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At Harold and Belle’s, a new generation safeguards the iconic Black-owned eatery’s future

When Ryan Lego first took Harold and Bell with his wife Jessica, the grandson of the original owner of the New Orleans-inspired restaurant knew something had to change. The restaurant in South Los Angeles, which Harold Lego Sr. opened in 1969, had holes in the ceiling, major plumbing problems and suffocating, outdated formal dining decor. Although the couple did not completely renovate the space until 2016, with additional renovations in 2020, they knew from the beginning that they wanted to give the place a different look and feel.

“We really looked at the situation he was in and realized that if we didn’t do something, the business would have to close,” Ryan said. What made the couple genuinely committed to revitalizing the space, however, were constant reminders of the 53-year-old restaurant’s legacy in the local black community.

“People keep telling us, ‘I met my husband there,'” We had an anniversary there, “” We got engaged there, “says the third-generation owner. “There are all kinds of stories like that going on there, you know? And that’s rare.”

Photo: Courtesy of Vanessa TierneyHarold and Belle’s inner dining room.

Known in and out of the black community of Los Angeles for its rich seafood, shrimp and shrimp sandwiches, the atmosphere of Harold and Bell’s fine dining under Ryan’s late father, Harold Jr. it was far from the more elegant, more casual restaurant you will see today. (Harold Sr.’s early restaurant looked more like an informal billiard room after work.) The white tablecloths may be gone, but you’ll still find some varnish in the dining room, thanks to dark wooden tables, graceful lighting fixtures and artful souvenirs everywhere. Harold and Belle, plus a few new items from the vegan menu. The larger bar area and the newly added private dining room have also expanded the range of the restaurant, making it easier to accept happy hours and larger groups.

Like other small food businesses, Legauxes turned to home delivery and food from third countries to stay afloat during the pandemic. Combined with Mayor Eric Garcetti’s emergency nutrition program, Harold and Belle’s have weathered the worst economic crisis, but have largely remained a home-catering and catering business since March 2020. Third-country staff headed directly to a new window “To Geaux” outside the area of ​​Jefferson Boulevard, but dinner guests largely failed to return to the rooms before the pandemic.

Harold and Bell's bar
Photo: Courtesy of Vanessa TierneyThe bar at Harold and Belle’s, which Ryan and Jessica renovated for the first time in 2016.

Now that the worst of the virus is probably behind Los Angeles, Ryan and Jessica have reopened the restaurant’s dining room in hopes of ushering in a new era for the iconic restaurant in Los Angeles. At the time of writing, Harold and Belle’s is only open for dinner on weekends, although the happy weekdays in the bar area resumed in early February – a combined result of staff shortages and, according to manager Andrew Alvarado, the fact that visitors just -that they started coming back to eat on the spot.

However, those who return will find the same delicious food and homey but modern atmosphere of Harold and Belle’s 3.0, plus new additions to the vegan menu, led by co-owner Jessica, who has been a vegan since 2017.

New vegan items include red beans and rice, vegan gumbo and fried oyster mushrooms
Photo: Courtesy of Catherine BalayNew vegan items include red beans and rice, vegan gumbo and fried oyster mushrooms.

“Of course, I wanted to be able to eat in my own restaurant,” she says. “There’s absolutely a way to recreate the kind of food I grew up on.” Jessica also notes the long history of the Black Culture of Plant Diets and sees menu supplements as a natural progression toward preserving the importance of Harold and Bell to future generations.

Along with fried oysters from the bay stewed in Cajun spices and their famous gumbo fillet, you will now find French rolls stuffed with crispy fried oyster mushrooms and garnished with plant-based ayols, as well as vegan gumbo with sauteed okra and red peppers . Harold and Bell’s red beans and rice, which date back to the days in the billiard room of Harold Sr.’s restaurant, can also be made vegan.

Next month, Ryan and Jessica look forward to hosting a Mardi Gras party ticket this year, which falls on Tuesday, March 1. Completing the full circle in almost two years since the beginning of the pandemic, this is the first major celebration that Harold and Bell have hosted in the Covid era, and a sign of how far they have come. The party will also include Crowns & Hops beer, an Inglewood-based brewery owned by Blackwood, as well as multicolored beads and other typical free gifts for Fat Tuesday.

“We will have live bands, a DJ, face painting, a photo booth. We’ll make it fun, “says Jessica. While she and her partner are working to preserve Harold and Bell’s future, it is clear that Legauxes still know how to let the good times unfold in the NOLA style.

At Harold and Belle’s, a new generation safeguards the iconic Black-owned eatery’s future Source link At Harold and Belle’s, a new generation safeguards the iconic Black-owned eatery’s future

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