By Jessi Mitchell

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The 12th Annual Harlem Restaurant Week is happening now, with more eateries involved than ever before. Some are even stronger now than they were before the pandemic.

For LoLo’s Seafood Shack owners Raymond Mohan and Leticia Skai Young, opening a new location could not have happened at a worse time.

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“That was a couple of months right before COVID,” Young said. “So we actually ended up closing that restaurant.”

Leticia Skai Young (credit: CBS2)

The couple refocused their energy on the heart of the business.

LINK: Harlem Restaurant Week | Participating Restaurants

“We like to actually say that it’s locally owned, locally operated as our unofficial acronym at LoLo’s,” Young said. “And so we were able to pivot really quickly.”

“My husband, he built the cabana outside,” Young continued. “We actually built another kind of like pickup window where people for the first year they could just order outside and then sit outside.”

While patrons and proprietors were pushed apart physically, the pandemic brought people together in a different way.

“We were really able to get back to the community during that time,” said Young. “And I think, you know, that in turn came back to us.”

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“Also as part of Harlem Week, we’re working with the Angel Food Project in partnership with Harlem Park to Park,” Young explained. “We put together, family meals that they picked up…families who have been affected by incarceration and who are food insecure. And it’s, you know, right before the holidays. So it feels good.”

With a record 60 palatable places participating this year, Harlem Restaurant Week is a celebration and a way to say thank you to the community that helped them stay afloat.

(credit: CBS2)

“All of the restaurants, I feel, are great gathering places for locals, people who are coming to soak in the Harlem culture,” said Young. “And that’s what Harlem Week is all about.”

Now LoLo’s has a new expansion on the horizon, and the future is bright.

“Like the Phoenix, I say, we always try to rise,” said Young.

Young and Mohan are hoping to share a slice of island pride with you, in the form of coconut shrimp spring rolls or braised salmon with salsa verde.

Find your flavor at Harlem Restaurant Week now through Nov. 21. For a full list of restaurants, click here.

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If you have a tip about the happenings in Harlem, please reach out to CBS2’s Jessi Mitchell by clicking here.

Jessi Mitchell