“I have been trying to get here since July,” said Lasondra Boddie as she stands at the counter of Straight Drop Seafood
. “I am glad I finally made it.”
Boddie said she saw posts on Facebook that had only good things to say about the new restaurant in North Memphis, and Instagram pictures of the meals looked great.
She celebrated her four-month journey to Straight Drop with the lobster and shrimp meal. It includes one lobster tail, a half-pound of shrimp, two ears of corn, two potatoes, and sausage covered in Straight Drop's top-secret Drop Sauce for $25.
The seafood house is located at 615 Chelsea Avenue in a small strip of businesses that includes North Memphis' acclaimed Ms. Girlee's Soul Food Restaurant.
Straight Drop's grand opening was July 10, but it's already selling roughly 500 pounds of traditional seafood boil staples weekly, including shrimp, blue crab, catfish, and lobster. They sell almost double that amount in side items like corn, potatoes, sausage, and boiled eggs.
Chef Yamani Albert is a former Memphian but opened his first Straight Drop Seafood restaurant in Fayetteville, North Carolina. The first Tennessee location opened in Memphis on July 10, 2020. (Straight Drop Seafood)
Former Memphian and chef Yamani Albert said he was broke and looking for a way to make money, when God gave him the idea of cooking and selling the plates out of his home in Fayetteville, North Carolina.
Albert said he stepped out on faith with only $300 and launched Straight Drop Seafood.
During the growth period from house to restaurant, Albert and long-time friend, rapper, and entrepreneur Cameron “Cam” Dorsey spoke of opening a location in Memphis. The company grew and added additional franchise locations in North Carolina and Georgia, but like countless other restaurants, Straight Drop has seen setbacks in the pandemic.
Albert said he was in the shower, praying to God for a sign for his future, when Dorsey called.
“Cam said he had the spot for Straight Drop and within hours, I was on a plane in the middle of a pandemic to come to Memphis and make it happen,” recalled Albert.
Dorsey, who is based in Memphis, secured the former Independence Barbershop location on Chelsea and opening a franchise in the Bluff City became a reality. The team also secured an adjoining bay with plans to expand when the pandemic ends.
Straight Drop isn't the partners' only plan for Memphis. Albert and Dorsey have acquired the former Lot-a-Burger location on Danny Thomas Boulevard. They plan to open Bandos—a 24-hour burger, wing, and hibachi chicken drive-thru—in early 2021.
Inspired by Trap Music
Albert said his preparation of the seafood—including his unique takes on a classic seafood boil where he deep fries crab legs, lobster, and boiled eggs—stem from his love of trap music.
Trap is a subgenre of hip hop music that originated in the Southern United States during the
early 1990s. The genre gets its name from the Atlanta slang word "trap house," which refers to a place where illegal drugs are sold.
“As I listen to the music, the beats, its lyrics, I’m transported to a space where my creativity with preparing and seasoning jumps off,” said Albert. As customer after customer requests extra Drop Sauce and extra meals, it's apparent that his musical inspiration hasn’t steered him wrong.
Before Straight Drop opened, Albert and Dorsey organized a giveaway of 1,000 pounds of shrimp. This served as a taste test. Albert said he was mimicking what he learned during his younger days selling drugs on the streets of Memphis.
“Drug dealers would give away samples of their products so customers would know they had a good product,” said Albert. “I wanted to create that same respect for the taste of my food.”
Albert said he and Dorsey want customers to feel like royalty when eating at Straight Drop. They’ve named their meals, “Royal Shrimp,” “King Albert,” and “Queen’s Platter.”
The murals both inside and outside of the building are the work of Lace, who is a street artist from Venice Beach, California by way of the South Side of Chicago.
California-based street artist Lace poses in front of one of the murals he painted at Straight Drop Seafood in North Memphis. (Tamara Cunningham)
“I met Yamani and Cam while they were in California. I was earning money doing graffiti tags of tourist names. Cam asked me to paint his logo, I did, and he offered me the job of painting the murals at his new restaurant,” said Lace.
“I was supposed to be here until the job was done, but now I think I might make Memphis my home," he continued.
Lace isn't the only team member considering a move. Ryan High is a server at the Memphis location. High became a part of the franchise support team and relocated when the original North Carolina location closed.
“I will continue as franchises open to be a part of the travel team because I love customer service and meeting people, but Memphis may become my base, ” said High.
Straight Drop is open daily from noon until 2 a.m. High said he believes that's another reason for the business's success.
"It offers a twist on the rules like everything else they do," said High.
The Language is the same. The meaning has changed.
Albert left Memphis at the age of 21 with a plan to join the Army.
“I was going to learn to cook, return, use what I had learned, and deal only in good drugs,” Albert said.
Albert said that there are many parallels between his days as a dealer and his time as a chef. He said that he tries to put a positive spin on the language he once used. For instance, being a boss on the street meant you could afford the best so there is a “Boss Platter” on the menu for $120. It includes five lobster tails, two pounds of shrimp, potatoes, corn, and sausage.
He said customers have likened his seasonings to crack cocaine—highly addictive and keeps them coming back again and again.
“I put crack seasoning on my food, but this crack won’t tear down your house,” Albert said. “My locally-sourced seafood comes in frozen bricks similar to the bricks drugs come in, but I’m slingin’ good bricks.”