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A Local's Guide to South Carolina's Best Kept Dining Secrets

A Local's Guide to South Carolina's Best Kept Dining SecretsOwner or manager: Dale Barth
Address: 1903 W. Palmetto Street, Florence
Directions: I-20 E and in Florence. From I-20/I-95 interchange, follow I-20 E about 2 miles to Evans Street (4th Stop light). Just past 4th light, turn left into Florence Mall. Restaurant is behind Piggly Wiggly, on Palmetto Street side of mall.
Phone number: 843-673-0035
Hours of operation: Mon-Sat 11:30 Am- 12:00 AM
Sunday 11:30am- 9 pm
Payment Method: major credit cards
Reservations: recommended for large groups
Dress: nice casual
Gratuity: not included
Bar: Yes
Alcohol: Yes
Diet/light menu: several items*
Children's menu: yes
Average price for meal: $10.00
Discounts: none offered
Catering: no
House favorites: Low Country shrimp and grits, "dem bones" chicken
Other: *menu evaluated by hospital; healthy choices marked. 

When most people want to open a restaurant, they get a building, install a kitchen, and put out some tables and chairs. Not Dale Barth. When he established Redbone Alley in Florence, he created an enclosed, miniature city.

"I've always loved eating at the little sidewalk cafes in Charleston, " he said. "But, I didn't think that would work in Florence. It would either be too hot or cold, or there'd be flies." He came up with a plan to have a sidewalk cafe inside.

First, Dale selected a building. He bought the old JC Penney store that was sitting empty. He knocked out a portion of the first-floor ceiling to open up the second story, creating a thirty-foot-high space. Next, he and his wife visited Charleston, Savannah, and New Orleans and took lots of pictures. They presented them to the architect, making only one request: "We want it to look like this."

The resulting design could not have been more perfect. The walls are painted with images of houses and shops, where pigeons perch on window sills. Attached to some houses are porches and balconies. An alley winds through the mock city and trees are situated throughout. The dining tables are placed along the twists and turns of the alley and on the porches and balconies. For kids, an ice cream truck filled with toys offers a play area and a cooler with ice cream bars for dessert. Customers can best appreciate the miniature city from the balconies.

In a room that connects to the restaurant, Dale added a bar for adults who just want a drink or to watch television while dining.

Upstairs, on the open second level, is a gameroom with video games and pool tables.

The entire place covers a whopping 20,000 square feet. Despite its size, there is a surprising sense of intimacy.

Dale had previous experience in the restaurant business, having run Florence's most upscale eatery. "But my wife and I had started a family," he said, "and we realized how important it was to have a restaurant geared toward children. The other place was too expensive for families, and getting a babysitter made it a pricey evening for parents."

Dale's six-year-old daughter wanted the restaurant to be called Clementine, they compromised and chose Redbone.

An image of the dog is the restaurant's logo. In the gift shop, you can buy shirts, hats, and other souvenirs with the red dog logo. The hound appears on the sign outside and on the menus. Also, a six-foot-tall redbone and a doggy friend are seated at a table on the highest balcony, keeping a watchful eye over the activities below.

There is even a letter from the dog to customers printed on the menus. He writes, "What's the secret to Redbone Alley? It's simple: good, fresh, innovative food; attentive and friendly service; and just plain fun. You don't have to be born with a silver bone in your mouth to figure it out."

The old dog is right! The restaurant is fun and the service is above the ordinary. Best of all, the food is top quality. You can get a three-way shrimp platter (six blackened, six grilled, and six fried) for $12.99; a mixed grill (beef, shrimp, and chicken) for $14.99; Jambalaya pasta for $10.99; and marinated ribeye for $14.99. Salads include grilled chicken with greens ($7.99), pecan salad ($7.99), and grilled shrimp and pasta ($9.59). There are a lot more meals and salads as well as a great selection of sandwiches and appetizers.

Because of the good food and entertaining atmosphere, Dale calls his business an "eatertainment." You won't find this word in the Webster's Dictionary, but it is only because Webster never ate at Redbone Alley.