The last we heard from Kingston 11, the jerk-chicken-and-reggae party was popping up every Friday and Saturday night at Berkeley’s Guerilla Cafe — shining a bright light, at least for those two evenings, on a food culture that is largely underrepresented in the Bay Area.
Now, the restaurant’s proprietors — Adrian Henderson, Nigel Jones, and Andre King — have found a permanent brick-and-mortar home in Uptown Oakland, at the former location of Off the Hook (2270 Telegraph Avenue).
- Adrian Henderson (left), Nigel Jones, and Andre King
Jones, the chef, said the idea behind Kingston 11 is, in part, to educate the community about Jamaican culture beyond Bob Marley and beautiful beaches. He pointed out that Kingston, Jamaica’s capital, is a very urban city — just like Oakland.
“We want to mix those two concepts together,” Jones said.
The project’s name alludes to the zip code of the neighborhood where Jones grew up. The casual, ninety-seat restaurant will feature full table service and a rum bar, which the three owners have dubbed Fern Gully, after a scenic area in Jamaica. Signature dishes include oxtail stew, house-smoked escoveitched salmon, and, of course, the jerk chicken, which Express critic Jesse Hirsch
praised for its tenderness and its “intricate, smoky, and deep” flavor.
- How does that jerk chicken look?
To those who are already fans of Kingston 11’s food, Henderson boldly proclaims that it will now be “ten times better” because Jones and his team will now be able to cook all of it on site. Most of the meats and produce will be sourced locally, with exception made for spices and other obscure ingredients that are only available in Jamaica. Of particular note: Jones said he has a cousin in Florida who will supply the restaurant with fresh ackee, for making ackee and saltfish (Jamaica’s national dish) — to my knowledge, every other Caribbean restaurant in the Bay Area uses a canned or jarred version of the tropical fruit.
The ackee and saltfish will headline the restaurant’s all-day Sunday brunch menu, which will also include other Jamaican specialties like callaloo (a vegetable stew), as well as twists on traditional American breakfast foods — think pancakes served with a rum-infused syrup and chunks of fresh pineapple.
Weekday mornings will feature light pastries and Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee. And the club crowd will be happy to know that the restaurant will stay open late on Friday and Saturday nights (until 2 a.m.).
Meanwhile, dinner entrées will be priced in the $12 to $17 “sweet spot,” Henderson said, noting that many of the pop-up’s most loyal customers were college students. He also doesn’t want to price out people who live in the neighborhood.
In spite of the moderate prices, Henderson believes the dining environment at Kingston 11 will be just as nice as at higher-priced Uptown restaurants like Plum and Flora. The third partner in the venture, King, is an architect who has taken the lead on the design and build-out. He described his vision for the space as “modern chic with Jamaican flavor.” The decor will feature lots of greenery and will reflect the Kingstonian value of making use of the materials that one has at hand.
The three co-owners are looking toward a soft opening in mid to late April, with a full opening sometime in May.