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Stella Barra and Summer House Bring Santa Monica to Lincoln Park

Can Jeff Mahin make Chicago taste like Southern California?

Tempura calamari with spicy Japanese aïoli at Summer House Santa Monica   Photo: Clayton Hauck

Jeff Mahin is ready for his close-up. A Lettuce Entertain You chef-partner at the age of 27 (he’s 30 now), Mahin has a hit with Do-Rite Donuts in the Loop—and a mini-empire in Southern California—but this fall he’s launching Stella Barra and Summer House Santa Monica, two adjoining restaurants in Lincoln Park.

Stella Barra, a spinoff of Mahin’s artisanal pizzeria on Sunset Boulevard, will grind and cure its own organic Niman Ranch pork. Summer House, a more chef-driven riff on M Street Kitchen, his rustic Santa Monica café dedicated to California cuisine, wants to blow your mind with carrots—specifically, carrots with a bourbon glaze, toasted pumpkin seeds, crispy kale, and aged pecorino. “Nothing will overwhelm simple ingredients,” says Mahin. “It’s about finding out what things are supposed to taste like.”

The breezy space, formerly occupied by Tilli’s, includes a retractable glass ceiling that Mahin says is meant to evoke the feeling of sitting on a patio next to an ocean. Wonder if he’ll say the same thing in February.

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