Jerrod, Molly and R.J. Melman are more than the heirs to Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, a group of wildly successful restaurants started by their father, Rich Melman. They’re entrepreneurs in their own right who’ve opened one winning spot after another, from Hub 51 to Paris Club to RPM Italian. They talked to DuJour about their most recent ventures, Bub City (pictured) and Three Dots and a Dash, as well as RPM Steak, which is slated to start up this fall.
Tell us what led you to open Bub City.
RJ: It was originally a large BBQ place our father owned from 1989 to 1998. Over time, we got so many requests to reopen it. About a year ago, we wanted to start working on a BBQ restaurant, and we created our own Bub City.
J: When we think about our childhoods and our father’s places, Bub City always stood out. After we opened Paris Club and RPM Italian, we wanted to create a hangout for ourselves. We hooked up with this great mixologist, Paul McGee [of the Whistler], for the cocktails and worked with chef Doug Psaltis on the food.
What was the inspiration for your new tiki lounge, Three Dots and a Dash?
J: It came out of Paul McGee’s passion for tiki drinks. That culture has faded away, and we wanted to pay tribute to what tiki was and also move it into the 21st century.
RJ: Tiki’s gotten a bad name, and most of the drinks are made from mixes. We’re reviving what was great about them: fresh juices, great rums and syrups.
Your restaurants are all hits. What’s the secret?
RJ: We always start with being inspired by great food, and then we develop a concept around it, looking for holes in the market.
J: All of our restaurants in Chicago are within walking distance of each other. Since it’s the neighborhood where we live and go out, we know what’s missing. So we saw there were no places with live country music that served great BBQ, which is what we’re doing at Bub City.
What’s the best advice your father gave you?
M: Our dad told us to find our passion and then work our hardest at it. There was never any pressure to work in the restaurant business because he wanted us to do what we love. I tried other things, like teaching kindergarten, but never loved them. When I started in restaurants, I realized I loved going to work.