A taste of the Caribbean is coming to Mid-Market, just a mere 2 minute walk from NEMA. In mid-January, Chef Nigel Jones, who was raised in Kingston, Jamaica, will open a new Caribbean restaurant in the City. Jones was raised by his grandmother – Gwen Larmond, or “Miss Gwen” as she was called — was a neighborhood celebrity, if there was such a thing in Kingston, one zip code away from Trenchtown, a place once known as much for its crime as for its most famous resident, Bob Marley.
Jones decided to call the restaurant-to-be Kaya, which is both the title of a Bob Marley and the Wailers album will bring bold flavors to the neighborhood. Jones told the SF Chron: “I bring my flavors. I’m not tamping down for anybody. It’s hard to tell if San Francisco is a place where my culture and food will be accepted, but I’m ready to find out.”
Kaya will be a partnership with award-winning Bay Area chef Daniel Patterson and will be located in the Mid-Market space that currently houses Patterson’s Alta. According to Jones, Patterson knew Alta would be moving down the street, but he wanted to hold onto the current location. (Alta will move to 1095 Market Street).
“I respect that he’s doing what he’s doing but instead of keeping the door closed, he’s holding it open for other people like me,” Jones says. “It’s like Jay-Z collaborating with Mozart. They’re from two completely different angles but are ass-kickers in their own ways. Why not come together and do something special?”
Kaya will be more of a “fine-casual” Caribbean spot, will be Jones’ first restaurant outside of Oakland. Kingston 11 has been serving Chef Nigel Jones’ flavorful Jamaican dishes since he opened it in 2013 on Oakland’s Telegraph Avenue. Although the two restaurants will have their differences, Jones says they’re also inextricably linked.
Those flavors include Jamaican staples like jerk chicken, plantains, salt fish fritters, and oxtail stew. These are the dishes that launched Jones’ pop-up to restaurant status five years ago, garnering a loyal following in the East Bay. Now he’ll work with Patterson to create a bigger opportunity to enjoy Jamaican flavors for a new audience, while creating careers — particularly for young people of color looking for chance in the restaurant industry.
Jones says he wants Kingston 11 — and now Kaya — to be more than just places where people can eat Carribean food and maybe even learn about the culture. He wants the businesses to act as pipelines into the restaurant industry for young brown people. Kaya, like Kingston 11, will be home to weekly live music shows.
In keeping connections local, Kaya will be designed by Rachel Konte, owner of the East Bay boutique OwlNWood and a former director of women’s products at Levi Strauss for more than 15 years.
What people are saying about Jones’ current spot:
“I love this place. The food is delicious — best jerked chicken I have ever had, Jamaica included.” Michael J., Yelp
“Kingston 11’s got the formula for comfort food down and perfected, pitting savory applications against sweet ones, achieving that gorgeous harmony of flavors which are only achieved with true mastery.” Contra Costa Times
“Love this place!! Definitely get the jerk chicken!” Sergio M., Yelp
“I’ve never tasted better plantains anywhere else.” Kni N., Yelp
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