“Locally sourced, and inspired by love” is the tag line used by the creative, seasonal soul food restaurant Barbara Jean. This is food that satisfies both soul and body, using market-driven fresh ingredients to shape inspired, evolving menus.
The restaurant’s daily bounty changes based on the availability of fresh locally farmed and foraged ingredients. Both creative and comforting, Chef Jason Fullilove’s choices are rich and yet delicately nuanced. The restaurant’s cuisine focuses on the roots of African American cooking, and includes ancient grains and vegetables, meats and offal, and uses fermentation as well, shaping a thoroughly up-to-date take on traditional dishes.
The restaurant has just moved to their new location behind Melrose Umbrella Company (the former site of Eric Greenspan’s Maré) last month, but started serving two years ago in February, 2015. A previous Melrose location housed a pop-up of the restaurant, and the Barbara Jean team attracted quite a crowd.
According to Aylya Marzolf, the restaurant’s manager and executive coordinator, “Being on Melrose has been great. The energy alone is something that cannot be duplicated. Melrose has great foot traffic which lends itself to discovery.” She adds “Its wonderful how many people discover us on a daily basis just because they were exploring Melrose Ave. Between our press, our reviews, and the daily wanderers we see lots of people trying our food for the first time and falling in love.”
And it’s easy to see why, with a comfortable, romantic setting, attentive service, and of course, an eclectic and delicious menu.
“Our menu is changing regularly based on what is in season, fresh and available. But a few items that are staples on the menu are the hushpuppies with truffle honey, the curry fried chicken with house-made kimchee, and the deviled crab, which is our upgraded play on avocado toast.” The crab is served on sour dough with avocado and black truffle caviar.
A recent dinner menu included BBQ pork agnolotti with baby corn and artichokes; a crisp California brook trout with black eyed peas; and lobster mac n’ cheese entrees. Mouthwatering desserts run from the chocolate buttermilk cake with butterscotch budino and salted caramel, to a fresh peach crumble. At the restaurant’s Sunday brunch, fried fish and grits, organic wheat and blueberry pancakes, and a bacon egg cheeseburger served on brioche were among the offerings. Additionally, the restaurant serves up flavorful bar bites for Melrose Umbrella Company, such as a gluten-free quiche, a roast chicken sandwich, and pork belly tacos. There are spicy Sriracha wings and a flavorful tuna melt featuring poached tuna and provolone, too.
Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Chef Fullilove spent parts of his childhood in Southern Africa. Prior to starting Barbara Jean, Fullilove ran an exciting dinner series called RED at LACMA, offering tasting menus and multi-course meals inspired by art exhibits, live readings, and film presentations. His dining flair continues at Barbara Jean.
Marzolf says “I think it’s important for people to know that this entire project is full of soul and heart. Every step has been a labor of love. Completely self-funded, Chef Fullilove took this idea, this dream, and kept pushing ‘til he made it happen,” she explains. “I find it inspiring that a man could take the money in his pockets and with the help of his friends and colleagues, open an amazing restaurant, creating dishes so full of flavor and of the highest quality.”
Marzolf says the restaurant is a passion project for her as well, and that she’s thrilled by the reception the menu has received.
“We use a lot of traditional soul food flavors, but Chef Fullilove uses modern techniques and globally inspired ingredients in their preparation. He uses everything he has learned from his background in fine dining and his travels around the world to make familiar dishes something you have never experienced before.”
Address: 7465 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90046
Phone: (323) 718-5142