Jon Melendez of MAR and Miel


Jon Melendez, owner of MAR and Miel, both located in downtown Santa Ana’s popular food hall, 4th St Market, is someone that understands what it means to be resilient when the odds are against you. Jon’s story doesn’t begin like other restaurant proprietors; he didn’t find his passion in culinary arts at a young age and didn’t go to a top notch culinary arts school working under a Michelin star chef. In fact, he started out working in law, far from any kitchen in sight.

In 2013 Jon worked as an assistant in a law firm while finishing a major in accounting. He enjoyed his job, but he was aching for something more. Ultimately, he wanted to work for himself, be able to run a concept and start from the ground up. Finding passion in healthy eating and juicing, he decided he was going to open up a juice bar. After doing research he decided to quit law and literally a week later started selling juices. In the meantime, he was doing extensive research on how to operate a business in a permanent location and decided he wanted the concept of a restaurant and juice bar. He dove right in, giving his heart and soul to his project, CIVIC. He had no previous experience in a kitchen, let alone the culinary world, but he was passionate and driven to make his idea work. Unfortunately, a year after forming his concept and going all in, CIVIC did not do as well as he hoped, and he had to shut its doors. Passion still fueling him, he didn’t let the initial failure of CIVIC stop him from persevering. Two months after CIVIC closed he decided he wanted to open up another concept, this time a restaurant specializing in fresh fish in the heart of Downtown Santa Ana at the 4th Street Market. Learning from his past experiences, MAR has been open and thriving, and, with the success, Jon decided he wanted to re-establish his passion project and bring juices and other fruit-based items to the public through Miel, offering açaí bowls and fresh juices.

Jon believes to never let fear of failure stop you from doing what you want to do most in your life. He understands persistence, drive, passion and hard work will overcome failure and sees his ability to continue moving in times of failure as one of his greatest accomplishments.

I've always taught my staff to make our food with love, and we serve our community like we serve our family… anything less is unacceptable. I'm happy to bring healthy options to the city I was raised in [Santa Ana] and share my love for good food with community that has given me the opportunity to do what I love for a living.”

Jon is so excited for both his poke concept, Mar and açai and juice project, Miel, to be at 4th St Market. He found inspiration for these businesses through backyard BBQ’s, get togethers, and Saturday morning at-home brunches. More than anything, he wants customers to enjoy the food where he found passion and dedicated a lot of hard work to making it exactly what he imagined: his own business.