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Martha Melman Carrot Cake

Rich Melman’s Favorite Things

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In honor of Lettuce’s 50th Anniversary, Rich Melman, Founder of Lettuce Entertain You, has decided to look back and share some of his favorite menu items of the past 50 years. Throughout this anniversary year, we will be showcasing all of these items that you’ve got to try!

Follow us on Instagram as we reveal more of his favorite things.

Here they are in Rich’s own words:

I believe that a successful restaurant starts with good food – whether it’s a simple grilled cheese sandwich or a sophisticated French meal. I’ve always tried to put items on our menus that I liked and that I’m excited about. After 50 years, I’m still experimenting, still learning and still searching to find something new that I want to share with our guests. Even though some of our menu items might be a few decades old, I’ve found that food that tastes good usually doesn’t go out of style. 

As we celebrate our 50th anniversary, I wanted to share some of my all-time favorite menu items with you. Most of the dishes are from Lettuce menus, but a few items are from other restaurants that I love.

 

27. Grilled Chicken Paillard – Summer House Santa Monica

Herbed Chicken Paillard from Summer House

An all-natural chicken breast is butterflied and pounded thin, then marinated with lemon and herbs, and quickly wood-grilled. Served with an arugula salad that’s lightly dressed with a Calabrian chili vinaigrette, it’s simply delicious.

Make a reservation at Summer House Santa Monica – Chicago. Make a reservation at Summer House Santa Monica – North Bethesda. Order carryout and delivery from the Summer House location nearest you. 

 

26. Raspberry Pie – Shaw’s Crab House

Shaw's Raspberry PieThis wonderful pie has been on the menu at Shaw’s for 20 years. Initially it was only served as a seasonal dessert, but it became so popular – and I loved it so much – that we now serve it throughout the year, thanks to Shaw’s long-term relationship with Mike and Jean’s Berry Farm in Mount Vernon, WA. I love this pie with a dollop of whipped cream or even a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Make a reservation at Shaw’s Crab House – Chicago. Make a reservation at Shaw’s Crab House – Schaumburg. Order carryout and delivery from the Shaw’s Crab House location nearest you. 

 

25. Banana Cream Napoleon – RPM Seafood
RPM Seafood Banana NapoleanI love banana desserts. This one is fancier than most – a double-decker “sandwich” of banana custard and crispy phyllo rounds. Around the napoleon are banana slices, which your server drizzles with warm caramel at the table.

Make a reservation at RPM Seafood. Order carryout and delivery from RPM Seafood.

 

24. Prime Skirt Steak – Sushi-san
Sushi san Skirt SteakWho goes to a sushi restaurant for steak? You will, if you try this prime skirt steak. It’s grilled over Japanese binchotan coals, which get super-hot and cook meat very quickly. The medium-rare steak is sliced very thin, so it’s easy to eat with chopsticks, and topped with tare, a sweet, thick sauce of soy, ginger and garlic. It’s just a four-ounce serving, so you’ll have room to try more dishes.

Make a reservation at Sushi-san. Order carryout and delivery from Sushi-san. 

 

23.  Raspberry Scones – Summer House Santa Monica

Raspberry Scone Summer HouseTry these wonderful scones filled with fresh and dried raspberries. They’re gluten-free, baked in-house and made daily. This recipe comes from my friend and neighbor, Ina M, who’s a great home baker and occasionally brings me baked goods to try. This is just one of her creations that I love.

Make a reservation at Summer House Santa Monica – Chicago. Make a reservation at Summer House Santa Monica – North Bethesda. Order carryout and delivery from the Summer House location nearest you. 

 

22.  Famous Pulled Chicken Nachos – Hub 51

Hub 51 NachosThese nachos from Hub 51 are so popular, all thanks to the chicken Tinga, guacamole, and loads of oaxaca and white-cheddar cheeses melted over tortilla chips, piled high and topped with roasted-tomato salsa, jalapeños and sour cream.

Make a reservation at Hub 51. Order carryout or delivery from Hub 51.

 

21. Margherita Pizza with housemade fennel sausage – Osteria Via Stato

Osteria Via Stato sausage pizzaThe pizza from Osteria is still one of the best thin pizzas I’ve had and is based on the pizza from the Welcome Back Inn that I loved back in the late 60’s. When Jerry Orzoff, my original Lettuce partner, and I first met in 1970 and were thinking of going into the restaurant business together, we bonded by finding out we had a number of things in common – one of which was that we both had the same favorite pizza place: the Welcome Back Inn. As I’ve said before, good food doesn’t go out of style.

Make a reservation at Osteria Via Stato. Order carryout and delivery from Osteria Via Stato.

Here’s your guide to some of our favorite pizza pies and slices. 

 

20. Fried Chicken – Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab

Fried Chicken at Joe's SeafoodThe Fried Chicken at Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab is wonderful. The recipe actually dates back to Joseph Weiss, the original founder of Joe’s Stone Crab in Miami, who felt it was important to include fried chicken on the menu, along with all the seafood options, to ensure there was something for everyone.

Make a reservation at Joe’s Seafood – Chicago. Make a reservation at Joe’s Seafood – D.C. Make a reservation at Joe’s Seafood – Las Vegas. Order carryout and delivery from the Joe’s Seafood location nearest you.

For more of our favorite fried chicken at Lettuce restaurants near you, click here. 

 

19. Wagyu Prime Rib of Beef – RPM Steak
RPM STeak Prime RibServed only on Fridays and Saturdays for carryout and dine-in, this prime rib is cured in RPM Steak salt and then cooked overnight to 126 degrees, finished with a 500 degree sear and served with horseradish cream and beef au jus. It’s very special.

Order RPM Steak’s Wagyu Prime Rib for carryout. Make a reservation at RPM Steak.

For more nightly specials at Lettuce restaurants near you, click here. 

 

18. Crispy Strawberry Waffles – Summer House Santa Monica

Crispy Strawberry Waffles Summer HouseI love these malted waffles with strawberries and vanilla whipped cream for Saturday and Sunday brunch. They’re light and so delicious.

Make a reservation at Summer House Santa Monica – Chicago. Make a reservation at Summer House Santa Monica – North Bethesda. Order carryout and delivery from the Summer House location nearest you. 

See all Lettuce brunch options in Chicago.  See all Lettuce brunch options in D.C. Metro Area. See all Lettuce brunch options in Las Vegas. See all Lettuce Brunch options in Austin.

 

17. Signature Turkey Chili – L.Woods

L Woods Turkey CHili
This chili is wonderful with a spoonful of sour cream and some shredded Tillamook Cheddar. And if you want to take it to another level, spoon it over a bowl of L.Woods’ Macaroni & Cheese.

Make a reservation at L. Woods. Order carryout and delivery from L. Woods.

 

16. All American Double Burger – Bub City

All AMerican Double Burger Bub City

This is a great hamburger that I get cravings for. Inside secret: It’s dressed with French’s Mustard and Mt. Olive Bread and Butter pickles on the bottom bun, and Heinz ketchup on the top bun.

Make a reservation at Bub City – River North. Make a reservation at Bub City – Rosemont. Order carryout and delivery from the Bub City location nearest you. 

Craving a burger? Here is your guide to some of our favorite burgers.

 

15. Wood-Grilled Heirloom Globe Artichoke – Summer House Santa Monica
Wood Grilled ARtichoke Summer House
These amazing globe artichokes come from Castroville, California, the artichoke capital of the world. Marinated with olive oil, garlic, lemon and oregano, they’re then cooked over a wood grill and served with herb remoulade.

Make a reservation at Summer House Santa Monica – Chicago. Make a reservation at Summer House Santa Monica – North Bethesda. Order carryout and delivery from the Summer House location nearest you.

For more of our favorite vegetarian options near you, click here. 

 

14. Pumpkin Chiffon Pie – Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab

Joe's Pumpkin Chiffon Pie

This very light pumpkin pie is one of my absolute favorites. Who can resist chiffon-style pumpkin mousse in a graham cracker crust which is then topped with whipped cream, spiced walnuts and pure maple syrup?

Make a reservation at Joe’s Seafood – Chicago. Make a reservation at Joe’s Seafood – D.C. Make a reservation at Joe’s Seafood – Las Vegas. Order carryout and delivery from the Joe’s Seafood location nearest you. 

Summer House Santa Monica also offers a Pumpkin Chiffon Pie! Check out their version by visiting the location nearest you. 

 

13. Mama DePandi’s Bucatini – RPM Italian

Mama DePandi Bucatini RPM Italian

This is Giuliana Rancic’s favorite family recipe since childhood. We all liked it so much that it’s been on the menu since opening and has become a signature dish at RPM Italian. The Bucatini is rich in flavors and one of the most classic Italian dishes. Thank you, Mama DePandi.

Make a reservation at RPM Italian – Chicago. Make a reservation at RPM Italian – D.C. Order carryout and delivery from the RPM Italian location nearest you. 

Try this at home, click here for the recipe for RPM Italian’s Mama DePandi’s Bucatini. 

 

12. Saranello’s – Eggplant Parmesan

Eggplant Parmesan from SAranello's

I love Chef Mychael Bonner’s Eggplant Parmesan. It’s made with crispy sliced eggplant layered between creamy mozzarella and tangy marinara.

Make a reservation at Saranello’s. Order carryout or delivery from Saranello’s. 

 

11. Quality Crab & Oyster Bah – Coconut Cake

Quality Crab & Oyster Bah

Three layers of coconut cake filled with coconut cream and frosted with coconut buttercream and shredded coconut. The perfect end to a meal of freshly shucked oysters and King Crab Legs – but I’ve heard it also tastes great for breakfast. Decadent, moist and surprisingly light.

Make a reservation at Quality Crab & Oyster Bah. Order carryout and delivery from Quality Crab & Oyster Bah.

 

10. Krispy Kreme – Original Glazed (served warm)

krispy kreme donuts

There is nothing that melts in your mouth like a warm Original Glazed from Krispy Kreme.
The “hot” light is on twice a day – once in the morning hours and then in the afternoon and into the evening – so customers will actually stop by just to see if the light is on.

Visit a Krispy Kreme location nearest you.

 

9. Mon Ami Gabi – Frites

Frites from Mon Ami Gabi

I just love the frites at Mon Ami Gabi. They are always hand cut, then twice fried and finished with coarse salt. An absolute favorite.

Make a reservation or order carryout and delivery from the Mon Ami Gabi location nearest you

 

8. Aba – Kulfi

Aba Kulfi

Kulfi is a frozen dessert made with reduced cream and sugar that is often flavored. At Aba, we flavor it with Turkish coffee and serve it with toasted coriander honey and cookie crumble. I find it to be just the perfect way to end a meal.

Make a reservation at Aba – Chicago. Make a reservation at Aba – Austin. Order carryout and delivery from the Aba location nearest you. 

 

7. Osteria Via Stato – Chicken Mario

Osteria Via STato Chicken Mario

The Chicken Mario is named after Chef Mario from Sostanza in Florence, Italy. Before visiting his restaurant, it was recommended to us to order the “chicken in butter” on the menu. We ordered it and loved it. After the meal, Chef Mario took us back and showed us his kitchen. When we got back to Chicago we tried to make the dish many times, but could not get it exactly the way we remembered it, until we used a delicious butter from Vermont! That did it and we’ve been serving Chicken Mario at Osteria ever since.

Make a reservation at Osteria Via Stato. Order carryout and delivery from Osteria Via Stato. 

 

6. R.J. Grunts – Cheddar Burger 

RJ Grunts Cheddar burger

The Cheddar Burger is one of the items that Grunts was built on and is the first menu item that we perfected back in 1971. I worked so hard on this burger and kept experimenting to find just the right blend of meat. And then we had to find the right piece of equipment to cook the burger on, along with the right bun and the perfect condiments. I love the Cheddar Burger with Dusseldorf mustard and a side of cottage fries and ketchup. Served medium rare, it’s still my favorite and something I crave.

Make a reservation at R.J. Grunts. Order carryout and delivery from R.J. Grunts. 

 

5. Do-Rite Donuts – Buttermilk Old Fashioned Donut

Do-Rite Donuts

The Buttermilk Old Fashioned donuts from Do-Rite are the best. I also highly recommend the Vanilla Bean Glazed, the Valrohna Chocolate Cake, the Blueberry Crumb Cake and the Cream Cheese Danish donuts. If you’re looking for vegan or gluten free options, try the Orange Olive Oil Vegan, the Maple Chai Vegan, the Valrohna Chocolate Gluten Free and the Ceylon Cinnamon Gluten Free donuts. Francis Brennan is the talented Pastry Chef Partner behind Do-Rite. He loves creating new items and has the culinary pedigree to take Do-Rite into the future. He worked for Marcus Samuelson at Aquavit and Francois Payard at Payard Patisserie in New York, as well as Sylvain Portay and Laurent Gras in San Francisco before becoming the Chef de Cuisine at Nomi in Chicago. In 2007, Francis joined Lettuce, honing his craft in the kitchens of Tru and L2O.

Check out the Do-Rite Donuts location nearest you. 

 

 4. Beatrix – Light & Fluffy Lemon Pancakes 

Beatrix Pancakes

I love the Lemon Pancakes for brunch at Beatrix. They’re light and flavorful, and are wonderful with just a squeeze of lemon and fresh berries. These pancakes are one of the first items that Chef Partner Susan Weaver cooked for me and I liked them so much that I wanted to create a restaurant that emphasizes breakfast. That concept eventually became Beatrix.

Make a reservation or order carryout and delivery from the Beatrix location nearest you.

 

3. Shaw’s Crab House and Quality Crab & Oyster Bah – Oyster Service

Shws oyster service

I love the oyster service at Shaw’s and at their sister restaurant, Quality Crab & Oyster Bah. Their well-established oyster program features a variety of oysters on the half shell harvested from American and Canadian growers on both the East and West coasts. Over the years, Shaw’s has featured all five of the North American species. Shaw’s offers a sampler platter of daily selections, served with their signature frozen mignonette and great homemade cocktail sauce. I’m always confident we’re getting the freshest product from Shaw’s and I know that I’m not the only fan, as evident by their loyal following and numerous awards. Rowan Jacobson, author of The Essential Oyster, includes Shaw’s in his list of go-to places for oysters.

Make a reservation at Shaw’s Crab House – Chicago. Make a reservation at Shaw’s Crab House – Schaumburg. Order carryout and delivery from the Shaw’s Crab House location nearest you. 

Make a reservation at Quality Crab & Oyster Bah. Order carryout and delivery from Quality Crab & Oyster Bah.

 

2. R.J. Grunts – Chocolate Shake & Strawberry Malt

RJ Grunts Strawberry Shake

I worked in soda fountains when I was young, so when we were opening R.J. Grunts in ‘71 it was very important to me to create great soda fountain items. My two favorites are the strawberry malt and the double chocolate shake, so I alternate between the two.

Growing up, I never thought that chocolate shakes were chocolaty enough, so in developing the menu we tried a bunch of different ice cream companies and finally realized that to make a great double chocolate shake, we had to use chocolate ice cream. Most of the time chocolate shakes are made with vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup, which we’ll still do if a guest wants a light chocolate shake – but if you want a dark chocolate shake, it has to be made with a dark chocolate ice cream. The strawberry malt is made with vanilla ice cream, malt powder and our own special strawberry mixture. We went through a lot to get that one right. And if you want to try the soda fountain item that is currently most requested, just order the Oreo shake. I really think the malts and shakes at Grunts are as good as they come. 

Make a reservation at R.J. Grunts. Order carryout and delivery from R.J. Grunts. 

 

1. Hub 51 – Martha Melman’s Special Occasion Carrot Cake

Martha Melman Carrot Cake

It was 1979 when my wife, Martha, first started experimenting with a carrot cake recipe and by May of 1980 she had perfected it in time for our son R.J.’s first birthday. Several decades later, this is still the cake that our kids and other family members request for their birthdays. In 2008 when R.J., Jerrod and Molly were developing their first restaurant, Hub 51, they wanted to put their mom’s carrot cake on the dessert menu, but I wasn’t sure it would sell. I was wrong. It’s not only been served in the restaurant since opening day, but it’s a bestseller.

Today, guests in Chicago can order a whole cake to-go with 48-hours notice. Order a whole Martha Melman’s Special Occasion Carrot Cake to take home.

Make a reservation at Hub 51. Order carryout and delivery from Hub 51.

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