As many restaurants were struggling to stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic last year, one couple’s love for their small town inspired them to reopen a local dining destination. In just a few months, Mariner's Restaurant earned Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence.
It all started in the fall of 2020, when one of the largest restaurants in Natchitoches, a northeastern town in Louisiana, was put up for sale. Husband-and-wife team Ben and Keri Fidelak received a call from the mayor himself, suggesting that they purchase the property. Despite all the turmoil happening in the world, and the fact that the duo had just been forced to close their previous restaurant and catering business in March, the Fidelaks decided to go for it. Mariner’s Restaurant opened in November following a complete gut renovation, sporting a reimagined wine list and menu. Both pull influences from the family’s global travels, as well as from the local area.
Dishes like boudin wontons with cracklins, New Orleans–style barbecue shrimp and grits and pan-seared duck breast with blackberry sage, cashew butter and duck-fat collards are some of the options crafted by Ben, the executive chef.
As wine director, Keri strives to make the list approachable, while collaborating with her husband to find unique pairings. The 85-selection list is strongest in bottlings from California, and offers wines from the couple's favorite destinations like Croatia, Greece, South Africa and Austria.
The kids are involved in the business, too. Ben and Keri’s son, Graeme, helped out daily during the renovations, while their daughter, Lauren, worked on the signature cocktail list. Mariner’s Restaurant also features a lengthy whisky selection and a sparkling wine bar with rotating selections available on tap. Reservations are available for both indoor dining and for lakefront outdoor seating.