10 new members on LRA Board of Directors

The Louisiana Restaurant Association Board of Directors has elected 10 new members — with their terms beginning in 2014 — from across the state.

Among them are Randy Barrios, director of restaurant operations for Fremin’s Restaurant and Flanagan’s Creative Food & Drink in Thibodaux; Jim Besselman, president-owner of Ernst Café and The Chicory in New Orleans; Keith Bond, president-owner of Mel’s Diner Part II and vice president of Mel’s Diner in Lafayette; Octavio Mantilla, co-owner and operator of Besh Restaurant Group in New Orleans; Tommy Nicholas, owner of Nicholas Catering and Swamp Shack in Thibodaux; John O’Meara, general manager, Petroleum Club in Lafayette; Peter Sclafani, chef-owner of Ruffino’s Restaurant in Baton Rouge and Ruffino’s on the River in Lafayette; and Tammy Smitherman, division manager, Heartland Payment Systems, Baton Rouge.

David Merchant, president-owner of BJ’s Pizza in Alexandria; and Emily Murrell-Gates, general manager of Monjunis in Shreveport, also are new members.

“The LRA is fortunate to be able to welcome so many esteemed members of the restaurant and supplier communities to the LRA’s board of directors,” LRA President and CEO Stan Harris said in a news release. “Their expertise and commitment to the industry will be a prized asset in our governance.”

Also taking on a new role at the start of the year is the 2014 Louisiana Restaurant Association Chairman Bruce Attinger, a joint venture partner in Outback Steakhouse. He has served as president of the LRA Greater Baton Rouge Chapter, serves on the LRA Education Foundation and received the LRA’s most prestigious honor, Restaurateur of the Year, in 2006.

In his capacity as LRA chairman, Attinger will serve as the ambassador of Louisiana’s restaurant industry and meet with all nine chapters throughout the year.

The Louisiana Restaurant Association represents restaurant operations and related businesses.

Top AAA ratings

Eight restaurants in Louisiana have been named to the AAA Four Diamond Lists for 2014, according to AAA Louisiana.

The restaurants are among only 3.9 percent of all AAA-approved restaurants to earn the travel authority’s designation for superior restaurants in the past 12 months.

Restaurants on the list are Commander’s Palace, Emeril’s, Emeril’s Delmonico, Restaurant August, Restaurant R’evolution, Stella!, The Grill Room and Root. All are located in New Orleans.

Top bars

One Lafayette bar and seven New Orleans bars have made Southern Living’s list of “The Best New Bars of 2014.” The magazine named its choices in its February issue, on newsstands now.

“A fresh crop of cocktail dens across the region are raising the bar,” reports Southern Living. “They’re a throwback to a time when whiskey and Champagne were sipped by elegant folks in sleek social rooms.”

Magazine editors selected budding hot spots “based on their laid back (yet refined) approach to serving spirits and skilled drink pros thirsty to elevate their craft,” a news release said. “They combine the quality of a top-shelf joint with the rocking spirit of your favorite dive,” reports the magazine.

Only one Louisiana bar — Cane & Table, 1113 Decatur St., New Orleans — made the magazine’s list of the Top 20 new establishments that best define the modern-day craft bar. It was a winner in the Specialty Bars category. The magazine says, “Rum aficionado Nick Detrich runs this French Quarter hide-away inspired by a Colonial-era public house.”

Also on the list of “100 Places to Drink Now” are Blue Moon Saloon, 215 E. Convent St., Lafayette; and the New Orleans establishments Caroussel Bar & Lounge at Hotel Monteleone; Napoleon House, 500 Chartres St.; French 75, 813 Rue Burgundy; Cure, 4905 Freret St.; Brothers III Lounge, 4520 Magazine St.; and Maurepas Foods, 3200 Burgundy St.

Southern Living is holding its second-annual Southwide Happy Hour on Feb. 7, where select bars serve specials from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Go to southernliving.com/bars for participating spots and for the full list of “100 Places to Drink Now.”