For Shani Jones, chef and owner of SF-based catering company Peaches Patties, her mother’s Jamaican food is, as she calls it, a “prized possession.” For holidays or special occasions, Jones’s mother would cook a whole spread of Jamaican dishes, along with her specialty item, patties. But in San Francisco, where Jones grew up, she felt there was a lack of accessible Jamaican restaurants on her side of the Bay Bridge, rather than the East Bay or South Bay. That’s when the idea of opening a restaurant that served the beloved food of her childhood began to take hold, especially after returning home from college in Atlanta. “I knew I had no idea about the food business, but I knew about cooking for the family,” Jones says. “I knew that I could do it, and I knew that it would be successful, especially in San Francisco where people are open to different types of food. But I had no idea what type of ride I was in for.”
“The ride” eventually led Jones to this month, when she opens her first restaurant as Peaches Patties at the Ferry Building on January 20. She began the business in 2013 as a catering outfit out of her parents’ San Francisco home while she also pursued her Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership and Management and drove for Lyft and Uber on the side. The journey later brought Jones to La Cocina’s incubator program, which she joined in 2014 after various customers encouraged her to look into the popular food nonprofit. It was there that Jones began scaling up her business — and her recipes — to meet the demand for her Jamaican patties. There, she learned to become efficient, eventually offering her patties via delivery or frozen at farmer’s markets through La Cocina.
Still, customers would ask Jones when they would be able to get a meal at a storefront. Jones would tell them to follow Peaches Patties on Instagram for news on a space, and over a year ago, she reached out to the Ferry Building about opening a restaurant with counter service in the popular food hall — and it worked. “San Francisco is my hometown,” Jones says. “And what better place to be than the Ferry Building, a historic landmark?”
Peaches Patties’ prominent location in the northern plaza of the Ferry Building will place Jamaican food front and center, highlighting Jones’s family patties and a few other dishes such as jerk chicken and ginger beer. The patties, those golden, half-moon-shaped confections stuffed with spiced meats or vegetables, will be central to the menu. To start, Peaches will feature three options: spicy beef, curry chicken, and a spinach and irie lentil patty as a vegetarian option. The spicy beef patty gets its heat from habaneros, which stand in for the more traditional scotch bonnet pepper that’s difficult to find on the West Coast, Jones says. It’s spiced with a combination of ginger, garlic, and green onions to flavor the ground beef. Meanwhile, the curry chicken patty incorporates Jamaican curry powder.
The patties can be purchased individually — perfect for eating on the go, perhaps while walking the farmer’s markets on Thursdays and Saturdays — or as part of a meal that includes plantains and a side of vegetables. Also on the menu is grilled jerk chicken, which comes with rice and peas, as well as sides of plantains and vegetables. Vegan and vegetarian diners will also have an option, as Jones’s Rastafarian Stew is made with a combo of black beans, chickpeas, and diced tomatoes, and comes with a side salad and rice and peas.
There will also be a couple of drink options. Jones and her team are preparing sorrel, the Jamaican hibiscus drink steeped in hot water and ginger, lightly sweetened and served over ice. Jamaican ginger beer will be available and made fresh, just don’t expect the carbonated and overly-sweetened versions like grocery brand, Reed’s. Instead, Jones’s version is more traditional: It’s fresh ginger steeped in hot water, lightly sweetened, and served cold, just like in Jamaica, Jones says. The drink is not carbonated and non-alcoholic, she clarifies.
As she settles into the Ferry Building, Jones says she’s seeing through her dream of bringing Jamaican food to San Francisco on a grander scale than just catering — in her hometown, on her terms. Plus, the food at Peaches Patties also has the approval of Peaches herself, that’s Jones’s mother, after whom the business is named. “She says that she’s proud; she’s very hard to impress,” Jones says. “So if she says that it’s good, then it’s good.”
Peaches Patties (1 Ferry Building, Suite 50) debuts Friday, January 20 and will be open 9 a.m to 6 p.m., daily.