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
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
Price range: $$ (Entrees $11-$17)
Down Home Jamaica in Uptown
When you want Californian-Jamaican food, Kingston 11 Cuisine is where you'll find Caribbean staples such as curried goat or oxtail stew prepared with seasonal ingredients from local purveyors. At lunchtime, Jamaican chef-owner Nigel Jones serves up a classic dish from his native country, jerk chicken, as a sandwich with salad or fries. Tender pieces of marinated and smoked Mary's Organic Chicken is chopped up and layered with sweet, fried plantains and housemade coleslaw on a Semifreddi Bakery roll. While the sandwich is mildly spicy, you can add more heat with the bottles of imported Scotch bonnet hot sauce at your table. Also recommended is the vegetarian Jamaican patty filled with sautéed spinach and paired with a cilantro pesto dipping sauce.
Kingston 11 Cuisine
2270 Telegraph Avenue [Map]
Oakland, CA 94612
Ph: (510) 465-255
Hours: Lunch Tue-Fri 11am-2pm; Dinner Tue-Sat 5-10pm; Sunday Brunch 11-4pm
Facebook: Kingston 11 Cuisine
Price range: $$ (Entrees $11-$17 at lunch)
A Fusion of Global Flavors Meets the Dominican Republic
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.