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DINING Barton G., the place to be
by Jerry Nunn, Windy City Times

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Barton G. The Restaurant recently opened its Chicago location, with all of the pomp and circumstance that one expects from Miami-based visionary Barton G. Weiss. The new 12,000-square-foot space at 415 N. Dearborn St. is on two floors of the former Sullivan's Steakhouse.

Upon entering, guests will spot monkeys as an homage to the animals Weiss owns. He's spared no expense in decor and materials used in every corner to create a visual experience. Instagram-worthy dishes include the BBQ of Bones, the Orange Salmon and the Kobe Meatloaf in Terracotta.

Many may recognize the entrepreneur from his television appearances on Bravo's Top Chef as a guest judge or the show Behind the Bash. He is also an author of the book The Big Dish: Recipes to Dazzle and Amaze from America's Most Spectacular Restaurant. He was a former professional ice skater and has dressed clients such as Chita Rivera and Cher. He has created over 20,000 events for a range of companies over the years such as BMW, NBC and the NFL.

Windy City Times: Did you originally start with a catering company?

Barton G. Weiss: I started with an event production company. I did large-scale events like Super Bowl, PGA golf championships and releases for BMW.

That's what the company was, then we got into off premise catering. That led me to my first restaurant 17 years ago.

WCT: That was in Miami?

BGW: Yes. I moved to Miami 25 years ago. That's where it all started.

WCT: How was working with Cher? She was just in Chicago for a concert.

BGW: I saw her in Vegas about a month ago. She is just like she is on stage. She's immaculate.

Bob Mackie designed about 99 percent of wardrobe but for the one percent she brought in other people to create on the road for her, so that is how I am involved.

WCT: What brought this new restaurant to Chicago?

BGW: I have family that lived here and wanted me to come here. I didn't know anything about Chicago, so did a quick study and the first building I found was this one. When I walked in I knew the dark wood had to go.

I walked in and fell in love. It's a great space with so many possibilities to it. I decided to give it a try.

Chicago is an eating city, and [is] very sophisticated. It has a young crowd with partygoers, so it has my name written on it.

WCT: With so many restaurants in Chicago, what do you bring that's different?

BGW: What I am bringing is something unique and individual. People have tried to emulate what I do, but nobody has been successful.

Many restaurants have opened and closed unfortunately because it's not just looking at a plate and seeing a fabulous creation. There's a lot going on behind it. Because of my theatrics and experience from the past I was able to pull together a team that have been with me around 20 years. I have longevity and I was able to teach them the art of being social. With that, they were able to learn what it takes to run a Barton G.

This is experiential dining. It is not something that I have witnessed in Chicago. Everyone is taking pictures and posting to Instagram. It is one of the most instagrammed restaurants in the United States.

It is from the sublime to the ridiculous, but I feel I bring a different angle to Chicago. It is something people haven't experienced here. I think it will go over well.

The menu is very different. We have steaks, but we are not a steakhouse. That is not the emphasis of this restaurant.

WCT: I saw the BBQ of Bones on your menu.

BGW: It's a real indoor barbecue that can be roasted on the table. We have a lot of different kinds of meats here. We have everything from pork to deer. It is American cuisine gone nouveau.

WCT: What goes into a restaurant opening that would surprise people?

BGW: A big team of people that specialize in different areas and a lot of hard work. I spent weeks eating at different restaurants and seeing what the competition was. We design all of the restaurants in house, so that takes time. We can seat 500 people, but that means 1500 plates for a three course meal.

I have to tell you, all of the staff are local. I don't bring in people from other locations. I did to open though. There's about 15 of them here. After the restaurant opens they go back home to their respective restaurants. There's a ton of talent here that's untapped.

WCT: Are you doing brunch?

BGW: Yes, lunch, dinner and brunch. We do special events on the second floor, where we can seat 20 to 200 people. We have designed panels that drop down and are sound proof. I can create six different meeting rooms.

WCT: Is there a place you would like to tackle next?

BGW: We are looking right now at Boston, Orlando and maybe Saudi Arabia. We just finished Super Bowl and we are working on PGA Championship and U.S. Open Championship in Pebble Beach. I don't get involved every day as I created it, but when they need help I am there!

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