February is a time for us to honor Black History Month with art, music, and, of course, food. There are a number of chefs around the Bay Area providing a special menu this month, but, with this guide, you can support black-owned restaurants doing their thing year-round.
Sadly, some of the restaurants we covered in our 2017 list have closed since then, so we created this new one. Please note, this guide does not include every black-owned restaurant, bar, bakery or pop-up in the whole Bay Area, so please feel free to add any favorites we may have missed by tagging us on social! You can find us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.
In our last visit to Isla Vida, chef-owner Jay Foster and co-owner Matthew Washington told us, “We’re trying to touch on a few of the little things that we really like, try to represent it really well and hopefully make our ancestors proud.” Though it took over a decade to get the idea to be a reality, their Caribbean-centric restaurant finally opened last year in the Fillmore district, the former “Harlem of the West.” Black-owned restaurants previously thrived there, but now Isla Vida (in a space formerly taken by another black-owned business, Black Bark BBQ) is just one of a few black-owned businesses in the neighborhood.
There's not many places to get Caribbean food in the Bay, and Foster and Washington have definitely done their research. As Trevor quotes in his piece about the restaurant, Foster is simply “trying to follow the footsteps of our ancestors culinarily. The food of the Diaspora is very similar...it just depends on where the boat stopped.”
Have you sampled Liberian cuisine? Time to visit the Bay Area's only Liberian spot, Kendejah Restaurant in San Leandro (which Check, Please! Bay Area visited in Season 13). According to the owner, Dougie Uso, he wants you to feel like you're visiting a friend's house, so the vibe is very friendly and casual, but you can get a dash of history with your food at the same time.
Recommendations from the show? Oxtail stew, attieke with fish and jollof rice to name a few.
Chef Paul Magu-Lecugy, a classically trained French chef whose esteemed resume includes the Gérard Besson in Paris, La Bastide de Moustiers, and the Ritz Carlton and St. Regis in San Francisco, always had dreams of opening a bistro that offers a five star dining experience at an affordable price. Today, Magu-Lecugy owns and operates Reve (“dream” in French) in Lafayette, offering Lamorinda residents the chance to experience a traditional French bistro, not unlike those he experienced during his childhood in Paris.
With an extensive wine list (mostly French and some Californian) and seasonal menus featuring fresh ingredients, Reve (which made an appearance on Check, Please! Bay Area) offers a culinary escape to France, without the price of a plane ticket.
Brown Sugar Kitchen
This is an honorary mention since Brown Sugar Kitchen made the 2017 list! Chef and owner Tanya Holland opened Brown Sugar Kitchen in 2008 on Mandela Parkway in West Oakland, but that location closed in the latter half of 2017 to make way for Holland's projects in Uptown Oakland and the San Francisco Ferry Building. For anyone that has been missing the buttermilk fried chicken and Holland's other signature items, the Ferry Building location just opened!
Despite making its mark as one of the best Texas inspired BBQ eateries in the bay, cooking Barbeque wasn’t always owner and chef Matt Horn’s goal. According to Horn’s bio, after grilling a particularly bad batch of spare ribs, Horn vowed to “never cook bad cue again” and took to his Grandmother’s backyard to perfect the art of pit-smoking meats. To say Horn has honed his meat-smoking techniques is an understatement; with days to prepare between each pop-up, no shortage of time and dedication is put towards preparing meats (including brisket, homemade sausage and pork cuts), as well as homemade rubs and sauces.
You can catch Matt Horn, and his 500-gallon custom smoker, Lucille, at various pop-up locations around Oakland - check Horn Barbecue’s Facebook page for future dates and locations!
For more eateries to visit during Black History Month, see below.