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Oakland Chef Offers 'Pay-As-You-Can' Caribbean Cuisine, Soothing Bush Tea During Coronavirus Lockdown

OAKLAND (CBS SF) - It has taken no time for folks in Oakland's "essential service" food scene to step up and make sure their patrons are well, and well fed, during the coronavirus lockdown.

Renowned chef Sarah Kirnon, owner of Miss Ollie's Caribbean Restaurant in the Swan Marketplace was offering a sliding scale menu on Tuesday, from 11:30 a.m. "until the food runs out."

Dining in restaurants was banned as of midnight on Monday, in six Bay Area counties, during the pandemic.

"We offering a pay what you can. We will be limiting groups to 10 people, and practicing social distancing," said Kirnon, who was born in Britain and raised in Barbados.

miss ollies, oakland restaurant open, coronavirus
(Courtesy Sarah Kirnon)

Chef Kirnon came to the Bay in 1999, and quickly made a name for herself. She opened Miss Ollie's in Old Oakland in 2012, and has been serving up Afro-Caribbean dishes like ackee and salt fish, plantains, and traditional rice and peas, paired with an amazing rum list ever since.

On Tuesday, as neighbors and business owners wrapped their brains around the fast-paced measures taken to stem the coronavirus pandemic, Kirnon offered customers her celebrated island recipes along with a soothing warm cup of traditional island Bush Tea. Packed with herbs and spices, patrons could chase it with a shot of 'overproof' rum.

She urged customers to good care of yourselves and spend time with their loved ones, "with a box of skillet fried chicken, a mason jar of bush tea."

Kirnon says in addition to walk-in customers, many small African-American businesses were purchasing large 'to-go' orders all day, a huge boon for her bottom line during these difficult times.

"Black folks are keeping the economy... our economy alive," she said.

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