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Jamaican style brown stew chicken served with rice and peas and fried plantains.
Jamaican style brown stew chicken served with rice and peas and fried plantains. 
Back A Yard Caribbean Grill

12 Vibrant Caribbean Restaurants Around the Bay Area

From San Rafael to Menlo Park, seek a little sunshine at these diverse Caribbean restaurants

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Jamaican style brown stew chicken served with rice and peas and fried plantains. 
| Back A Yard Caribbean Grill

One might dismiss the Bay Area when it comes to exploring the diversity of Caribbean cuisine. But if you look to small, independent restaurants, there’s a vibrant Caribbean food scene. Some of the up-and-coming destinations are food trucks like the Bussdown, a Jamaican concept by Mike Woods and Solomon “Chef Swoop” Johnson, who just won the inaugural season of Chopped 420.

Until recently, few people appreciated the nuance in food from different Caribbean islands, says Trey Epps, chef de cuisine at Red Rooster Overtown in Miami. “I think Caribbean cuisine gets a bad rap because people don’t know what it is. They think of it as whatever they get on a cruise: grilled fish or chicken with jerk seasoning and rice and peas and fruit salsa,” says Epps, who hails from Trinidad. Today, in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement and bestselling African cookbooks, there’s a growing desire to understand the African foodways and colonial influences from the Netherlands, France, Portugal, Spain, and the UK that shape each island.

As the days get colder, add some sunshine to your life by visiting one of these Bay Area Caribbean dining spots.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Caribbean Spices Restaurant

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819 4th St
San Rafael, CA 94901
(628) 253-5385
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After a successful five years running their Haitian food truck, expats Frantz Felix and his wife Guerline opened a restaurant in 2019. They specialize in Haiti’s national dish: rice and beans with griot, spicy pork seasoned with Scotch bonnet peppers, lemon, and vinegar — or fried goat if you prefer. Round out your plate with a side of accra, a starchy root similar to yucca; pikliz, the fermented shredded cabbage salad; and sweet or savory banane pesées, or plantains. Pair it all with a vanilla lemonade, mango juice, or a local IPA. Felix wishes the pandemic hadn’t made it impossible to import Haiti’s Prestige beer; for now Red Stripe will have to do.

2. Sol Food

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903 Lincoln Ave
San Rafael, CA 94901
(415) 451-4765
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Most people remember their first time tasting the sunny and flavorful Puerto Rican fare at Sol Food almost as intensely as they recall their first kiss. The 16-year-old Bay Area institution pumps out garlicky pork ribs, juicy baked chicken, and bistec sandwiches on toasty rolls, plus pots of creamy black beans and sweet plantains with amazing speed and consistency. Dine in at their original restaurant on the corner, or order online and then make a quick stop at the brightly colored take out shop in Mill Valley.

Plantain-fried shrimp from Sol Food Sol Food

3. Minto Jamaican Market

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4042 Broadway
Oakland, CA 94611
(510) 652-2168
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This market is the place to find a great Jamaican beef patty plus all the ingredients you need to make your own saltfish and ackee, maduros, or jerk chicken. Pick up a bag of Johnny cake or bake batter to make a Jamaican spread on the fly. They’ve got shelves full of marinades and sauces, plus dried fruit soursop and coconut milk to add to smoothies, juices, and desserts. Their ready-to-drink selection is strong: pick up some locally made mauby or island favorites like sea moss; Ting grapefruit soda; or Milo, the chocolaty breakfast drink that’s the Caribbean’s Ovaltine equivalent. 

4. Kingston 11 Cuisine

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2270 Telegraph Ave
Oakland, CA 94612
(510) 465-2558
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Between the music, the tropical vibe, and the menu filled with Jamaican favorites, you’ll feel like you’re kicking back on Hellshire Beach or Fort Clarence at this Oakland restaurant. Nibble on salt cod fritters with chimichurri or beef patties before main events like curried goat, tangy escovitch salmon, and ackee with saltfish. Kingston 11 is also blessed with a lively bar menu that plays on traditional flavors. We’re especially fond of the rum punch with Wray & Nephew overproof rum and the Kingston Sunset, a refreshing mix of Prosecco, sorrel, and some spice. 

5. CAÑA Cuban Parlor & Cafe

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530 Lake Park Ave
Oakland, CA 94610
(510) 832-1515
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The wrought iron railings out front and the red brick walls give Caña an Old World vibe, just like much of Havana. Stop in for Cuban sandwiches, chicken empanadas, arroz con pollo, and ropa vieja, the island’s signature stew of slow-cooked beef and tomatoes that resembles old clothes simmering in a laundry pot. On weekends, when Caña hosts a swinging salsa dancing scene, the bar never stops mixing up sangria and five kinds of mojitos.

6. Sobre Mesa

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1618 Franklin St
Oakland, CA 94612
(510) 858-7544
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Chef Nelson German, who’s been a contestant on Top Chef Season 18, grew up in Washington Heights, but his family roots lie in the Dominican Republic. At Sobre Mesa, German does high-end riffs on traditional Dominican dishes, like tostones topped with a crispy salchichon (Dominican salami) and spicy piri piri mayo. Both vegans and meat eaters can’t get enough of his sweet plantains stuffed with Impossible Meat chorizo ragu seasoned with tomatoes and sofrito, avocado, and chow chow. Sunday brunch brings sancocho, a hearty Dominican stew brimming with oxtail, roast pork, longaniza, chicken, and maybe some salchichon depending on the chef’s mood. 

The bar at Sobre Mesa Patricia Chang

7. Miss Ollie's

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901 Washington St
Oakland, CA 94607
(510) 285-6188
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Chef Sarah Kirnon spent time in Barbados, Antigua, and Trinidad, so her pan-Caribbean menu includes everything from upscale callaloo (spiced amaranth greens with Dungeness crab) to jerk hen with coconut rice, peas, plantains, and pikliz, the Haitian cabbage-and-Scotch bonnet relish. The fried chicken is marinated and then fried, so it’s juicy underneath the crunchy caramel-colored (and gluten-free!) crust. Pair it with Creole salad, colorful thin slices of christophine, mango, cucumber, radishes, and apples atop red leaf lettuce or maybe a Bajan rum punch or made-to-order ginger limeade. Winter Saturdays you’ll find cou cou, a cornmeal porridge with okra water, topped with fiery stewed tomatoes, plus flying fish, the national dish in Barbados, and and cow heel soup, a Trinidadian specialty loaded with natural collagen, just like bone broth. 

8. La Perla Puerto Rican Cuisine

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3409 Fruitvale Ave
Oakland, CA 94602
(510) 479-3336
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Stepping into this Dimond District Puerto Rican restaurant feels a little like arriving at your tia’s house for Sunday dinner. Owners Jose and Kimly Ortiz painted the walls bright colors and hung up photos of ancestors and famous visitors, as well as a Taino wood carving. But the best part is the aroma of roasted meat and garlic. Whether you order a combo of chicharron de pollo, bistec guisado (stewed steak) or mofongo, you’ll get a generous helping of rice, gandules (pigeon peas), sweet plantains, and a cucumber-pineapple salad plus spicy mango salsa. Everything is infused with bright, satisfying flavors and homey charm. Ask about off-menu dishes like bacalaitos (codfish fritters), and drop by on the last Sunday to sample Dominican specialities like stewed pork ribs and breadfruit.

9. The Bussdown

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2353 E 12th St
Oakland, CA 94601

Bussdown is Jamaican slang with a few meanings — including one that’s NSFW. Here, we’ll assume it refers to a rise from obscurity to fame, which is just what Solomon “Chef Swoop” Johnson has done after establishing his bona fides in marijuana cookery on Chopped 420. He and Mike Woods are throwing down mod combos with mad flavors like jerk yardbird, smoked sofrito seafood, and green onion smash fries topped with either vegan green plantains or spicy beef at their cool-kids truck that’s open Thursday through Saturday. 

10. Cocobreeze Caribbean Restaurant and Bakery

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2370 High St
Oakland, CA 94601
(510) 479-3270
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If you want to have an authentic Trinidadian experience, Marisa Lyons says you’ve got to order doubles. In case you’re not hip, many people in Trinidad start their day with this street food that’s a double layer of small dough discs filled with spiced channa, also known as chickpeas. You can have them spicy or sweet, or somewhere in between. “It’s a rite of passage when you touch down and visit Trinidad and Tobago,” Lyons says. “You have to make sure from the airport you get your doubles or your roti.” With cooler weather here, they’ll be adding traditional soups to the menu including cow heel soup that’s loaded with collagen, heart healthy fish tea, and creamy corn soup.

Several small trays of Jamaican patties and split pea fritters CocoBreeze

11. El Nuevo Frutilandia

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3077 24th St
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 648-2958
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The name says “new” but this restaurant has been around since 1974, making it the O.G. of Bay Area Caribbean spots. The original owners were from Cuba and Puerto Rico and offered classic versions of dishes like bistec a la Palomilla, a sirloin marinated in sour orange, and mofongo, mashed garlicky green plantains in a tomato-veggie sauce. Three years ago, husband-and-wife team Rafael and Tyrisha Frias took it over with the promise that they’d serve the same menu. They’re doing something right since Guy Fieri featured their ropa vieja on Diners Drive-ins and Dives

12. Back A Yard Caribbean Grill

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1189 Willow Rd
Menlo Park, CA 94025
(650) 323-4244
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If you live or work in the South Bay, you’ve probably chowed down on a jerk chicken and oxtail combo plate from Back A Yard. Since chef Robert Simpson and his wife Annetta opened their Menlo Park restaurant in 2004, they haven’t slowed down. They just opened a fifth restaurant in Campbell (open for takeout and delivery only), and have a spinoff called Coconuts Bar & Grill in Palo Alto. They cater to a diverse crowd with a Jamaican-meets-soul-food menu that ranges from jerk tofu and coconut curry shrimp to barbecue pork ribs and macaroni and cheese. Kick up your meals at home by adding a jar of their hellfire sauce or jerk barbecue sauce to your order. 

1. Caribbean Spices Restaurant

819 4th St, San Rafael, CA 94901

After a successful five years running their Haitian food truck, expats Frantz Felix and his wife Guerline opened a restaurant in 2019. They specialize in Haiti’s national dish: rice and beans with griot, spicy pork seasoned with Scotch bonnet peppers, lemon, and vinegar — or fried goat if you prefer. Round out your plate with a side of accra, a starchy root similar to yucca; pikliz, the fermented shredded cabbage salad; and sweet or savory banane pesées, or plantains. Pair it all with a vanilla lemonade, mango juice, or a local IPA. Felix wishes the pandemic hadn’t made it impossible to import Haiti’s Prestige beer; for now Red Stripe will have to do.

819 4th St
San Rafael, CA 94901

2. Sol Food

903 Lincoln Ave, San Rafael, CA 94901
Plantain-fried shrimp from Sol Food Sol Food

Most people remember their first time tasting the sunny and flavorful Puerto Rican fare at Sol Food almost as intensely as they recall their first kiss. The 16-year-old Bay Area institution pumps out garlicky pork ribs, juicy baked chicken, and bistec sandwiches on toasty rolls, plus pots of creamy black beans and sweet plantains with amazing speed and consistency. Dine in at their original restaurant on the corner, or order online and then make a quick stop at the brightly colored take out shop in Mill Valley.

903 Lincoln Ave
San Rafael, CA 94901

3. Minto Jamaican Market

4042 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94611

This market is the place to find a great Jamaican beef patty plus all the ingredients you need to make your own saltfish and ackee, maduros, or jerk chicken. Pick up a bag of Johnny cake or bake batter to make a Jamaican spread on the fly. They’ve got shelves full of marinades and sauces, plus dried fruit soursop and coconut milk to add to smoothies, juices, and desserts. Their ready-to-drink selection is strong: pick up some locally made mauby or island favorites like sea moss; Ting grapefruit soda; or Milo, the chocolaty breakfast drink that’s the Caribbean’s Ovaltine equivalent. 

4042 Broadway
Oakland, CA 94611

4. Kingston 11 Cuisine

2270 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94612

Between the music, the tropical vibe, and the menu filled with Jamaican favorites, you’ll feel like you’re kicking back on Hellshire Beach or Fort Clarence at this Oakland restaurant. Nibble on salt cod fritters with chimichurri or beef patties before main events like curried goat, tangy escovitch salmon, and ackee with saltfish. Kingston 11 is also blessed with a lively bar menu that plays on traditional flavors. We’re especially fond of the rum punch with Wray & Nephew overproof rum and the Kingston Sunset, a refreshing mix of Prosecco, sorrel, and some spice. 

2270 Telegraph Ave
Oakland, CA 94612

5. CAÑA Cuban Parlor & Cafe

530 Lake Park Ave, Oakland, CA 94610

The wrought iron railings out front and the red brick walls give Caña an Old World vibe, just like much of Havana. Stop in for Cuban sandwiches, chicken empanadas, arroz con pollo, and ropa vieja, the island’s signature stew of slow-cooked beef and tomatoes that resembles old clothes simmering in a laundry pot. On weekends, when Caña hosts a swinging salsa dancing scene, the bar never stops mixing up sangria and five kinds of mojitos.

530 Lake Park Ave
Oakland, CA 94610

6. Sobre Mesa

1618 Franklin St, Oakland, CA 94612
The bar at Sobre Mesa Patricia Chang

Chef Nelson German, who’s been a contestant on Top Chef Season 18, grew up in Washington Heights, but his family roots lie in the Dominican Republic. At Sobre Mesa, German does high-end riffs on traditional Dominican dishes, like tostones topped with a crispy salchichon (Dominican salami) and spicy piri piri mayo. Both vegans and meat eaters can’t get enough of his sweet plantains stuffed with Impossible Meat chorizo ragu seasoned with tomatoes and sofrito, avocado, and chow chow. Sunday brunch brings sancocho, a hearty Dominican stew brimming with oxtail, roast pork, longaniza, chicken, and maybe some salchichon depending on the chef’s mood. 

1618 Franklin St
Oakland, CA 94612

7. Miss Ollie's

901 Washington St, Oakland, CA 94607

Chef Sarah Kirnon spent time in Barbados, Antigua, and Trinidad, so her pan-Caribbean menu includes everything from upscale callaloo (spiced amaranth greens with Dungeness crab) to jerk hen with coconut rice, peas, plantains, and pikliz, the Haitian cabbage-and-Scotch bonnet relish. The fried chicken is marinated and then fried, so it’s juicy underneath the crunchy caramel-colored (and gluten-free!) crust. Pair it with Creole salad, colorful thin slices of christophine, mango, cucumber, radishes, and apples atop red leaf lettuce or maybe a Bajan rum punch or made-to-order ginger limeade. Winter Saturdays you’ll find cou cou, a cornmeal porridge with okra water, topped with fiery stewed tomatoes, plus flying fish, the national dish in Barbados, and and cow heel soup, a Trinidadian specialty loaded with natural collagen, just like bone broth. 

901 Washington St
Oakland, CA 94607

8. La Perla Puerto Rican Cuisine

3409 Fruitvale Ave, Oakland, CA 94602

Stepping into this Dimond District Puerto Rican restaurant feels a little like arriving at your tia’s house for Sunday dinner. Owners Jose and Kimly Ortiz painted the walls bright colors and hung up photos of ancestors and famous visitors, as well as a Taino wood carving. But the best part is the aroma of roasted meat and garlic. Whether you order a combo of chicharron de pollo, bistec guisado (stewed steak) or mofongo, you’ll get a generous helping of rice, gandules (pigeon peas), sweet plantains, and a cucumber-pineapple salad plus spicy mango salsa. Everything is infused with bright, satisfying flavors and homey charm. Ask about off-menu dishes like bacalaitos (codfish fritters), and drop by on the last Sunday to sample Dominican specialities like stewed pork ribs and breadfruit.

3409 Fruitvale Ave
Oakland, CA 94602

9. The Bussdown

2353 E 12th St, Oakland, CA 94601

Bussdown is Jamaican slang with a few meanings — including one that’s NSFW. Here, we’ll assume it refers to a rise from obscurity to fame, which is just what Solomon “Chef Swoop” Johnson has done after establishing his bona fides in marijuana cookery on Chopped 420. He and Mike Woods are throwing down mod combos with mad flavors like jerk yardbird, smoked sofrito seafood, and green onion smash fries topped with either vegan green plantains or spicy beef at their cool-kids truck that’s open Thursday through Saturday. 

2353 E 12th St
Oakland, CA 94601

10. Cocobreeze Caribbean Restaurant and Bakery

2370 High St, Oakland, CA 94601
Several small trays of Jamaican patties and split pea fritters CocoBreeze

If you want to have an authentic Trinidadian experience, Marisa Lyons says you’ve got to order doubles. In case you’re not hip, many people in Trinidad start their day with this street food that’s a double layer of small dough discs filled with spiced channa, also known as chickpeas. You can have them spicy or sweet, or somewhere in between. “It’s a rite of passage when you touch down and visit Trinidad and Tobago,” Lyons says. “You have to make sure from the airport you get your doubles or your roti.” With cooler weather here, they’ll be adding traditional soups to the menu including cow heel soup that’s loaded with collagen, heart healthy fish tea, and creamy corn soup.

2370 High St
Oakland, CA 94601

11. El Nuevo Frutilandia

3077 24th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

The name says “new” but this restaurant has been around since 1974, making it the O.G. of Bay Area Caribbean spots. The original owners were from Cuba and Puerto Rico and offered classic versions of dishes like bistec a la Palomilla, a sirloin marinated in sour orange, and mofongo, mashed garlicky green plantains in a tomato-veggie sauce. Three years ago, husband-and-wife team Rafael and Tyrisha Frias took it over with the promise that they’d serve the same menu. They’re doing something right since Guy Fieri featured their ropa vieja on Diners Drive-ins and Dives

3077 24th St
San Francisco, CA 94110

12. Back A Yard Caribbean Grill

1189 Willow Rd, Menlo Park, CA 94025

If you live or work in the South Bay, you’ve probably chowed down on a jerk chicken and oxtail combo plate from Back A Yard. Since chef Robert Simpson and his wife Annetta opened their Menlo Park restaurant in 2004, they haven’t slowed down. They just opened a fifth restaurant in Campbell (open for takeout and delivery only), and have a spinoff called Coconuts Bar & Grill in Palo Alto. They cater to a diverse crowd with a Jamaican-meets-soul-food menu that ranges from jerk tofu and coconut curry shrimp to barbecue pork ribs and macaroni and cheese. Kick up your meals at home by adding a jar of their hellfire sauce or jerk barbecue sauce to your order. 

1189 Willow Rd
Menlo Park, CA 94025

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