From the beginning, Dear John’s partners Patti and Hans Röckenwagner and Josiah Citrin knew their time as stewards of the beloved martini-and-tableside-Caesar-slinging throwback was limited. Though developers will eventually raze their Culver City steakhouse, the team didn’t want the party to end.
So they went looking for a new location, and what they found might be even better than the original: a sprawling waterfront space with 180-degree views of the marina, formerly home to the high-end seafood spot Chart House. Now, it’s taken on a new life, as Dear Jane’s, which opened in September.
Like Dear John’s, the cuisine here is classic American with creative twists (“familiar, comforting, but updated,” as Patti Röckenwagner puts it.) But don’t expect a chophouse redux. “What Dear John’s is to steak, Dear Jane’s will be to seafood,” Röckenwagner explains, adding that the location practically demanded it. “You can almost touch the boats from the restaurant. In addition to the Röckenwagners and Citrin, the Dear Jane’s team comprises chef-partner Ken Takayama (Citrin and Melisse). Here’s what to expect at this festive, nautical-themed destination.
1. The menu is inspired by old-school seafood restaurants.
Highlights the from seafood-centric menu include clam chowder, “bougie fish sticks” (read: homemade and topped with caviar), and sea bass en papillote for two, among other dishes sourced from “legendary seafood restaurants of the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s,” says Patti. There’s an over-the-top seafood tower, and retro-leaning snacks such as clams casino (modernized with piquillo pepper and Meyer lemon crumbs) and a prawn-stuffed crab with sauce Américaine.
A handful of Dear John’s favorites are peppered in, too. Both shrimp cocktail and oysters Rockefeller have made their way to the marina, as has the chicken Parm that encircles molten cheese like a chicken Kiev.
2. You’ll probably order something that’s prepared tableside.
If you’ve got a hankering for a Caesar, you still have to pay a visit to Dear John’s; here, it’s all about the Shrimp Louie salad, which is hand-chopped before guests. And since Dear Jane’s is much bigger than its Culver City cousin (with 175 seats between the dining room, bar, and private dining area), “We’re really able to do up the tableside service,” says Patti. Whole fishes are fileted in full view, tartares are hand-mixed, and caviar service is always available. For dessert, diners can elect for theatrically flambéed crepes Suzette, a fitting end.
3. The vibe is nautical and seriously handcrafted.
In addition to his chops as a restaurateur, baker, and chef, Hans Röckenwagner is also a skilled carpenter. To fit with Dear Jane’s maritime location and cuisine, he hand-cut hundreds of colorful vintage buoys and hung them on the wall that frames the open kitchen. He also built sliding modular pocket doors between the dining room and a private dining area, so that it could be semi- or fully secluded. The restaurant’s ceilings feature wood panels in various shades and the dining room is furnished with beige banquettes and yellow chairs. Best of all, the layout was designed so that all 175 seats in the restaurant face the marina, meaning every table comes with views. “There’s no bad seat in the house,” Patti says.
4. Hundreds of artworks are on display.
Dear John’s is known for its impressive gallery walls, featuring period-appropriate paintings from the ‘60s and ‘70s. The same is true at Dear Jane’s, which has more surface area, and thus more art to gaze. Many of the paintings are nautical in nature. By the reception, there is a wall covered in paintings of unknown women, which the team refers to as “the wall of Janes.”
5. The bar at Dear Jane’s is a destination in its own right.
A separate bar room evokes a distinct energy that’s more akin to the dark and handsome character at Dear John’s. “I would say it’s heavily influenced if not outright replicated,” says Patti. A fireplace sets the scene, alongside more than 150 pieces of art and a playlist that’s shared with Dear John’s. “But then, you leave the bar area and you’re in this sun-drenched room, which is kind of like the California Dream,” she adds. Drinks served throughout the restaurant include the classics (i.e., icy martinis) in addition to a few signatures, like the bright-blue margarita called the Blue Lagoon, and the Lady Jane, with spiced rum, lemon and pineapple juices, cinnamon syrup, and cardamom bitters.
6. Don’t be surprised if you hear a familiar voice at the end of the line.
If you’ve ever called Dear John’s and gotten their outgoing voicemail, you know that Jamie Lee Curtis recorded the message. The actress and friend of the restaurant is the voice of Dear Jane’s, too, but this time, she’s in character as Wanda Gershwitz from “A Fish Called Wanda.” Says Patti, with a laugh, “I wish I could’ve thought of it myself, but it was her idea.”