Grab me some peanuts and … jollof rice?
That’s right. Delicious, authentic Nigerian food is now sporadically available at a stadium that’s often considered the worst in all of baseball.
On rare occasions, fans who head to Championship Plaza at the Oakland Coliseum can find Nigerian food truck Jollof Kitchen, serving up traditional West African food that’s seldom seen at American sporting events.
Jollof Kitchen’s next scheduled appearance at the Coliseum will be on April 17, when the A’s host the Chicago Cubs.
The name stems from jollof rice, West Africa’s most famous dish and a source of heated debate over which country’s version is the best. The rice is the star of the show, cooked in a tomato-based sauce with bay leaves, thyme and just enough habanero peppers to satisfy the American palate without overwhelming new audiences that aren’t used to African heat. Best of all, the rice is cooked perfectly.
“It’s really nice to give our cultural foods to a diverse community,” said head chef and owner Oluwakemi Simbiat. “It’s a risk because people aren’t always open to new foods, but once people taste it, they always come back.”
The rice also comes with sweet plantains and a choice of chicken, fish or black-eyed peas and beans. Outsiders may be astonished to find a culinary gem at the Oakland Coliseum of all places, but food trucks have been a fixture at Championship Plaza, located behind home plate, since the 2017 season. Past standouts at Championship Plaza include an exuberant waffle sandwich with fried chicken, a hamburger patty and bacon, and Seattle Times sportswriter Ryan Divish was especially fond of the Hawaiian BBQ option that was available when the Mariners visited in 2021.
Oakland has added food trucks to their championship plaza area. iLava Hawaiian BBQ …. Wow pic.twitter.com/fnJd8uivdb— Ryan Divish (@RyanDivish) August 24, 2021
Championship Plaza is a stark contrast to the rest of the Coliseum, where most concession stands are regularly shuttered due to low attendance figures, which is likely attributed to the on-field product and fans’ response to higher ticket prices and the ownership’s continued flirting with building a new stadium in Las Vegas. The quality of the concession stands has also drawn heavy criticism.
It costs $4.00 for a cup of hot water and a packet of hot cocoa mix (that you have to mix yourself) at A’s games. pic.twitter.com/VgHp0UgmhJ— A's Fan by Design (@AsFanByDesign) May 28, 2022
Low attendance has taken something of a hit on Championship Plaza as well. On most pre-pandemic nights, there were regularly six to eight food trucks, with as many as 16 on hand for the biggest games. Now weeknight games often attract as few as two or three trucks. Jollof Kitchen was at Opening Night on March 30 against the Los Angeles Angels, and it was just one of three trucks at Monday night’s game against the Cleveland Guardians, which drew a paid attendance of 3,035. In 2017, the year the trucks debuted, the A’s only had three crowds below 10,000, and none of those dipped below 9,000.
Jollof Kitchen offers a glimpse of what Oakland’s food offerings could be. Perhaps nowhere else in baseball can fans find Nigerian food, or African eats. If A’s ownership and the city can come together and build the long-awaited ballpark at Howard Terminal, the team and city will be able to boast a one-of-a-kind experience in a beautiful setting that showcases Oakland as a unique city, rather than the dreary concrete backdrop that’s been a fixture in the East Bay for over five decades.
Championship Plaza is operated through the Food Truck Mafia, and food truck appearances at the Coliseum are listed on the group’s website, typically two or three weeks ahead of games.
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