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Harold & Belle's: Gather, greet and grub

Serve it up | A delicious creole dish from Harold & Belle's. Customers love the thick sauces and spicy flavors, which is why they keep coming back for more.
Normandie Bakery Normandie Bakery
Normandie Bakery is located on Jefferson Blvd in Los Angeles. Chef Josette LeBlond opened her bakery in 1988 and began making her famous meat pates. LeBlond’s gourmet cooking soon expanded to other stores on Santa Monica Blvd, Sunset Blvd and a restaurant in Marina Del Rey. The bakery on Jefferson produces 2,000 lbs. of pate and 3,000 baguettes each day.
Small business Behind the small business of Jefferson
Jefferson boulevard is lined with small businesses ranging from auto repair shops to clothing stores. The owners of the businesses have had their fair share of stories about holding on in the economy slump, but have looked to the community of Jefferson for support.
Art Murals Bring Life and Color to Jefferson
The murals along Jefferson Blvd. not only beautify the community, but they also bring community members together through the messages and feelings they set out to portray. In placing their unique images on the wall, the artists behind the murals, many of whom grew up or have spent a lot of time in the community, turned old buildings into bright, meaningful spectacles.

By Alex Abels

It’s 1969. Harold Legaux is sitting in a one-room restaurant on the corner of Jefferson Boulevard and 10th Street in Los Angeles. He is with his wife, Belle, and several other close friends from Louisiana. They are entertained by go-go dancers in skimpy outfits and the ever-playing jukebox in the corner while snacking on authentic Creole food.

Fast-forward forty years to present day, and the ambiance of that exact spot on Jefferson and 10th is quite different. Sitting there now is Ryan Legaux, Harold’s grandson, and that one small room has expanded into a full and thriving restaurant. The jukebox and go-go dancers have been replaced by white linens and silverware. But the legacy of Ryan’s grandparents has not been lost: The restaurant is still named Harold & Belle’s, and its Creole cuisine is still as authentic and delicious as ever.

The gumbo and crawfish are only one part of what helps maintain Harold & Belle’s large base of loyal customers. It is the sense of community that keeps its customers coming back daily, and apparently this hasn’t changed much over the years. “It originally started as a gathering place for Creoles from Louisiana that had moved out here to California,” says Ryan. “My grandpa opened this place up to have a spot to hang out with his friends and family.”

Two expansions later, the feeling of friends and family hasn’t changed much. Ryan’s wife, Jessica Legaux, who helps manage the restaurant, says she likes to refer to Harold & Belle’s as the “black Cheers.” Most people sitting at the bar on any given afternoon are from the Jefferson Park area and come to the restaurant for food and drinks just about every day.

Morgan Raymond, Jr., a member of the Jefferson community, comes a few times a week to have a drink and share stories with friends. Having lived in the community for 42 years, this is no new habit. “Well gosh, I’ve lived in the neighborhood all my life. So between my parents and myself, we’ve been coming here pretty much since they’ve opened," says Raymond.

Raymond regularly sits at the bar with friends Tony Sargent and William Atley, two customers who come just as often - if not more often - than Raymond himself. Sargent, who's been frequenting the restaurant for 25 years, says it's the quality of people at Harold & Belle's that keeps him coming back. "The love of the people here - it's almost like family. Everybody sitting at this bar, we know each other, we look after each other," says Sargent.

The camaraderie of the regular customers is part of the reason Ryan believes the restaurant has not suffered too much in the current economy. The restaurant is also one of the only upscale restaurants in the entire Jefferson Park area, which keeps its customer base strong. “Harold & Belle’s has always been a destination, it’s not like we get much foot traffic in here,” says Ryan. Although many long-time and loyal customers are from the area, the other majority of diners are people who come from outside of Jefferson Park specifically to eat at Harold & Belle’s. “We’re not located at the Grove or in Hollywood – we have to work a lot harder to get people in here,” he says.

Ryan says he wouldn’t want the restaurant to be anywhere else. He appreciates the rich history that comes with Harold & Belle’s and that the restaurant has been passed down from generation to generation. “It wouldn’t be the same if we switched locations,” says Ryan.

The location on Jefferson Boulevard goes hand-in-hand with the historic and family-oriented vibe of the restaurant. Harold and Belle passed down the restaurant to their son Harold, Jr., and his wife, Denise, ten years after they opened the restaurant. Harold, Jr., and Denise still help out with the restaurant, along with partners Al and Sue Honore, but Ryan manages most of the day-to-day operations with Jessica and has no intention of stopping any time soon. “My whole life has been spent at this restaurant,” he says.

Fried Chicken | These three photos by Tianna Oliver.

Crawfish Etouffee| A signature Creole dish.

Chicken Creole | A house favorite.