Dive On In To Fresh Seafood in Harlem

Nestled onto a street in West Harlem is a little taste of the Caribbean. No, you can’t smell the salty ocean air but there are steampots of seafood, picnic tables in an outdoor garden and the casual feel of beachside eating. Chef Raymond Mohan and owner Saki Young quietly opened LoLo’s Seafood Shack last October, but the secret of where to get fresh Caribbean and New England style seafood in the city is getting out.

It's not summer until you've had a lobster roll. image: LoLo's Seafood Shack

It’s not summer until you’ve had a lobster roll. image: LoLo’s Seafood Shack

From the outside of 303 W. 116th Street, the place doesn’t look like it’s hiding a rare city treasure, but step inside and the colors of the Caribbean greet you. If the colorful walls filled with artwork don’t transport you to the beach, the smells will. Choose from steampots of shrimp, snow crab legs and crawfish ($9 to $19) or order a sandwich: shark, crab cake, salmon or avocado ($9 to $12) and head out back, through the rear door, down the stairs to grab a picnic table in the outdoor garden while waiting for your food. Imagine you’re at a clambake.

You won't think you're in the city when you step out back. image: joey pasion

You won’t think you’re in the city when you step out back. image: joey pasion

“This is one of the only buildings with an outdoor space,” Young said. “When I saw the back space I knew we had to do something Island inspired. It’s such a respite.”

Caribbean with a hint of New England came naturally to Mohan and Young. Mohan grew up in Guyana and Young has family from Belize.

image: lolo's seafood shack

image: lolo’s seafood shack

“The inspiration for our menu comes from the lolos of St. Martin,” Mohan said. “Lolos are gathering places by the seaside that serve delicious, fresh and local cuisine. By merging this concept with the fresh seafood offerings for which Cape Cod has become so well known, we’ve created a little ‘Harlem Hideaway’ of sorts that serves as a respite from the city and offers cultural fare in an unexpected locale.”

Take your pick of sauces, just watch out for the one with the ghost pepper. image: lolo's seafood shack

Take your pick of sauces, just watch out for the one with the ghost pepper. image: lolo’s seafood shack

The menu, which also includes snacks such as crab dip, smoked wings and veggie sides of corn on the cob and chilled broccoli salad is seasonal. This summer, you’ll find soft shell crab and lobster while in the winter you can expect hearty soups. Try the Belizean Conch Fritters with lime zest remoulade and the homemade plantain chips, if nothing else.

image: lolo's seafood shack

image: lolo’s seafood shack

Mohan and Young have worked with the purveyor of Pacific Specialties for more than decade, selecting fresh seafood sustainable seafood every day.

“We want to source our seafood from locations that work to prevent overfishing as well as detrimental fishing tactics,” Mohan said.

image: lolo's seafood shack

image: lolo’s seafood shack

With the weather finally getting warmer, Mohan and Young are finalizing the liquor license and developing an innovative cocktail menu for their guests to enjoy among the relics from the coast, which include colorful accents and homemade furniture.

image: joey pasion

image: joey pasion

“We’re so happy to be here in West Harlem,” Young said. “There’s so much happening on this block right now, it’s just been really fun,”

Fun in a casual, hidden spot means we don’t have to go very far to get a taste and feel of the Caribbean this summer.