Darryl Lelie is the founder and owner of Seafood Kingz 2, the first Black-owned seafood restaurant to open in New York’s City Island. Lelie recently held his grand opening on February 26th, alongside his son and general manager Derell Lelie, wife Catrina Lelie and the restaurant’s general managers. Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson was also in attendance, highlighting the significance of the grand opening during Black History Month.
“This is what Black excellence is all about. It’s very significant that we’re doing this during the celebration of Black History Month because so many Black Americans have paved the way for all of us to be here,” said Gibson.
Lelie has been in the restaurant business for 20 years, previously opening his first Seafood Kingz restaurant in September 2019, right on Linden Boulevard in Queens. The business stayed steady during the pandemic, opening the way for a second location.
“My neighborhood looked like a ghost town. The only people open was us, KFC and White Castle,” Lelie recalled.
Eventually the family did open a second location in the South Bronx but complications with the expansion forced them to close shop. Eventually, the opportunity came for them to open in City Island, the Lelie discovering a previous space they had tried to occupy was now vacant.
“The funny thing is, we came driving up here. Me, my wife and my son. We seen the ‘For rental’ and we was like, ‘Man, that’s the spot we tried to get five years ago!,” Lelie recalled.
That’s when the veteran restaurateur took advantage of the opportunity, enrolling his entire family in the business. His 21-year-old son Dalvin is also in the culinary industry, working as the head chef at Seafood Kingz 2, building the restaurant menu in just three hours.
“I’ve been in the kitchen since I was 5. My father set the blueprint for us,” Dalvin explained.
Lelie said his son started taking the reins when he was about 13, doing any prep work needed and gradually working his way up to becoming head chef.
The entire Lelie family is excited to see their Black-owned business at the top of the 1.5 mile corridor in the Bronx. City Island hasn’t historically been welcoming to residents of color, Dr. Edward H. Lowe recalling the days when his sister was the only child of color on the island. Lowe’s family were the first Black people to purchase property on City Island in 1982. The doctor still lives there, practicing medicine out of his home. His advice to the Lelies… “Just be yourself. Your best advertisement is word of mouth.”
The restaurant menu features a variety of seafood options, from king crab legs to fried lobster tails and everything in between, a welcome treat for longtime City Island residents like Fran Browning who love seafood.
“In the summer, all I really crave is seafood. I can live on seafood. If they’re offering food with a southern twist, that’s really cool,” said Browning.
The business is currently gearing up for the summer months, when they’ll see an influx of visitors, Derrell encouraging patrons to try their signature fried fish, shrimp and chicken combo or his mother Catrina’s “famous banana pudding.” Lelie said the best thing about their restaurant’s food is that it can’t be duplicated.
“We give them an avenue to have some of their own food, with the things that they love. So you get your seafood with the soul food trimmings. You can’t copy it up here, you know, you can’t imitate it. This is the real soulful stuff,” said Lelie.
During the grand opening Gibson encouraged the family to keep the business going, no matter what obstacles they may face in the future.
“There’ll be some hard things happening along the way, being a small business owner and working with multiple city agencies. But I want you to remember this day. I want you to remember this opening. I want you to remember the vision that you created. Don’t let anyone take that from you,” said Gibson.
Seafood Kingz 2 is open Sunday to Thursday, noon to 10 p.m. and Friday to Saturday, noon to midnight. The restaurant is located at 634 City Island Ave.
News Source: BOTWC Written Credits: BOTWC