Charles Seafood (8311 Jefferson Highway, Harahan, 504-405-5263; www.charlesseafood14.com), sometimes referred to as "Charlie's," has been owned and operated by southern Louisiana natives Shawn and Patti Kelley since November 2013.
Shawn met his wife Patti 29 years ago, and they have been working in the restaurant industry together since. The couple took a leap of faith when they bought Charles Seafood, a Harahan mainstay that originally opened in 1951.
"[Charles Seafood] was for sale for about six months, and we looked at it and the numbers worked as far as buying it, so we did," Shawn says. "[Patti] mostly manages the front and I take care of the back of the house, but sometimes she'll get back here and whip up a dish."
They changed the decor when they bought the restaurant, creating a space for private parties known as the Creole Room and adding a large mural of a swamp scene in the main dining hall. The new logo is a blue crawfish.
"It's an old building and we get a lot of compliments on the update," Shawn says.
The menu features Creole classics that would be prepared in a southern Louisiana kitchen. No dish on the menu is more than $20.
"They're not going to leave hungry, because portion sizes are big," Shawn says.
The extensive menu features seafood such as char-grilled oysters, boiled crawfish and soft-shell crabs, and Italian staples like veal parmesan. There are daily specials as well.
"Now we get people driving in from places like New Orleans, Metairie, Covington and Hammond," Shawn says. "We've been very busy. We've had lines out the door every day this week and every day last week, except [one]."
Shawn attributes the business' growth to word of mouth.
"We have a huge repeat business," he says. "We get about 300 customers weekly who charged the same card the previous week."
The restaurant is a family affair. Shawn's son is attending culinary school, and his daughter works in the restaurant as a hostess. Shawn says his favorite part of the job is talking to customers.
"It feels like (my) family has expanded so much more with the new people we meet every day and the repeat customers coming in," he says.
When there is a lull, Shawn and Patti walk into the dining room and chat with guests.
"They want to say hello," Shawn says. "When we get through the rush and everything, my wife and I try to walk on the floor and say hello to everybody that we can. My son does, too, and my daughter hostesses. Everybody likes seeing our family working together."