Grand Isle (575 Convention Center Blvd., 520-8530) opened early in June as the latest addition to the Fulton Street Mall, the street being redeveloped by Harrah's Casino as an entertainment corridor. The restaurant is the work of local restaurateur and caterer Joel Dondis and specializes in Louisiana seafood, with dishes like turtle soup and crawfish cardinal, plus land-based fare like barbecue quail and duck debris po-boys. There is also an oyster bar. The executive chef is Jens Jordan. Dondis operates the catering company Joel's Grand Cuisine (www.joels.com) and is the owner of the Uptown bistro La Petit Grocery (4328 Magazine St., 891-3377; www.lapetitegrocery.com) and also Sucre (3025 Magazine St., 520-8311; www.shopsucre.com), the dessert caf he opened this spring with pastry chef Tariq Hanna.
In its ongoing campaign to promote restaurant employment as a career in local heritage rather than just a job, the Louisiana Restaurant Association (www.lra.org) last year introduced a program to recognize what it calls Louisiana Restaurant Legends. The latest honoree is Emile "Skip" Hebert, general manager of the Court of Two Sisters (613 Royal St., 522-7261; www.courtoftwosisters.com). He began as a purchaser for the French Quarter restaurant in 1980 and soon moved up to his current position. The LRA's award recognizes excellence and dedication by restaurant employees who have worked at the same restaurant for 20 years or more. To be considered for the award, an employee must be nominated by a LRA member.
The latest chapter in the long history of a local family of restaurateurs opened last week. Members of the Baquet family have run restaurants in the city since the 1940s, including Eddie's, which through the 1970s helped earn them a national reputation for a precise approach to casual food and drew a diverse crowd to its door on Law Street. Its success led to a progression of other Baquet restaurants around town. For a short span beginning in 2004, the family had no restaurant at all as Wayne Baquet gave retirement a try and closed his Zachary's Restaurant in the Riverbend. Retirement was brief, and in 2005 he opened Li'l Dizzy's Caf (1500 Esplanade Ave., 569-8897) in the Treme, serving classic family recipes for Creole gumbo, crawfish bisque, fried chicken and specialties like trout Baquet. Now, there's a second Li'l Dizzy's, this time downtown in a monumentally designed former bank lobby at the Whitney Wyndham Hotel (610 Poydras St., 581-4222), an elegant space that was previously the expansion site of Lakeview's Steak Knife restaurant. The downtown Dizzy's is open for breakfast and lunch Monday through Saturday and brunch on Sunday.