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Ryan Legaux of the family-owned Harold & Belleâ€™s
Photo by Malcolm Ali for Sentinel
Ryan Legaux, Son of Harold Jr., Takes Over as General ManagerWhile in the past few months the Crenshaw District has seen the exodus of many of its sit down restaurants including Sizzler and the Creole Chef, Harold and Belle's Creole Restaurant on Jefferson and 9th Avenue is still serving up the same mouthwatering menu items that have made them a staple in the community.
This September marks 40 years of fine food and dining in Jefferson Park for the Legaux family.
Back in 1969 Harold Legaux Sr., along with his wife Belle, opened Harold and Belle's. It had been a dream of Harold's to have a place where friends from home (New Orleans) would gather, talk over old times, shoot pool, and socialize. After the passing of Harold Sr. in 1979, Harold Jr. and his wife Denise took over the full operation of the restaurant. Unlike his father who enjoyed the pool playing, and bar atmosphere, the younger Harold preferred a finer dining environment with linen tablecloths and candlelight. Having a passion for cooking, Harold Jr. introduced several new items to the menu including Shrimp Scampi, Shrimp Creole, Crawfish Etouffee, and Clam Chowder. He even offered Gumbo every day. In 1984, Harold and Denise brought in partners Al and Sue Honore. Together they expanded the restaurant from 12 dining tables to 35 dining tables, and the kitchen has tripled in size.
Diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in January, Harold Jr., a familiar and friendly face to all who dine frequently at Harold Belle's, has been on an extended leave of absence. In his place, his son, 29 year-old Ryan Legaux, who recently completed his MBA at Pepperdine University, has assumed leadership of the restaurant and is now working full time as the its General Manager.
"Harold and Belle's is a part of this community and the community is a part of Harold and Belle's," explains Ryan Legaux. "We are a family run and operated business. While my father takes some time off to take care of himself, it's my turn to step up to the plate and make sure that our family tradition of fine dining and cuisine continues."
While Harold and Belle's still offers the same signature menu items that have kept people coming back for more over the pasts 40 years, Ryan says that the restaurant has made some changes to keep up with the times.
"We've introduce a new happy hour during the week from 4 to 6 p.m.," Ryan explains. "There had been a demand for a television in the lounge and so we made that addition. We've always done catering on the side, but now we're pushing our catering menu and services in a way that we haven't before."
Even with changes in the economy that have all but crippled many small businesses, Harold and Belle's still employs approximately 60 people, many of whom come from the community they serve.
"We've been hurt by the economy just like everyone else," continues Ryan. "We've seen the biggest change during the week Monday through Thursday. Friday through Sunday are still our busiest days when we still have a steady flow of loyal customers coming in and supporting us."
To accommodate the slow down during the week, the restaurant now offers free Wi-Fi to its business customers upon request, a smart move that makes it easier for those wanting to have business meetings over lunch or dinner. In addition, the restaurant hasn't had to let anyone go due to the economy but instead choose work with their employees and let them know that in order to make this work, everyone would have to sacrifice a few hours in order for them all to stay employed. A move that was both appreciated and supported by the close-knit employees, some who have been working at the restaurant for over 25 years.
Other ideas back on the table to bring in more business include bringing back live entertainment during the week.
"Our focus has been on the food and the dining experience, rather than the bar and lounge," explains Ryan. "It's caused problems in the past with the noise factor. But we're making some changes to accommodate bringing in live entertainment that won't interfere with the dining experience."
Remy Martin, known for their fine champagne cognac from France, will collaborate with Harold Belle's during the month of July by sponsoring happy hours Monday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Aside from discounted specialty cocktails and well drinks featuring Remy Martin, there will be a special happy hour menu for patrons to select from.
For those watching their waistline this summer, Ryan says that Harold Belle's offers a large selection of salads, grilled seafood, baked chicken, and sautÅ½ed vegetables.
With the addition of the Remy Martin happy hours in July, and the 40th year celebration in September, Ryan and the staff of Harold and Belle's look forward to a busy summer welcoming back familiar faces and new ones. There's even talk of taking the restaurant's menu to the Sentinel's 4th Annual Taste of Soul Festival in October.
Harold and Belle's Creole Restaurant is open 7 days a week, Monday through Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday through Sunday 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. They are located at 2920 West Jefferson Boulevard in Los Angeles' Jefferson Park neighborhood. Reservations are accepted by phone at (323) 735-9023 and they are online at www.haroldandbellesrestaurant.com.