With its historic setting in the former C.A. Schnack’s Jewelry Store, the Diamond Grill dazzles its guests with sumptuous Creole cuisine, a romantic ambience, and first-class service delivered by a well-trained wait staff donning crisp, pin-striped aprons. From the jumbo Gulf shrimp martini served festively in a martini glass to the fried green tomatoes, buttery escargots Provencal, sizzling ribeye steaks, and the molten chocolate cake made with Belgium chocolate with a soft center that melts in your mouth, the Diamond Grill is unsurpassed in Alexandria.
Placed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Diamond Grill received the 2006 Louisiana Preservation Honor Award as an outstanding example of restoration. The Art Nouveau/Art Deco structure was built by Simon Tudor, a general contractor, in 1931 and was utilized as a jewelry store for 66 years. Tudor’s grandson, Buddy Tudor, purchased the dormant building in 1999 with Michael Small and opened the Diamond Grill with his son, Robert “Bobby” Tudor III, in 2005 after a two-year renovation orchestrated by Alliance Design Group with Buddy’s other son, Bill, as the lead architect. The construction was performed by Tudor, Inc., which is owned and operated by yet another one of Buddy’s sons, John Tudor. It’s all in the family at this popular landmark restaurant located in the heart of downtown Alexandria.
The affection that the Tudors have for the building and their respect for its history is evident when dining here. The original antique lamps and ornate plaster reflect the building’s jewelry store era, as does the wine cellar situated in the old jewelry vault. For a bird’s-eye view of the movers and shakers who dine here, while on a romantic date, ascend the dramatic staircase to the elegant mezzanine bar area overlooking the dining room, order a martini, and pop the big question. “That’s where a lot of the proposals happen,” says Executive Chef Matt Miller. The Diamond Grill was recently voted as one of the most romantic places for a date in Cenla Focus magazine, a monthly publication profiling central Louisiana.
Chef Miller, who is originally from Tampa Bay, Florida, met his wife (an Alexandria native) while in his home state, and the couple relocated to Alexandria 10 years ago. “I’ve been at the Diamond Grill since it opened four and a half years ago and I love it here,” he says.
Diamond-shaped lamps on tables draped in white linen are complemented by antique hanging lamps, 22-foot ceilings, and the jewelry store’s original chandeliers. Soft jazz, candlelight, and warm peewee pistolettes with garlic butter (served in little ramekins) set the stage for a memorable dining experience at the 100-seat restaurant with additional banquet seating upstairs (popular for business functions, weddings, and other celebrations).
To start, order the chicken and andouille gumbo prepared with an earthy dark roux or the fried green tomatoes served with a Mayhaw jelly reduction, topped with jumbo shrimp. Jumbo lump crab cakes can be ordered as an appetizer or as an entrée, served atop macque choux with a luscious lemon beurre blanc; the same goes for the pepper-crusted Ahi tuna served on a bed of mixed greens with pickled ginger vinaigrette. Shrimp Alexandria is a standout, made with jumbo shrimp sautéed with onions and enveloped in a spicy sauce, served with French bread croutons. “All our seafood is fresh from the Gulf,” says Chef Miller.
The chef’s daily specials are highly recommended, such as the eight-ounce prime filet stuffed with goat cheese and wrapped in bacon, the seared sea bass with sautéed sea scallops complemented by a pesto cream sauce, and fresh Ahi tuna served in a variety of ways. Most seafood entrées come with fragrant rosemary potatoes. Be sure to order the delicious grilled oysters, available every Tuesday, prepared Drago’s style (where they were created) with garlic butter and a trio of fresh cheeses. Other nightly specials worth sampling include crawfish etouffée, alligator etouffée, and a marvelous rendition of turtle soup. The crabmeat au gratin is outstanding, made with jumbo lump crabmeat and artichoke hearts, sautéed in a cream sauce with Mediterranean capers and sharp cheddar, melted under the broiler and served with fresh croutons for dipping.
For entrées listed on the menu, be sure to sample the giant Atlantic sea scallops, which are seared and served with a light and flavorful lime and saffron sauce, and the sumptuous roasted half duck that is lightly smoked, partially d-boned, and served with a currant and merlot reduction sauce complemented by sautéed pearl onions. You can get great steaks here. The most popular choice, according to Chef Miller, is the eight-ounce filet mignon set on a nest of cabernet-braised onions with your choice of several sauces, including the popular Cajun jus (made with Louisiana hot sauce, Worcestershire, and a rich veal demiglace).
“All of our desserts are made fresh daily,” says the chef. This includes the ice creams and sorbets such as praline pecan, coconut, peppermint, and strawberry. “It’s whatever we are feeling for that day,” he says.” For the ultimate decadence, order the drunken strawberries infused with Grand Marnier liqueur, topped with a warm chocolate ganache, whipped cream, and orange zest. Diamond Grill serves great cheesecakes, including the key lime and the vanilla lemon cheesecakes (you can order them topped with blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and chocolate curls). For a sweet indulgence with coffee, order the French vanilla kiss with Grand Marnier, Tuaca, coffee, and whipped cream or the Amaretto fudge coffee with dark Godiva chocolate liqueur. To top off the evening with a frozen concoction, try the strawberry Alexander or the brandy ice, both designed with vanilla bean ice cream and various liqueurs.