Miss Ollie’s Will Reopen as a Takeout Window in Uptown Oakland

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Wearing a face mask, chef Sarah Kirnon holds a plate of fried chicken at Miss Ollie's, her Old Oakland restaurant.
Fans of Sarah Kirnon's Bajan-style fried chicken will now be able to satisfy their craving at the new takeout window outpost of Miss Ollie's. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

On its last day of business, longtime customers lined up outside Miss Ollie’s to put in one last order of Bajan-style fried chicken, drink one final rum punch and pay their respects to a restaurant that has been a haven for Afro-Caribbean food lovers in Oakland for the past 10 years—especially for the city’s Black, brown and queer communities.

Thankfully, chef-owner Sarah Kirnon made it clear that this wouldn’t be the end of the road for Miss Ollie’s. Though it has been less than a week since she finished clearing out the old dining room, Kirnon is already moving on to the next iteration of her business: a takeout window that’ll be run out of a commissary kitchen in Uptown Oakland. 

Once the lease is finalized, Kirnon will announce the exact location, but she says it’s already a “done deal.” The as-yet-unnamed outpost won’t be called Miss Ollie’s—for now, Kirnon is reserving that name for the catering component of her business. But starting in June, the new takeout spot will serve a short, rotating menu of Miss Ollie’s favorites on a to-go basis. Which means devotees of Kirnon’s oxtails and fried chicken will still have a place where they can go to satisfy their craving.

“People still want Miss Ollie’s in their homes,” Kirnon says. “It’s hard to lay her to rest.” 

Woman in a face mask takes an order from customers at the bar counter of a restaurant.
Chef Sarah Kirnon takes an order at her Old Oakland restaurant Miss Ollie's a few weeks before it closed. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

Reached by phone while on vacation in Barbados, Kirnon says one of the lessons she took away from the pandemic is that the sit-down restaurant model in the U.S. is fundamentally broken. She now wants to shift toward “micro spaces” that offer a more sustainable business model. The new takeout spot won’t have dine-in service at all, though it will set up some tables outside on weekends. It’ll open at 11am each morning and close whenever everything sells out. And the menu will be simple and concise—just a daily special plus one or two additional staples. The idea is for customers to be able to swing by on a certain day of the week for saltfish and ackee, and a different day if they want to snag a bucket of fried chicken.

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“What we did for the last 10 years, these are the top dishes that worked for us, and we’re going to showcase them on a daily basis,” Kirnon says.

For customers who do want more of the intimate, communal experience that Miss Ollie’s used to provide in Old Oakland, Kirnon plans on hosting a chef’s table once a month. For that one night only, the restaurant will open for in-person dining, and Kirnon will put together a tasting menu of, as she puts it, all the “weird Caribbean food” that she was never able to offer on a regular basis—dishes like the sea urchin and Dungeness crab porridge she used to serve when Miss Ollie’s first opened. 

Chef Sarah Kirnon holds a plate of Caribbean patties.
A new coffee shop would provide a showcase for Miss Ollie's popular Caribbean patties. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

As challenging as the past three years have been, Kirnon expects the new takeout window to be a big success. There was such an outpouring of support in the weeks after she announced that the restaurant would be closing, Kirnon says, that she already has six big catering gigs lined up. And she feels ready now to explore new ways of creating community that aren’t your traditional full-service restaurant.

One of those new ventures will be a Caribbean patty and coffee shop that she hopes to open in downtown Oakland, not far from the old Miss Ollie’s location. (She has signed a letter of intent on a space and is now waiting for a response.) The idea, Kirnon says, will be to provide a showcase for her popular Caribbean patties. She’ll also sell her Creole doughnuts and coffee sourced from a company in Haiti—just drip coffee with condensed milk, Kirnon says. (“We’re not trying to do lattes.”) And there will be Caribbean drinks—sorrel, sea moss, tamarind juice and ginger beer—made and bottled at the Uptown commissary kitchen.

The cafe will also offer a selection of the kinds of traditional Caribbean sweet cakes and other sweets that Kirnon's great-grandmother and grandmother (the original “Miss Ollie”) used to make in Barbados: dense coconut bread sweetened with brown sugar; black cake marinated in rum and molasses to be served during Christmastime; and conkies, a tamale-like steamed sweet made with pumpkin, cassava, yucca and sweet potato.

Both locations will also sell bottles of Kirnon’s fiery pepper sauce and the green Bajan “seasoning” she uses for her fried chicken.

Kirnon says the cafe could be ready to open as early as later this summer if she’s able to secure a space for it. But the takeout window should be ready to start slinging fried chicken and oxtails by the beginning of June.

“We’ll throw a big party for Juneteenth,” Kirnon says.

For updates on both the cafe and takeout window openings, follow Miss Ollie's on Instagram.