Harold & Belle's Celebrates a 50th Anniversary and a Golden Future
When you walk into Harold & Belle's, there's a sense that you've stepped into a bit of nostalgia nestled in an inexplicable vivacity.
Third generation husband and wife restaurant owners, Ryan Legaux, 39 and Jessica, 39, have a lot to celebrate. This year Harold & Belle's is celebrating its 50th anniversary in the community.
There are very few family businesses in this town that have withstood the test of time, trends, and travail and yet continue to stand and thrive. But the Legaux's stand tall on the wings of a venerable past.
The young and passionate culinary duo, which has owned and operated the restaurant for the past 10 years, couldn't be more proud than to be a part of a gastronomic legacy. Prior to them taking the helm, the restaurant was owned and operated by Ryan's father, Harold Jr., his mother Denise and their partners Al and Sue Honoré.
Legaux's Go West
The restaurant's tradition of Creole cuisine all began when native New Orleanians, Harold Legaux Sr., and his wife, Belle, moved to Los Angeles in the 1940s after the war. The Legaux's were among the scores of African-Americans who left the deep South as part of “The Great Migration,” a northward movement from Southern states. During that era, over 6 million African-Americans headed North and West in hopes of finding greater economic opportunities.
Harold Sr. became a serial entrepreneur. His business ventures included owning a bike shop, paint store, and at one time, he was a Texaco franchisee. Belle found employment at Northrop Grumman.
“My grandparents moved from New Orleans and settled into the Jefferson Park area,” said Ryan. “When they got here they found a sense of community with a lot of people they knew from Louisiana.”
A Tradition That Inspired a Legacy
One of the New Orleanian traditions Ryan says his grandparents continued when they settled into the Jefferson Park community was having get-togethers with friends. In true entrepreneurial spirit, his grandparents decided to open a little spot bearing their names in 1969 at the corner of Jefferson Boulevard and 12th Street.
Harold & Belle's quickly became known as the neighborhood spot to shoot pool, play cards, have cocktails, listen to music, and talk about the social issues of the day.
“The food was really an afterthought,” said Ryan who grew up knowing that he would continue the family business. “When the patrons got hungry, there was always a pot of red beans on the stovetop, a Po' Boy sandwich on a cutting board, and gumbo was served at least once a week.”
Culinary Royals Make Waves
Today, food is the main ingredient. Ryan and Jessica have built upon the foundation laid by his grandfather and his father Harold Jr., who is credited with tripling the seating capacity of the restaurant, increasing the size of the kitchen, and expanding the menu to include classic Creole favorites like Gumbo Filé, Shrimp Scampi, Shrimp Creole, Crawfish Étouffée, and Clam Chowder.
The “culinary royals” are a dynamic team. Jessica says Ryan is her balance and has a great mind. Ryan says she has strong principles and is willing to stand on them. Together they have made some head-turning changes to the restaurant that pays homage to the restaurant's history and signal a new wave has come ashore.
The recently renovated dining and bar area are quaint and inviting. The French Colonial décor is the right balance of casual elegance and comfort. The light fixtures, seating, art, wall color, and chair rail trim imbue warmth with a splash of decadence. Then there's the brand new Peacock Lounge, a separate, detached multi-media, state-of-the-art banquet structure that is used to host private, catered events.
“We wanted to update the look and feel of the restaurant and make it more relevant, but not too ultra-model,” said Jessica. “We decided to keep a lot of the original Harold & Belle's glass pieces around the restaurant. They have minor defects, but to us, it just adds character.”
A Few New Things
Ryan says their classic menu favorites are more popular than ever. A few new menu items have been added like okra gumbo for those who want a vegan option, beignets, charbroiled oysters, plus a few hearty, new salad options. They've also added a new happy hour menu served only in the squawky, newly remodeled bar area which features Ryan's signature barbeque salmon bowl with spinach and brown rice, along with other tasty happy hour specials. On Friday nights, the restaurant has live music.
“Some changes have been made in the oils we use and a lot of the premade packages which had preservatives have been replaced with freshly made ingredients,” said Ryan. “But we know people come to Harold & Belle's and they want what they want, and they want it to taste how it's supposed to taste. We have stayed true to our traditions.”
Harold & Belle's has been a favorite dining spot for A-listers like Steve Harvey, who bestowed the restaurant with the coveted Hoodie Award in 2001. Other notables who have dined with them include Denzel Washington, Tiffany Haddish, Kendrick Lamar, Clint Eastwood, and John Legend. City officials and many business and community leaders have continued the long tradition of meeting at Harold & Belle's to break bread, develop strategies, and make deals. Displayed on the wall of the restaurant is a signed menu by civil rights icon Rosa Parks who dined at their restaurant before her passing in 2005.
The excitement about Harold & Belle's has been felt exponentially, and it's reflected in the wave of new and returning diners coming to the restaurant.
“The community around the restaurant is changing,” said Jessica. “We are seeing a lot of diverse cultures visit our restaurant as well as an influx of patrons from the West Side.”
For the past five years, Jessica has been a vegan. That means no meat, poultry, dairy, eggs, or even seafood.
It's a choice she has made because of the overall health and wellness benefits derived from a diet free from animals, fish, and shellfish. Since she's gone vegan, she's had no regrets. Jessica has found ways to enjoy Creole cuisine with ingredients consciously prepared to celebrate her vegan soul.
“Creole cuisine is so innovative. It's very easy to accomplish the same flavors without the meat. You just take the basic ingredients and seasonings, and you can create anything,” explained Jessica.
Po' Boys, red beans and rice, and gumbo are all vegan inspired options that Ryan has created for Jessica.
“Ryan made me the most wonderful vegan gumbo with Lion's Mane mushrooms,” said Jessica as she smiled at Ryan. “When you break them apart, they look like chunks of crab. It was the best.”
While Jessica says they don't have plans of creating a separate vegan menu at the restaurant, they haven't ruled out creating a separate vegan enterprise. But for right now the focus is “making sure the ship is solid” before they explore other paths.
H & B Today
Harold & Belle's enjoys a robust presence and following on social media. The numerous posts of the restaurant's entrees by guests are mouthwatering and moving. They underscore that the restaurant is more than a trend or a place to eat; it's a place to make memories.
“There are very few places in the community where you can bring a big group to celebrate graduations, weddings, birthdays or have private, catered events,” said Jessica adding that after 50 years, there remains a lack of African-American-owned, sit down restaurants in the area. “It kind of feels like we are the last man standing and for us, we feel a sense of responsibility to the community.”
For this “golden anniversary,” Ryan says the public can expect to see more of Harold & Belle's all over the city. Their roving food trailer is geared up to bring the taste of New Orleans to many outdoor concerts and festivals this summer. In April the restaurant held its inaugural Los Angeles Crawfish Festival. The annual, summertime all-you-can-eat Block Party will be an amped-up celebration. Launching a Harold & Belle's cookbook, Creole Seasoning blend, and opening another location are all projects Ryan says are on the horizon. But he says this moment in time is for “sharing the story of the restaurant's history and vision,” as they celebrate the 50-year anniversary of their family business.
“It's a point of pride for us. It's not just important to Jessica and me; it's important to a lot of people who have supported us and kept it going,” said Ryan. “We do our work on the back end, but without people coming through the door, there is no business.”
About Harold & Belle's
Harold & Belle's Creole Cuisine Restaurant is located at
2920 W Jefferson Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90018.
Open 7 days a week.
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Phone: (323) 735-9918
Follow them on: