Big opening news for Upper Manhattan this week: The team behind Harlem’s beloved Lolo’s Seafood Shack is preparing to open a second restaurant in the neighborhood serving street foods from Mexico and Belize. The new restaurant, called Lolo’s Taco Shack, is set to open its doors this April at 2799 Broadway, at West 108th Street, in the former space of Cascabel Taqueria.
For their latest project, restaurateur Leticia Skai Young-Mohan and chef Raymond Mohan are setting their sights on Belize, where Young-Mohan has family, and the Yucatán Penninsula in Mexico — two regions known for their coastal, seafood-driven cuisines. There’s lots of recipe tasting still happening, but Young-Mohan says the menu will likely include Belizean street food favorites like tamales wrapped in plantain leaves, fried salbutes, and garnaches, the latter of which she likens to a tostada topped with refried beans.
As for the restaurant’s taco menu, chef Mohan is testing a recipe for lamb cheek tacos with roasted tomatillo salsa, along with one for cochinita pibil, slow-roasted pork that he makes using achiote paste shipped from Belize by Young-Mohan’s family. Other tacos are apparently in the works, as well, and Young-Mohan promises that the final menu will include two fish tacos — one fried, one grilled — which are traditionally served on flour tortillas.
Young-Mohan and Mohan are currently eyeing a springtime opening for Lolo’s Taco Shack and if all goes well, the restaurant will be open for takeout, delivery, and outdoor dining in April. The corner restaurant can seat 40 people outdoors and another 40 indoors when the city’s dining rooms reopen for service.
Lolo’s Seafood Shack opened its doors in October 2014, but the idea for the restaurant dates back to the couple’s travels in the British West Indies. While visiting the Caribbean island of St. Martin, the couple frequented seaside shacks — called lolos — where chefs were grilling and barbecuing fish that had just been pulled from the water. When Young-Mohan and Mohan stumbled upon a vacant restaurant space with a backyard a few years later, they decided that “Harlem could use its own little lolo,” according to Young-Mohan.
The restaurant’s mashup of “Caribbean-Cape Cod” cooking, as Young-Mohan calls it, has been well-received in New York City. An encouraging review of Lolo’s Seafood Shack appeared in the New York Times shortly after it opened, and three years later, Eater critic Ryan Sutton found that there was still lots to love on the restaurant’s menu of steamed and boiled shellfish. Ahead of the coronavirus pandemic in January 2020, Young-Mohan and Mohan opened what was supposed to be their sophomore project — Lolo’s Chicken Shack — in the Urbanspace food hall at West 52nd Street, but the restaurant remains closed indefinitely.