Miss Oliie's spicy salt fish and ackee comes with sweet plantains and a large "bake", or fried dough, that you can use to soak up the juices from your meal. Jenny Oh
Miss Oliie's spicy salt fish and ackee comes with sweet plantains and a large "bake", or fried dough, that you can use to soak up the juices from your meal. (Jenny Oh)

5 Bites: Casual Caribbean Eats in Oakland

5 Bites: Casual Caribbean Eats in Oakland

There's plenty of comfort food cuisine to choose from in Oakland's incredibly diverse population, whether you want to dig into a sizzling bowl of Korean bi bim bap or use Ethiopian injera to scoop up savory mouthfuls of stewed okra and potatoes. In recent years, several talented chefs have opened up deeply personal restaurants that draw inspiration from their connections to the Caribbean with markedly Californian influences. Here's five suggestions in Oakland to sample affordable and appetizing island fare; please let us know your favorites in the comments.

Where California Intersects with the Caribbean

Good golly, Miss Ollie's: her sumptuous Afro-Caribbean food is always a delight.
Good golly, Miss Ollie's: her sumptuous Afro-Caribbean food is always a delight for the senses. (Jenny Oh)

Chef Sarah Kirnon has received much praise for her soulful cooking at Miss Ollie's, her congenial three-year-old restaurant located in Old Oakland. Originally from Barbados, Kirnon's Afro-Caribbean menu reflects the food she grew up with under the care of her grandmother (who she honors through the restaurant's name.) But her tenure in Northern Californian is evident through the seasonal dishes she expertly executes with locally sourced ingredients. The menu changes daily, but the popular Jamaican stew of salt fish and ackee makes a regular appearance at lunch and dinnertime. The national fruit of Jamaica is often paired with cod (that's soaked to remove some of the preserved fish's saltiness) and spiced up with a mix of sweet pimento and Scotch bonnet peppers, spring garlic, onions and thyme. And be sure to treat yourself at the beginning of your meal and order some of their phoularie, or split pea and okra fritters, as a starter.

Real Miss Ollie's Oakland
901 Washington Street [Map]
Oakland, CA 94607
Ph: (510) 285-6188
Hours: Lunch Tue-Fri 11:30am-2pm; Sat 12-3pm; Dinner Tue-Thu 5:30-9:30pm; Fri-Sat 5:30-10:30pm
Facebook: Miss Ollie's
Twitter: @missollie
Price range: $$ (Entrees $11-$17)

Down Home Jamaica in Uptown

Kingston 11 Cuisine
Stop in for dinner if you'd like a pricier, platter-sized portion of their delicious jerk chicken. (Jenny Oh)

When you want Californian-Jamaican food, Kingston 11 Cuisine is where you'll find Caribbean staples such as curried goat or oxtail stew prepared with seasonal ingredients from local purveyors. At lunchtime, Jamaican chef-owner Nigel Jones serves up a classic dish from his native country, jerk chicken, as a sandwich with salad or fries. Tender pieces of marinated and smoked Mary's Organic Chicken is chopped up and layered with sweet, fried plantains and housemade coleslaw on a Semifreddi Bakery roll. While the sandwich is mildly spicy, you can add more heat with the bottles of imported Scotch bonnet hot sauce at your table. Also recommended is the vegetarian Jamaican patty filled with sautéed spinach and paired with a cilantro pesto dipping sauce.

Kingston 11 Cuisine
2270 Telegraph Avenue [Map]
Oakland, CA 94612
Ph: (510) 465-255
Hours: Lunch Tue-Fri 11am-2pm; Dinner Tue-Sat 5-10pm; Sunday Brunch 11-4pm
Facebook: Kingston 11 Cuisine
Twitter: @kingston11eats
Price range: $$ (Entrees $11-$17 at lunch)

A Fusion of Global Flavors Meets the Dominican Republic

A bowlful of braised black Angus oxtail, stewed beans, steamed rice, coleslaw with maduros (plantains) and a fried egg makes for a hearty lunch from alaMar.
A bowlful of braised oxtail, stewed beans, steamed rice, coleslaw with maduros (plantains) and a fried egg makes for a hearty lunch from alaMar. (Jenny Oh)

Chef-owner Nelson German blends his Dominican-American background with Californian, Mediterranean and Asian cuisine at alaMar Kitchen & Bar. German's lunchtime menu is where you'll find one representation of his heritage: an array of Dominican rice bowls topped with braised vegetables, chicken or black Angus oxtail. Attractively presented in a large enameled cast iron vessel, you'll receive a generous helping of steamed rice, stewed beans and cabbage slaw. You'll also want to add on extras such as a fried egg, avocado or maduros. alaMar also offers special sandwiches at lunchtime, such as beef chorizo with shishito peppers on ciabatta bread.

Sponsored

alaMar Kitchen & Bar
100 Grand Avenue [Map]
Oakland, CA 94612
Ph: (510) 907-7555
Hours: Mon 5-9pm; Tue-Thu 11:30am-2:30pm, 5-9pm; Fri 11:30am-2:30pm, 5-10pm; Sat 5-10pm
Facebook: alaMar
Twitter: @alamaroakland
Price range: $$ (Entrees $11-$17 for lunch)

For When You Want to Feast and Dance

New Karibbean City serves their ample lunches in to go containers, which you'll more than likely use to carry out your leftovers.
New Karibbean City serves their ample lunches in to go containers, which you'll more than likely use to carry out your leftovers. (Jenny Oh)

A nightclub that hosts live music shows featuring reggae, soca and other Caribbean music acts, New Karibbean City also cooks up a short menu of traditional island sandwiches, stews and fried dishes for lunch and dinner. The vibe is laid-back during the day, so there's no table service. Once you head upstairs to the club, order and sit at the bar or take it to go. Try their curried goat stew or the spicy Escovitch fish; you'll get an entire fried fish (but not deboned, so have plenty of napkins nearby) topped with sautéed onions, garlic and tomatoes. All of their entrees are accompanied by sweet plantains and an overflowing mound of fragrant rice and beans.

New Karibbean City
1408 Webster Street [Map]
Oakland, CA 94620
Ph: (510) 251-0769
Facebook: New Karibbean City
Twitter: @NKC_Oakland
Hours: Wed-Thu 12-9pm; Fri-Sat 12pm-4am
Price range: $ (Entrees $10 and under for lunch)

Fire-Grilled Afro-Caribbean Street Food

A grilled feast at Suya: beef skewers with suya pepper spice, corn and plantains.
A grilled feast at Suya: beef skewers with suya pepper spice, corn and plantains. (Jenny Oh)

At their Berkeley and Oakland locations, Suya African-Caribbean Grill maintains an informal, simple menu that's centered around skewers of grilled meat or vegetables. You can choose from two signature seasonings: suya pepper, a peanut-based Nigerian spice rub or Jamaican jerk flavors (which has a spicy, lively kick.) Order them alone or indulge in a more substantial meal with two sides, crispy flatbread and aioli. They also offer wraps, daily specials and Jamaican-style patties.

Sponsored

Suya African-Caribbean Grill
408 22nd Street [Map]
Oakland, CA 94612
Ph: (510) 465-SUYA
Hours: Mon-Fri: 11am-3pm and 5pm-8pm; Sat 12pm-5pm
Facebook: Suya African Caribbean Grill
Twitter: @SuyaAfricanGril
Price range: $ (Entrees $10 and under)

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