Growing up in the shadow of a legendary old man has sent many a young lad to the therapist's couch. But Jerrod (left) and R.J. Melman didn't need no stinkin' shrink because they were smart enough to keep their eyes open and their mouths shut when their father — the benevolent founder of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises — spoke. And now the well-adjusted brothers are dispensing a good dose of deja vu at their first restaurant, Hub 51, which evokes the sort of casual, fun-loving restaurant that made their dad, Rich, one of the most revered restaurant concept creators of all time.
But the Brothers Melman are clearly large and in charge at Hub 51, which is skewed to a younger, 20- to 30-something demographic. It's urban, hip and funky. Hubs greatest hits menu suggests that — like their Top Dog Dad — R.J and Jerrod are not playing by the rules. Hub 51 was designed for fun and anarchy, not romance.
As you might guess, both of the guys cut their teeth in Lettuce restaurants. R.J, 29, bused tables and cooked at several of dad's restaurants before eventually helping open five LEYE properties and serving as GM of R.J. Grunts, Rich's first restaurant that bears his firstborn's initials. Jerrod, 25, also learned the business from the ground up before managing Osteria Via Stato and R.J. Grunts. He also worked outside the company at other multiconcept powerhouses, including B.R. Guest Restaurants and Union Square Hospitality.
At Hub 51, the bros have created a menu of food “we like to eat,” which means sushi, tacos, sandwiches, burgers and small-plate items. Pat Bruno, who reviews for the Chicago Sun-Times, dug Hub 51 in a big way. “Hub 51 is a cool, very busy restaurant, a fun place to be … Papa Richard may have had a say or two about what's up with this dish or that, but it was apparent his two young sons are running the show. I do know I am deeply enamored of the food here.”
With a review like that, it's not crazy to think that the Melman name will continue to dominate the Chicago dining scene for another generation.