It all started with connection and family tradition for the creole-style restaurant
Harold and Belle’s dining experience started with a family connection; third generation owner, Ryan Legaux, explained that food was an afterthought when his grandparents, Harold and Belle, built their legacy. It started as a social club where the community could go to play cards, talk, and dance, while a pot of gumbo was simmering in the kitchen. The Legaux family came to Los Angeles with the soul and the hospitable spirit of New Orleans, bringing a distinct flavor still enjoyed today.
One of the main pillars of success established by Harold and Belle’s 50 years ago, was the essence of unity. Legaux explained, “The atmosphere and the vibe … the food was more of an afterthought. It was about the people.”
The recipes come directly from the family kitchen, authentically developed in Louisiana. Legaux explained, “The recipes are coming out of the home kitchen; this is just family tradition getting passed down the line.” He reflected on times in Louisiana; they would have a rotation of certain meals given on specific days of the week, and that is how the deep, Cajun flavor and seasoning came about in Harold and Belle’s signature dishes.
Legaux stated that the restaurant did not earn their “culinary chops” until the 1980s, when his parents, Harold Jr. and Denise, and their business partners took over and remodeled the establishment; it was the restaurant’s initial stage of evolution, beginning in September of 1969.
The air is filled with the savory scents that represent the culinary enchantment of New Orleans. The kitchen tantalizes the senses with authentic gumbo, jambalaya, and red beans and rice, slow cooking in layers of flavor, providing a rich culinary experience. Legaux explained that alongside those dishes, their fryers are going from dusk-till-dawn, where their famous fry catfish, shrimp, oysters, and beignets.
He shared that their early morning priorities are filled with food preparation, from the freshest ingredients, in making their signature and sought-after recipes. Legaux shared that his favorite dish is the crawfish etouffee. He “One … it’s a very traditional New Orleans dish that you won’t see in too many restaurants other than in New Orleans Louisiana-style restaurants, and I happen to think ours is the best around.”
COVID-19 has impacted every sector, including the dining experience. Legaux stated, to last through the pandemic, “We’ve definitely had to pivot.” He described the shift focusing more on their online presence and making sure the manpower was implemented to meet the elevated to-go demands.
“We already had a pretty strong take-out business, but we had to put more emphasis on online ordering and using third-party services and apps,” Legaux said. He went into detail about the adjustment period needed to adapt to such abrupt change in environment. Since the foundation of the business was always about the people, the team was able to keep the community at the forefront of the focus and carry through the obstacles in great stride. Harold and Belle’s is participating in the City of Los Angeles Restaurant & Hospitality Express Program, to assist those who are seeing hard times, and where much needed food supplies may be scarce.
From public officials such as Los Angeles City Mayor Eric Garcetti, to a wide variety of celebrities and political figures and the local faithful who look forward to dining in one of South L.A.’s culinary treasures. The popularity of Harold & Belle’s is due to the cultural authenticity of the food and the kindness of the staff. Legaux explained, “The goal is to keep this flagship location here as a community center, a community meeting place.” He continued, “A place to carry on our traditions, just like we have for all these years. But ultimately, we want to grow and bring what we have here to other people and other neighborhoods.”
The community recognizes Harold & Belle’s as a source of stability, pride, and as a keeper of countless memories, Legaux explained. If the walls of the restaurant could talk, they would recall the love, the romantic weddings, prideful graduations, uplifting baby showers, and various cherished engagements. Legaux reflected on the thousands of customers who are sentimentally rooted in the restaurant’s 50-year history. He looks to keep that tradition going into the future.
Under the third-generation ownership of Ryan and wife, Jessica Legaux, Harold & Belle’s continues to grow and expand. Now, fans of the restaurant can experience their food truck andalso buy their lauded family seasoning. The ultimate goal for Legaux is to keep the restaurant as a familiar beacon of prosperity in the community for generations to come.
Harold & Belle’s famous cuisine and hospitality is located at 2920 W. Jefferson Blvd., in Los Angeles, CA, 90018. For to-go orders, the restaurant utilizes multiple delivery services, such as Chow Now, Grubhub, and Postmates. Customers can also order online through the Harold and Belle’s website at www.haroldandbelles.com