For the past seven years, Sarah Kirnon has blessed Oakland diners with some of the Bay Area’s most tender curry goat, spiciest saltfish and ackee, and herb-flecked fried chicken at Miss Ollie’s, her beloved Afro-Caribbean restaurant. Now, the chef is bringing those big flavors back to San Francisco, where she started her Bay Area cooking career — at least through the end of the year.
On Thursday, September 24, Kirnon starts a three-month residency at Elda, the buzzy Latin- and Caribbean-inflected cocktail bar in the Mission. The pop-up is called “Sarah Kirnon and Miss Ollie’s Present the Cook Shop at Elda,” and she’ll do takeout and outdoor dining, Thursday through Saturday, 4 to 9 p.m.
The name is a bit of a mouthful, but the emphasis here is on the idea of a “cook shop,” which, as Kirnon tells Eater SF, is a kind of food stand found throughout the Caribbean, set up near a market, bus station, or courthouse. They’re not quite restaurants; they’re not really places where people sit down to eat. Instead, a cook shop might only sell four or five things that customers can bring home to enjoy. “It’s more about the food,” Kirnon says.
That’s the idea for the Elda residency, too, where, of course, there won’t be indoor seating right now — though there will be an option for outdoor dining, Kirnon says, once the bar finishes the parklet it’s building. Still, the idea is for it to be a simple, unfussy takeout operation, with four shareable main dishes — priced at around $18 to $24 and meant to serve as a complete meal — and a couple of sides on any given day. And once everything sells out for the night, they’ll just close up shop, with a hard stop at 9 p.m.
The menu will change from week to week, but options will include Miss Ollie’s staples like curry goat, jerk pork, and roti served alongside chana or curry chicken. Kirnon’s much-vaunted skillet-fried chicken — one of the Bay Area’s most succulent and flavorful versions, thanks to the fresh herbs tucked underneath the skin — will also make a regular appearance. Sides will include things like tostones, Haitian pikliz, and Trinidadian doubles. Naturally, Elda’s lineup of cocktails will also be available.
The extended pop-up will also serve as a kind of proof of concept for how Kirnon believes the restaurant industry will need to adapt, moving forward from this pandemic — as an example of how to bring back dining in a way that isn’t “overdone.” “What we’re seeing right now is people are going back to basics,” Kirnon says. “It’s beautiful food being served with no pretense. It’s not seven to ten cooks in the kitchen trying to get one dish out.”
Those days are largely over, Kirnon says. Instead, she believes the spirit behind that simple, basic cook shop is going to be how a lot of restaurants will need to move forward: “You don’t need a 12- to 14-person brigade to make great food.”
The Elda collaboration has its genesis in one of Kirnon’s earlier gigs when she was the chef at Hibiscus, her now-shuttered Cal-Caribbean restaurant, where Elda co-owner Alvaro Rojas was a bartender at the time. The two have maintained a friendship over the years, Kirnon says, and given Elda’s rum/Caribbean focus — and the fact that the bar has been relying on short-term food pop-ups to stay open during the pandemic — the collaboration just made sense.
The residency also marks a return to San Francisco, if only a temporary one, for Kirnon, who first came to prominence as the opening chef at the Front Porch before decamping to Oakland for the past decade. She’ll run the kitchen herself for the first few weeks before passing the baton to Christian Washington, whom she describes as a brilliant queer Black chef — “my wing person and my right arm” — who cooked previously at Chez Panisse and the Lede.
“The Black queers are coming for San Francisco — coming to the Mission!” Kirnon says.
Sarah Kirnon and Miss Ollie’s Present the Cook Shop at Elda will be open Thursday through Saturday, 4–9 p.m. at 3198 16th Street in the Mission. Walk up to order. Here’s the opening menu:
- Buljol/ salted cod, sweet peppers, hot peppers, cherry tomato, green onions, avocado, bake $12
- Skillet fried chicken/ cornbread with honey butter, collard greens, coconut vinegar, smoked paprika $26
- Local goat/ slow cooked in allspice curry sauce, new potatoes, shado beni sauce, tamarind sauce, bara bread, cucumber & mango chow $24
- Jerk pork/ belly, leg, butt, roasted island style, sweet potato, sour cream $23
- Old fashioned coconut rice & peas (VG) $9
- Smashed plantains with garlic vinegar (VG) $9
- Mason jar of pepper sauce $5
- Mason Jar of pikliz $8