Growing up, I have had the absolute pleasure of eating and dining at Lettuce Entertain You restaurants all over the Chicago-area. One of my favorite family memories is at an energetic restaurant called Café Ba-Ba-Reeba. I love going there with my family because the management is always super friendly and the Spanish-influenced tapas are very fun to share.

When Hub 51 opened, it immediately became my new favorite. I loved the cool vibe and the eclectic menu. Lettuce has this “sense of community” feel in every single one of their restaurants that really attracts me to try more and more of their restaurants. I am always very excited when a new concept opens.

In Chicago, whether in the suburbs or the city, I can always find a Lettuce restaurant to eat at. Now, I live in sunny California for school and am always watching the Lettuce Entertain You Instagram stories, wishing I was at a Lettuce restaurant, and constantly liking the pictures of my favorite dishes. Luckily enough, Lettuce has a presence in California! (Trust me, I have already taken advantage of it).

Meet Chef Jeff

A photo posted by Chef Jeff Mahin (@jmahin) on

I had the opportunity to chat with Chef and Partner Jeff Mahin and ask him some questions about the start of Lettuce in California.

Jeff Mahin, Chef and Partner of Stella Barra Pizzeria, Summer House Santa Monica, M Street Kitchen and Do-Rite Donuts, approached Rich Melman, the founder of Lettuce Entertain You, six years ago with the idea of opening a “cool pizzeria with straight forward quality food and loud music.”

Mahin fell in love with the people and the area of Santa Monica, which he now calls home.

"The Honesty of Food"

A photo posted by Chef Jeff Mahin (@jmahin) on

Mahin’s inspiration for Stella Barra stems from the idea of the “honesty of food” and love for bread-making. His vision of Stella Barra from the start was a neighborhood Pizzeria where people would come in five times a week.

If you haven't been to Stella Barra, the pizza crust is phenomenal. I had to ask him: “What makes your pizza crust SO GOOD?” He responded with a passionate answer: “Love and care.”

He told me that the making and shaping of the dough is a two and a half day process (now that's dedication). The secret behind his delicious crust is high-quality flour.

Beachy, Casual Vibe

Ariel Leavitt

The inspiration behind M Street Kitchen was similar to that of Stella Barra: a sense of community and neighborhood feel. M Street Kitchen carries a unique beachy, casual feel that fits right in with the energy of Santa Monica.

The chef loves knowing everyone that comes into his restaurant and loves to see people at M Street more than once during the day from breakfast and coffee in the morning to dinner and happy hour at night.

If you haven’t yet checked out Stella Barra and M Street Kitchen, definitely go check them out. The vibes are incredible and the food is top notch. Awesome food, awesome people!

#SpoonTip: Jeff’s favorite dishes at Stella Barra include the meatballs, proscuitto and mushroom pizza.