Mr. Ricky's Restaurant was on Skokie Boulevard and Gross Point Road, in Skokie, Illinois, in a nondescript shopping strip mall on the north-west corner.
For years Melman did not get along with his father. ''I would have worked somewhere else, but I didn't feel I had a lot going for me,'' he said. ''I flunked out of college — well, I would have flunked out if I hadn't quit first — so I worked for my dad, behind that cash register.''
He had one dream: He wanted to be a partner in Mr. Ricky's. ''That would have been it for me,'' Melman said. ''That's all I wanted out of life.''
He managed to save some money, and one day he asked his father and his father's partner if he could speak with them. He said that he would like to join them — if only in the most minor way — as a partner in Mr. Ricky's. He was, after all, Ricky.
''My father told me no,'' Melman said. ''He said that I was welcome to continue working there, but that I wasn't ready to help run the place.
''Come to think of it, even though I worked the cash register, my dad would never let me total it up at the end of the day. He just wouldn't let me do it.
''So Melman quit, and with his friend, Jerry A. Orzoff, he opened R.J. Grunts (Rich - Jerry Grunts), in 1971. Then Melman started the "Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, Inc." (LEYE) with Orzoff. The success of R.J. Grunts marked the beginning, and things built on that.
Fritz That's It! was located at 1615 Chicago Avenue which was next door to the North Shore Hotel which was located at 1611 Chicago Avenue. There was no hotel access between Fritz That's It! and the North Shore Hotel, nor any affiliation.
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|The force behind the original Pump Room was Ernest Byfield, right, with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. The Bogarts were regulars of the Ambassador East Hotel and Booth One, even honeymooning in an upstairs suite.|
In 1980, Melman with Chef Gabino Sotelino traveled together to France where they insisted on bringing contemporary French cuisine to Chicago. This lead to the opening of Ambria in the Belden-Stratford at 2300 North Lincoln Park West in Chicago. The success of Ambria inspired additional trips to Europe in order to study food and style.
Then came the Shaw's Crab House/Blue Crab Lounge in 1984-85, the Spanish tapas and small plate restaurant Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba! in 1986 and upscale dining at Everest in 1986, the innovative Mexican creations at Hat Dance in1988, Tucci Benucch in 1988 and its cousin Tucci Milan in1989, and the southern Italian trattoria, Scoozi! in 1986.
In 1996 Melman opened its first Chinese restaurant in January, Ben Pao, which loosely translated means firecracker. In December of 1998, Wildfire opened in Oak Brook and a Wildfire in Lincolnshire in 1999.
In March of 1999, Bones Restaurant in Lincolnwood was reopened and rebranded as L. Woods Tap & Pine Lodge, a nostalgic Northwoods Supper Club with a log cabin feel.
In April of 1999, Rich Melman and Gerard Centioli announced the formation of ICON, LLC, (ICON) which was formed to establish partnerships with established restaurant icons for the expressed purpose of multi-unit expansion and development.
In 2000 LEYE opened Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab which was a Miami restaurant icon, in Chicago. Mon Ami Gabi opened its third location in the Oakbrook Mall.
- NOTE: This article does not include LEYE other U.S. or European restaurants.