Cooking since the age of eight, Maurinise Lee’s dream of opening her own seafood store in Hyde Park where she was raised came true Sunday when droves of people packed her store at 1310 E. 53rd St.
Holding her 3-year-old granddaughter, Ceast Lee, she said, “I am thankful…grateful about this opening. It is my dream come true.”
What’s Krackin’ Southern Seafood is a family affair. Lee is the mother of four sons, Michael, Kevin Mitchell, Franklin Lee and Ryan Lee. “They are a part of this vision of mine, and they are always by my side,” she said.
When asked about the origin of the restaurant’s name, Lee explained, “I came up with What’s Krackin’ Southern Seafood because I created a seasoning, and my mom taught me how to cook southern food. I created my seasoning to put on southern food and seafood; so it became a southern twist to it. That is why I named it What’s Krackin’ Southern Seafood.”
“My mother always taught me to cook soul food. I cooked, washing and cooking greens, frying chicken, cleaning chicken, making mashed potatoes, salads. I was always in the kitchen with my mom because I was the oldest grandchild and oldest child. I had to prepare meals; cooking became a passion of mine.”
Her mother, Joan Lewis, said she is so proud of her daughter.
Born in Chicago, Lee was raised in Hyde Park, at 5323 S. Woodlawn. She attended Murray Language Academy Elementary School and Kenwood Academy. Lee graduated from Pivot Point Beauty School and after 35 years as a cosmetologist owned four salons. Lee has since retired from that profession and is focusing on franchising her seafood restaurant.
When asked about her goals, Lee said she wants to franchise her restaurant, opening five more restaurants, one each year, throughout the United States. “This is my first one, and my goal is to make it a big franchise.”
Lee said she birthed the idea of What’s Krackin’ in 2013. “I always prepared to open a restaurant. Everything was in Divine order. I just woke up one morning in 2013 and said I would open up a restaurant.”
Her son, Ryan Lee, the co-owner of What’s Krackin’, was equally excited about the opening of their southern seafood restaurant. “Today was special, to see something we’ve been working on for years finally come to fruition. It’s amazing to create a space that will bring the Hyde Park community together.”
The Lees’ menu includes shrimp, crab, crab legs, lobster tails, and crawfish with a special seasoning she has created with butter sauce. Their menu selections can be steamed, grilled or fried; the restaurant also serves Po Boys, Oyster Po Boys, corn, potatoes and vegan shrimp.
While her restaurant specializes in carry-outs, there is seating for some customers inside and outside of the store. She does require masks to comply with the Centers for Disease Control mandate.
What’s Krackin’ restaurant will be open from 12 noon to 9:30 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday.
Thanks to the generosity of funding provided by The Field Foundation of Illinois, Inc. in producing this article.