Those familiar with the San Francisco food scene already know the ups and downs that have hit the mid-Market corridor. Now Alta, one of the restaurants that has continued to thrive there, has closed as chef/owner Daniel Patterson plans to open a new version down the street in the bottom of the forthcoming Yotel hotel. Things have a way of working themselves out, though, and the space is now reborn as Kaya, a Caribbean restaurant from Oakland chef Nigel Jones of Kingston 11 that’s named after a Bob Marley song.
Unlike most openings in San Francisco — a city known for its tedious permitting and construction delays — Kaya was able to open quickly, as a result of Jones’ partnership with Patterson. Alta closed at the end of December, giving Jones just about two weeks to give the space a refresh, with bright blue paint and new art from Caribbean artists adorning the walls.
“I want the customers to feel like they get transported from market street and into a caribbean zone,” Jones told Eater SF. “Great rum drinks, food, service— they can leave their work life or whatever else behind and just chill and have a great time. We want to bring that community vibe we created in Oakland over here to San Francisco.”
It’s certainly a world away from Kingston 11’s low-key location on Telegraph Avenue, where Jones says the whole community gathers — from Oakland’s mayor to hospitality industry folks looking to unwind. Mid-market is known as more a tech hub, with Twitter, Uber and other big names leasing offices nearby.
“I see opportunities at Kingston 11 that continue to be open,” said Jones of translating his Oakland restaurant to SF. “The SF market is a bit different but some of the same dynamics are here, even more so in terms of lack of diversity restaurants — there’s not too much in the african diaspora culture.
“Kaya is an opportunity for San Francisco to have that kind of common ground space,” said Jones. “That’s basically how I approach the opportunity in terms of restaurants as a business and a cultural event in the community.”
The menu at Kaya will feature many of the hits from its older sibling Kingston 11, including jerk chicken, oxtails, salted fish fritters, and fried plantains. (Check out the full menu here.) Expect more opportunity for new dishes as Jones and his team get a feel for the neighborhood.
It’s also an opportunity to change the workforce of San Francisco, as well. Jones was introduced to Patterson via his connections with ROC United, a non-profit whose mission is to improve the wages and working conditions for restaurant workers. Patterson partnered with the group to support a more diverse workforce in his own restaurants, training and hiring employees who may not have the connections or prior experience to enter the SF restaurant scene.
“For me, the main thing is that we know this is a progression of what we do at kingston,” said Jones. “My hope for Kaya is that with the collaboration between Daniel and myself we can create more opportunities for people of color in this marketplace.”
“There are some people coming on as manager and assistant manager that wouldn’t have the experience at a restaurant like this in SF without Daniel opening the door for me, and me opening the door for them,” said Jones.
Kaya is now open for dinner Tuesday- Saturday from 5 p.m.- 10 p.m.; late night Thursday-Saturday from 10 p.m.-1 p.m.; happy hour Tuesday-Friday from 4:30 p.m.- 6:30 p.m.; brunch Saturday from 10 a.m.- 3 pm. and Sunday from 10 a.m.- 5 p.m.; reservations available here.