Seafood Kingz 2 Brings Soul Food to City Island

When a pal heard, lately, that I used to be planning a visit to City Island, which is related to the Pelham Bay part of the Bronx by a brief bridge, he requested, “Are you going to Tony’s or to Johnny’s?” At the southern tip of City Island Avenue—the principle thoroughfare, which runs the size of the slim landmass, a few mile and a half—you’ll discover two mid-century-era seafood eating places, Johnny’s Reef and Tony’s Pier. With apologies to loyalists of both (Mike Bloomberg is a identified Johnny’s man), they’re practically similar: each counter service, with a charmingly retro system of ordering that’s comparable to the one at Katz’s Deli, that includes totally different stations (uncooked, steamed, broiled, fried, frozen tiki drinks), and each with ample out of doors picnic-table seating—watch out for hungry gulls.

With Seafood Kingz 2, Darryl Lelie, certainly one of its co-owners and a Bronx native, fulfills a longtime dream of opening a restaurant on City Island.

Johnny’s and Tony’s are undoubtedly price a go to, however lots has modified on City Island. I had a special vacation spot in thoughts: Seafood Kingz 2, which opened in February. As the title implies, it’s a second location; the primary is in St. Albans, Queens, and was opened within the fall of 2019 by the Lelie household, the patriarch of which, Darryl, is a veteran chef of acute-care-hospital kitchens, and a local of the Bronx. If a landlocked part of Queens appears an unlikely location for a seafood restaurant, the household would agree, Darryl’s son Derell advised me the opposite day. But they took an opportunity on a vacated pizzeria and through the first yr of the pandemic noticed dividends, thanks to an unlimited demand for takeout. (It’s some extent of delight for the household that their meals travels effectively and heats up properly the subsequent day.)

The Seafood Kingz 2 workforce contains Darryl Lelie (backside left), his son Derell (again proper), and his brother Max (entrance proper).

The success of Seafood Kingz in Queens was sufficient to facilitate a longtime dream of Darryl’s: to open a restaurant on City Island. Until the late sixties, there have been no Black householders on the island. As a teen-ager within the eighties, Darryl, who’s Black, was generally pushed away by white residents when he tried to trip his bike over the bridge. With a inhabitants of simply over 4 thousand, the island remains to be majority white, and has had an unsightly historical past of racism. Still, Darryl and his spouse, Catrina, have at all times beloved it there; Derell remembers childhood journeys to JP’s, a restaurant on the island’s northern finish, for shrimp and rice and virgin daiquiris. In 2015, a deal to take over an empty restaurant had fallen aside, however in 2020 the area turned accessible once more, and the Lelies acquired a second probability.

Blink and also you may miss Seafood Kingz 2. It’s one of many first storefronts on the City Island facet of the bridge, throughout the road from the water; the eating places that sit immediately on the water are extra doubtless to catch your eye. Inside, although, notable issues are occurring. The island has been residence to a handful of Black-owned companies, however the Lelies are pretty sure that theirs is the primary Black-owned soul-food seafood restaurant there. Derell and his sister, Brittney, work as normal managers, and within the kitchen Darryl’s brother, Max, and youngest son, Dalvin—with occasional assists from Catrina—make an artwork of breading and frying shrimp, tightly coiled and crunchy, plus skinny fillets of whiting and meatier cuts of catfish. They steam lobster tails and king- and snow-crab legs with corn, potatoes, and broccoli earlier than showering them in Old Bay.

What actually units the restaurant aside on the island are what Derell calls “the soulful trimmings.” I used to be heartened to discover tostones at each Johnny’s and Tony’s, and the choices at different institutions on the island replicate its rising range, however Seafood Kingz 2 is alone in serving dense, tacky macaroni pie, with a beautiful cap of broiled orange Cheddar; shiny candied yams, sprinkled with cinnamon; tart, earthy collard greens gone darkish from slow-cooking; and Catrina’s potato salad, heavy on bread-and-butter pickles and heady with nutmeg. Sit going through the massive entrance home windows on a transparent evening because the solar units over the Eastchester Bay and there’s nothing blocking your view. (Dishes $12-$110.) ♦


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