The familiar aqua exterior of a long-standing restaurant remains largely unchanged, except for one recent improvement: the neon sign that reads "Charles Sea Foods" is lit up again.
Charles Seafood (8311 Jefferson Highway, Harahan, 504-405-5263; www.charlesseafood14.com) celebrated its one-year anniversary Jan. 17 under the new ownership of Shawn and Patti Kelley. They bought the former Charlie's, which opened in 1951, in November 2013. Most recently, chef Frank Brigsten operated Charlie's in this location from 2009 until spring 2013.
After purchasing the iconic squat corner building, the Kelleys took a few months to update the inside, adding a mural of a bayou scene and New Orleans-style windows behind the bar. They also developed a large menu of seafood plates, specialty sandwiches and a mix of Italian and regional cuisine.
"We love this area and have been a part of the community for many years," Patti says. "We loved seeing our new place come alive and wanted to carry on the Charles Seafood legacy to keep it alive."
The couple has more than 50 years of restaurant industry experience between them and they share duties running Charles Seafood.
"We met 27 years ago in the restaurant business and have always worked together," Patti says. Shawn is the primary chef, and Patti throws in some ideas and cooks a few sides. Patti runs the front of the house most days, but Shawn enjoys visiting with the customers, the couple says.
Nothing costs more than $20, with many items running around $10 to $15.
"Some of the most popular items are the stuffed trout, the stuffed shrimp and the Charles crab pasta," Patti says. There are daily specials such as hamburger steak, red beans and rice, chicken-fried steak and corned beef and cabbage.
"Many people enjoy our homemade soups," Patti says. "We offer seasonal specials too, like stuffed mirliton and, right now, our Charles Steam Bucket."
The menu includes salads, appetizers including jambalaya, as well as muffu-lettas and specialty po-boys like the Rajun Cajun, made with grilled alligator sausage. There's also fried and grilled seafood and traditional Italian dishes, such as veal, chicken or eggplant Parmesan. Dessert options include Creole cream cheese cheesecake and bread pudding with rum sauce.
"We sell boiled as well as [sacks of live seafood]," Patti says. "We have char-broiled oysters that are simply delicious. On Tuesday and Wednesday, we offer raw oysters for a special of $5.95 a dozen.
"Customers brag about great portions, great quality and great service," Patti says. "This is what makes us proud. We were very excited to celebrate our first year. We have made many new friends and cherish our friends and former customers as well. We look forward to many years ahead."