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.”
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.