.
An offshoot of the Miami Beach original, L.A.'s Barton G. outpost opened its doors on La Cienega Boulevard a little more than a year ago and since has drawn a steady stream of famished Angelenos looking for a zany spin on fine dining. The restaurant claims to be "the most Instagrammed in L.A.," a dubious assertion. (The tag #BartonG has 15,000 posts; #Nobu, by comparison, has 142,000.)
But that's neither here nor there. If you eat at Barton G., it's pretty much guaranteed that at some point in the meal you will whip out a smartphone to capture the experience for posterity. Forget craft cocktails. Forget small plates. Here, all culinary trends and foodie pretensions are tossed out the window in favor of comfort-food dishes "staged" on a series of increasingly ridiculous props. It's all the brainchild of the chain's namesake — the "internationally recognized event concept designer" Barton G. Weiss, according to the Barton G. website.
What kind of props? Well, the Rake and Ho Garden salad ($17) arrives in a wheelbarrow the size of an infant's car seat. It's tossed and served by your waiter with an accompanying trowel and rake, and the dressing is poured out of a watering can. The Lobster Pop Tarts ($21), oozing phyllo pockets filled with Maine lobster and melted Gruyere, are served in a retro toaster. The Samurai Tuna ($32) sits beneath an actual samurai sword.
No prop is too unwieldy: By the end of a four-course meal, you may have encountered jumbo forks and knives, dodo-bird sculptures and old-fashioned popcorn machines. Running the dishes can prove as graceful as rearranging furniture, but the staff, to their credit, has turned the process into something of an awkward ballet.
Dessert kicks the whimsy up a notch. If you're looking to impress — or at least get a few mouths to drop — you'll want to order the Marie Antoinette's Head — Let Them Eat Cake ($18), a mountainous cotton-candy wig served on a mannequin head atop a pink neon platter: 1983 by way of 1793.
It's gluttonous. It's ridiculous. It's vaguely embarrassing. Still, there's no denying that the place can put a smile on your face. The night The Hollywood Reporter stopped in for the full Barton G. experience, a nearby diner proposed to his companion, and the place erupted into cheers. The ring, hidden inside a treasure chest filled with warm brownies and ice cream, was 100 percent real.