Monday, February 17, 2020

Where to Eat, Drink & Be Merry: Top Black-Owned Restaurants, Bars, Lounges & Eateries @ Oakland

Back in February 2015, I debuted my "Top Black-Owned Restaurants, Bars, Lounges & Eateries in Los Angeles" list, recognizing some of most amazing places in the city, in honor of Black History Month.

And now that I’m officially calling the Bay Area home, it only made sense to create a brand spanking new list that celebrates some of the best black-owned gems, right here in Oakland.

While not exhaustive by any means (hey, I’ve only lived here 12 months — I have lots more exploring to do!), I think the following 10 places, presented in alphabetical order, represent the diverse, beautiful face of the African Diaspora, all providing one-of-a-kind experiences and quality cuisine and cocktails.

You’ve got Jamaican fare, a bit of Nigerian flavor, casual and upscale soul food…bar bites and BBQ…and a fabulous coffee shop serving up my fave, a candied yam latte.

So read on and don’t forget to drop your top choices of black-owned Oakland places in the comments section below, too.

Here's to celebrating amazing foods from the Black Diaspora in all of Cali, all year long!


Brenda’s Oakland – Brenda’s Oakland is bringing a taste of New Orleans to Temescal, with treats like hot beignets, po’ boys and gumbo. I’m very particular about my gumbo, and I’ll confidently say that Brenda put her foot in this pot. The fried chicken is also pretty incredible, with a delightful seasoned crunch and tender meat. This fast casual spot keeps it simple; order at a counter, get seated by staff and then wait for your order to arrive.
Tip: Ordering the sweet watermelon tea is an absolute must!

Brown Sugar Kitchen – Located on Broadway Ave. in Oakland’s bustling Uptown neighborhood, Brown Sugar Kitchen serves up soul-filling “new style down home” dishes like BBQ Shrimp, Gumbo, Cast-iron Skillet Cornbread and my absolute favorite, Beignets. Originally calling West Oakland home, Brown Sugar Kitchen relocated to this bigger, snazzier and tasteful space just over a year ago. Chef/Owner Tanya Holland, who you’ll often find walking around and greeting guests, shared that it’s been her dream for more than 15 years to finally be in the space she’s in now. So happy it finally came true for her!
Tip: Brown Sugar Kitchen currently doesn't take reservations currently, so get ready to wait, wait and wait for weekend brunch, unless you go super early or during the week. 

Eko Kitchen (San Francisco) – So Eko Kitchen *technically* isn’t in Oakland — it’s in San Francisco’s SOMA district — but still gets an honorable mention. First opening its doors in 2019, this modest one-roomed restaurant whips up Nigerian cuisine, all to the backdrop of Afrobeats. Dinner service runs Friday,  Saturday and Sunday, and you can also sign up for wonderful two-hour cooking lessons through AirBnB Experiences.
Tip: Eko Kitchen’s schedule can change frequently; check out its Instagram to find out the most up-to-date happenings.

Everett and Jones – Since the ‘70s, Everett and Jones has been dishing out BBQ to the masses. Smoked meats come slathered in Everett and Jones’ famous barbeque sauce, and can be accompanied by sides like candied yams, cornbread and Mom’s collard greens. The best entrée to order for groups, IMHO, is the Four-Way Combination Plate. It gives you two side choices and ribs, chicken, brisket and links. While advertised for two people, it can easily fill up four people. Everett and Jones has a Jack London Square address, with five additional locations throughout the Bay Area.
Tip: On select nights, stick around to hear live music including the blues and jazz at the adjacent Dotha’s Juke Joint.

Home of Chicken & Waffles – Even though it opened in 2004, Home of Chicken & Waffles in Jack London Square pays homage to the past, thanks to a brightly retro interior bathed in pastel yellows and blues, and mid-century modern lighting fixtures. This casual dining establishment's menu pairs fried chicken in every imaginable way possible — with waffles (original and buckwheat), eggs, smothered potatoes, potato salad and two of my top choices, collard greens and candied yams. There’s also a full bar, where mimosas are literally made with like 99% champagne and 1% juice (with options including OJ and pineapple). Historic fun fact: Home of Chicken & Waffles initially got its start as a franchise of the OG chicken & waffles joint, L.A.’s Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffles.
Tip: If the wait seems to be long for a table, opt to sit at the bar; it’s first come, first served.

Kingston 11 – What initially started as a pop-up in Berkeley is now a cornerstone on Uptown’s Telegraph Ave. Marked by a colossal Jamaican flag on the exterior, Kingston 11 offers Jamaican cuisine, all within the colorful backdrop of painted murals and massive vibrant photos. Here you’ll find staples like jerk chicken, oxtail stew and of course, patties. Plus, Kingston has quite a collection of tropical cocktails — like rum punch and Cuba libres — to pick and choose. The restaurant is ran by owner/chef Nigel Jones and his partner Adrian Henderson.
Tip: Head over on Wednesdays and Thursdays when there’s live bands or on Fridays, when there’s a DJ on the 1s and 2s.

Oakland’s Very OwnOakland’s Very Own, affectionately coined “OVO,” is a no frills restaurant / lounge in North Oakland with a laid-back vibe and some of the most unique, brilliantly colorful cocktails I’ve ever seen. Gummy worms, dried ice and fresh fruit are all fair game when it comes to the garnishes that adorn libations. And while I haven’t eaten here, the food menu looks to be as creative as the drinks, with options like the Henny wings special, “Asian style” garlic noodles and various prawn / fried fish / veggies plates. Rounding out what OVO has to offer, there are DJs spinning the latest and greatest R&B / hip-hop, and also complimentary games to borrow, including a larger-than-life Jenga set and playing cards.
Tip: Don’t forget to check out the outdoor patio in the back!

Oeste Bar & Restaurant – Launched by three women entrepreneurs, Oeste Bar & Restaurant is a two-story destination in the heart of Old Oakland. It’s got all the right ingredients to make for a must-visit lounge: a competitive happy hour menu, a swanky décor that includes exposed bricks and sultry lighting, a lovely rooftop patio and a DJ playing a mix of R&B / hip-hop / rap classics. It’s often packed to the brim on weekend nights, with hundreds of well-dressed patrons in their 20s, 30s and 40s filling every nook and cranny possible.
Tip: Right next door is Oeste Café, serving up coffee and pastries, Tuesdays through Sundays in the mornings and early afternoons.

Red Bay Coffee Public Roastery, Coffee Bar & Garden – The Red Bay Coffee flagship in Fruitvale is much more than a coffee shop. It’s a gathering space for not-to-be-missed events like Jidenna’s listening party, and an oasis amongst coffee machinery and burlap sacks to simply plug away on work for a few hours on the weekend. In addition to having Afro-centric merchandise and décor (think shirts that say “Coffee: Africa’s gift to the world” and a gigantic living plant on the wall that’s shaped like Africa), Red Bay has your given coffee standards — like lattes, espressos and more. It also features seasonal beverages, like one of my all-time faves, the candied yam latte.
Tip: Can’t make it to the Fruitvale flagship? Red Bay also has to-go stand in Uptown, off Broadway Ave. and Grand Ave.

Smokin Woods – At Smokin Woods, you’ll find well seasoned, falling-off-the-bone BBQ that’s perfectly complemented by sides like potato salad, sweet BBQ baked beans and collard greens (with pork). Nestled in between a handful of other restaurants on Temescal’s main culinary hub, Temescal Ave., Smokin Woods tastefully blends a fast casual dining concept with laidback bar vibes, all under the backdrop of rich, earthy wooden fixtures. Order at a counter outside before entering to pick your seat anywhere to your liking and then wait for your food to arrive. The bar makes very stiff drinks and also streams sporting events, like basketball and football games.
Tip: While the meat comes “dry,” Smokin Woods also has its very own delicious BBQ sauces to sample in two flavors: Original and Sweet Heat.

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