LoLo's Seafood Shack
 

Photo credit: Adeline Ramos

 

Photo credit: Adeline Ramos

The Caribbean meets Cape Cod in Harlem

By Erik Mathes

Sometimes all you need to do is overload your sense of taste with flavors from a faraway place to fool your brain into believing you’ve actually gotten away from the grind. If it’s a retreat to the Caribbean is on your mind, head to LoLo’s in Harlem for an instant culinary stay-cay that satisfies your craving for island fare.

In island parlance, a “lolo” is a small, unpretentious restaurant where tourists mingle with locals, getting a feel for the flavors of the area, and, very likely, eating with their hands. Instead of focusing on the cuisine of just one island, however, LoLo’s features a mix of dishes from an array of Caribbean countries, including Belize, Guyana, and Anguilla.

Stepping in the door, the alluring aromas of allspice and thyme from roasting jerk-spiced ribs blend with the sounds of reggae pumping from the stereo to instantly mellow your mood. There are only about 20 seats inside, but the back patio—decked out in sea foam green, sky blue, and coral with beachy accents—is where you want to be.

Before you break out the plastic bibs (you’ll need one, and plastic gloves, too, if you order a seafood steampot), start with plantain chips and LoLo’s five house-made spicy sauces. Add to that Belizean conch fritters with bacalao, accompanied by a creamy, tart remoulade punctuated by lime zest, and, of course, the meltingly tender jerk ribs, with spicy, vinegar-based jerk barbecue sauce.

For the main event, a signature steampot with peel-and-eat shrimp or snow crab legs and LoLo’s special sauce—actually a mix of the three other signature sauces—is the way to go. You’ll have to do some handiwork, but each garlicky, gingery, coconut-y bite is better than the last, especially when you mix in some corn on the cob and sweet potato.

Oh, but those fries, though! With a crispy texture like Korean fried chicken, LoLo’s fries, topped with cotija cheese, pickled jalapeños, and fresh herbs, are worth a visit on their own. There are plenty of other vegetarian choices, too, but we’re particularly fond of the sweet and savory johnny cakes, preferably with a luscious finish of honey butter to round out our meal.

Forget the plane; all you need is to hop on the train to West 116th Street for this easy island escape.

hours

Tue–Fri 4 PM–9:45 PM; Sat noon–9:45 PM; Sun noon–8 PM
Closed Monday

price range

$9 (shrimp steampot) to $19 (snow crab legs steampot)
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