The Melmans bring a dose of the South to River North with Bub City.
They’ve tackled contemporary American cuisine at Hub 51, French at Paris Club and Italian at RPM. So for their newest concept, R.J., Jerrod and Molly Melman looked South — and to their father’s restaurant history — for Bub City, a revamped version of the barbecue-meets-seafood joint that was a staple of Rich Melman’s Lettuce Entertain You repertoire in the 1980s and ’90s.
“It’s something we thought was missing,” says R.J. “We wanted to do barbecue, my brother and sister and I like country music, and [mixologist] Paul McGee likes whiskey. It all came together.”
Just like its predecessor, the Bub City menu features both barbecue dishes and seafood items, created by chef and partner Doug Psaltis. Authentic barbecue items include burnt ends ($14.95), buttermilk fried chicken ($15.95) and a pulled pork sandwich ($8.95), which are expertly accompanied by sides like crispy collards ($3.95) and mac and cheese ($5.95), while seafood dishes include a lobster roll ($16.95) and a shrimp boil served with corn on the cob and red potatoes ($15.95). There’s even a shellfish bar, with oysters ($11.95 for a half dozen) and snow crab legs ($23.95).
Appropriately, the focus of the bar program, developed by noted aficionado McGee, is on whiskey, with more than 125 selections available — including some that were developed exclusively for Bub City by distillers like Jack Daniel’s, Four Roses and Old Weller. The liquor is also mixed into cocktails like the Riverboat Gambler, with maple, lemon and bitters, and the Whiskey Tango, with sweet tea and lemon (both $10).
It’s all served in a room that wouldn’t look out of place in a country music biopic. “We wanted it to look like a joint that’s been around for 40 years,” says R.J. To achieve the vibe, they used weathered wood on the walls, incorporated old materials into the décor and have covered the walls with country music concert posters and neon beer logos. It’s the perfect backdrop for Bub City’s live country music acts (most brought in from Nashville), which take the stage on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. The Melman trio will even give aspiring singers a chance to shine with live karaoke, accompanied by a country band, set to launch in the next few months.
435 N. Clark, (312) 610-4200, Bubcitychicago.com
Story by Molly Each