Let me start by saying there is quite an incentive to visiting this post. You, dear reader, can win a dinner for two, with a $50 value, to Lolo’s Seafood Shack by entering the raffle right here.
Actually, you don’t even have to be a dear reader. You can skip over these words and just enter.
But if you are one of those people who like to know what you’re signing up for or are the sort of individual who actually reads the terms and conditions when joining a social media site, then maybe you should digest the next 600 words about a delicious Harlem seafood shack a few doors down from the 116th Street subway station. (There’s another raffle entry form conveniently placed at the end of this article, too.)
Lolo’s Seafood Shack
When I entered Lolo’s Seafood Shack, the narrow kitchen bubbled and clanged behind the cashier at the counter. Chefs and cooks scooted past one another while I perused the four sections of the menus: appetizers, fish sandwiched in Johnny cakes, seafood steam pots, and veggies.
While waiting for space to open up in the small back room dining area, I sipped back a ginger beer. (Lolo’s is still trying to bring some darkness to their stormy, or for those less fluent in rum mixtures, they are awaiting their liquor license.)
When space opened up, I followed the faded pastel walls, reminiscent of a Caribbean kitchen concerned more with flavor than ambiance, (though, in this Harlem joint, it is carefully constructed ambiance), and settled beneath the other aspects of Caribbean decor: the odd things hanging from walls. An illuminated star dangled, shelves held random buckets, and graffitied tapestry spanned the wall.
Out came the appetizers. Chicken wings were seeded with sesame, dressed in fresh herbs, and drizzled with garlic cream sauce, but not before getting brined in salt, glazed with achiote, and finished in the wok. The conch fritters were stuffed with corn, veggies, and, unlike many places, plenty of conch.
I normally steer clear of shark, deciding that it’s best to not eat the things that have been so generous not to nibble on me. But the sustainable species served at Lolo’s, harpooned with a toothpick and snagged between two thyme-infused Johnny cakes, grabbed me. While the shark was good, the Johnny cakes were better, a hard feat for what are usually ordinary accoutrements to a meal.
For the second entree (portions aren’t overwhelming here), I went with the crawfish, though choosing the sauce proved more challenging. The counter man rattled off the options. “We have garlic butter and old bay, ginger butter and scallion, coco curry, and our special sauce, which is a combination of all three sauces.”
Normally, I always go special. But this time I stammered.
When I was a kid, my brother and I rarely drank soda. However, when we dined out at an establishment that allowed patrons access to the soda fountain, we filled our cups to the brim. But he and I always took different approaches to pouring soda. I would click the cola handle and then top it with a splash of cherry-flavored pop. My brother would go down the line, compressing his cup against each metal extension so that he would have equal parts of all fifteen drinks. His was a disgusting mess.
Meanwhile, back at Lolo’s, I was forced to decide between, the special–made with the mad methods that my brother had once employed to craft his own awful concoctions–and a simpler sauce. I went with the special.
The server handed me a plastic bib and blue plastic gloves. And then he passed off the crawfish, which were still marinating in the sauce, all of which was encapsulated in a plastic bag. But the bigger shock was the taste. The special sauce was lovely. Maybe, my brother had always been on to something.
Balancing out the meal, were the simple vegetables: sweet corn with cotija cheese and wok-seared cauliflower with more of that good garlic cream sauce and herbs.
I almost made no mistakes that evening at Lolo’s Seafood Shack. But when I had squeezed the hot sauces into anonymous plastic cups, I lost track of the pineapple one and accidentally dunked my Johnny cake into the ghost pepper puree. Either way, it was a lovely evening up on 116th, which I think the winner of this raffle will most certainly second.
Disclaimer: Somewhere Or Bust is only hosting the raffle. Somewhere Or Bust takes no responsibility beyond hosting the raffle and alerting the winner. Prizes will be awarded to the winner by and at Lolo’s Seafood Shack. There will be only one winner and all terms are decided by the restaurant. Please take all complaints to your therapist, religious leader, or that local guy who spends a lot of time loitering in the library. Or you can address them below in the comments section. Best of luck. (Lolo’s Seafood Shack takes no responsibility or blame for my snark.)