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Southern style fish in Queens

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Redd Light Fish and Chips, owned by Sharon Lightbourn, located on the corner of 97th and 23rd Avenue in Elmhurst, has been in her family since 1969 and is just around the corner from where controversial civil rights leader Malcolm X once lived. "Back in the fifties it was a regular soda pop business," said Lightbourn while taking a break from dishing out some of the best southern style cooking this side of the East River.Even Borough President Helen Marshall said Lightbourn, who also lives in Elmhurst, served the best fried catfish sandwich she had ever tasted while awarding Lightbourn with the Business Award recently at her annual African-American History Month Awards Reception. Lightbourn was awarded for reinvigorating her family's fledgling black-owned business back into the prominence it once was when Lightbourn's grandfather ran the restaurant for nearly 30 years.Lightbourn's grandfather, Authur McLaurin, bought the restaurant from an Italian family in 1969 and ran it until he passed away in 1993. It was a neighborhood favorite, attracting a notable patron who was not as well know at the time, but later became the leader of the Nation of Islam, Minister Louis Farrakhan. "He was not as prominent back then," said Lightbourn. "But now it's exciting, I used to know his kids."Lightbourn said she remembers working with her grandfather when she was a child and is happy today to be working hand and hand with her children who come in on the weekends to help out, along with her mother, father and brother."Everyone has their own job here and they come in to help after working at their regular job," said Lightbourn. She explained how her father is in charge of cooking their famous ribs every Saturday, which is the only day of the week they are available. Other favorite dishes are the fish and chips, shrimps on a bun, and their Redlight combo dinners.The restaurant fell on hard times after Lightbourn's grandfather passed away when it was run by three or four different people outside of the family. Lightbourn said she could not stand by and watch her family's business be run into the ground."(My grandmother) was getting ready to sell it," said Lightbourn. "I wanted to buy it and bring the family back into the business, I felt we should try one more time."Today the bustling restaurant caters to local residents, correction officers working at Rikers Island, and international visitors staying at hotels that serve LaGuardia Airport. Lightbourn says that she hopes she will be able to keep the restaurant in the family, noting that her 13-year-old son has a keen eye for business. Reach reporter Peter A. Sutters Jr. by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 719-229-0300 Ext. 173.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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