LIMA — Khiry Simpson’s popular Cajun seafood boils started with a photo on social media. Now, Simpson is readying his first sit-down restaurant, Krab Trap, inspired by his past struggles with poverty that Simpson hopes sets a new narrative for Lima.
“It’s uncommon for guys my age to still be standing here,” said Simpson, 31, who started cooking after a three-month stint in jail for probation and traffic violations.
His cooking photos instantly went viral, Simpson said, allowing him to build a fan base as he refined his culinary skills, traveling to cities like Columbus, Nashville and Atlanta before finally opening a restaurant of his own on N. Cole Street.
The restaurant was a path out of poverty for Simpson. But it was also an opportunity for Simpson to offer a different image of Lima, one that uplifts the city’s neighborhoods and acts as a space for people from any part of Lima to feel welcome.
The name Krab Trap is an abbreviation of Simpson’s story, To Rise Above Poverty; and the menu an homage to Lima’s streets.
There’s the Essex Drive, consisting of fried salmon nuggets and French fries. And the West Street, fried salmon patties with rice and asparagus. Or the Snake Pit, baked salmon with roasted garlic mashed potatoes and asparagus.
“We’re often labled as the bad side of (town), from the south side to the west side to out east,” said Simpson, who grew up on Ninth Street. “From here, I just want to show a positive image of where we come from, because not all of us are the same.”
Those neighborhoods now offer Simpson the motivation to hustle and break the generational course of poverty, he said.
And it’s that message Simpson wants to pass along, evident by the motivational slogans of grit and execution that decorate the walls of Krab Trap.
“I want kids to know you don’t have to be a product of the environment,” Simpson said. “It’s the stereotype. Somebody has to break the course, the generational course. I’m here to break that down. I don’t want to fall behind like that again. … That’s motivation. That’s where we’re from.”
The restaurant will open to the public on Monday, April 19.