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Try the SF gumbo pop-up critics are raving about—and these other local Black-owned restaurants

Bon Appetit recently named Gumbo Social one of the most anticipated restaurant openings of 2023. | Courtesy Gumbo Social

Bon Appetit recently named Gumbo Social one of the most anticipated restaurant openings of 2023, and if you’ve ever tried their roux, you know why. Dontaye Ball—known to friends and admirers as Mr. Gumbo—has been popping up during the pandemic at farmers' markets throughout San Francisco, and come March, he’ll find a soft place to land in the Bayview. Until then, you can find his gumbo and po’boys at the Outer Sunset Farmers Market on Sundays. 

Gumbo Social

Outer Sunset

📍 1994 37th Ave., SF

Elsewhere in the Bay, new Afro-Caribbean plate lunches, vegan Philly cheesesteaks and a new Oakland wine shop are among the latest offerings from Black restaurateurs that we’re obsessed with—and that you should definitely try.

First up, a hidden soul food kitchen just opened in SoMa that you could blink and miss.

1. Nat & Betty’s Afro-Caribbean Soul Food


📍 60 Morris St., SF

Around the corner from the SF Flower Market is perhaps the closest thing you can get to a home-cooked Caribbean meal south of Market. Nat and Betty have already amassed a loyal following for their prawns over yellow rice, jerk chicken, fried oysters and patties, made even heartier by side dishes that include mac and cheese, slaw and green beans. For now, the lunch and dinner spot operates as a satellite kitchen, so expect takeout and delivery only. 

2. Jamaica Sweet Spices

East Oakland

📍 6672 International Blvd., Oakland

During Covid, Richard Grant started selling plate lunches from a picnic table on the shores of Lake Merritt. Late last year, his Caribbean eatery went brick-and-mortar in a nondescript white building that proudly displays the Jamaican flag along busy International Boulevard. This is the kind of hole in the wall that food TV hosts ravenously seek out. Inside, you’ll find Grant’s best recipes—pumpkin soup, fried chicken, stewed fish and oxtails. He pairs his plates with fresh-pressed sea moss pineapple, carrot and beetroot juices.

3. Noonie’s Place 


📍 2907 Sonoma Blvd., Vallejo

This all-day soul food deli is soon to reboot in a new location in Vallejo. Originally opened in 2019 in downtown Vallejo’s Georgia Street shopping plaza, Noonie’s temporarily shuttered last year, but the staff bided their time by operating a food truck between there and Downtown SF. Waffles are Noonie’s pride and joy, but the fried chicken and hotlink sandwiches never cease to disappoint, either. The plant-based Philly cheesesteak is a solid vegan option.

4. CoCo Noir 

Downtown Oakland

📍 360 13th St., Oakland

CoCo Noir, a brand-new wine bar in Downtown Oakland, plans to celebrate Black History Month with a series of tastings. The newest addition to Oakland’s Black Arts Movement Business District, Alicia Kidd’s modern, loft-like space specializes in crisp varietals, beer and no-proof drinks made by Black, Indigenous and female producers. Most nights, she pairs her flights with a generous charcuterie board.