Oko at Tribune will be a new Creole restaurant in Oakland

One of the Bay Area’s few pan-African cuisine specialists is moving to the heart of downtown Oakland.

Oko, an avant-garde pop-up focused on tasting dinner menus from the African diaspora, has entered into a partnership with the American-style brasserie Tribune. Located in a large 8,400 square foot space on the ground floor of the historic Tribune Tower, Oko at Tribune will celebrate Creole cuisine. The refreshed restaurant plans to open as early as October 10.

The deal comes in the form of a residency of sorts, with Oko and Tribune signing a one-year operating agreement. An extension is possible if both parties are satisfied with the outcome at the end of the term. There are no plans to redesign the space, which has already received a sleek and whimsical upgrade from Jon de la Cruz (Che Fico, Leo’s Oyster Bar) for Tribune.

“This business opportunity is very unique,” ​​said Oko co-owner Solomon Johnson.

The move is proceeding quickly as Tribune chef and co-owner Omri Aflalo leaves on October 9. Tribune co-owner Darrin Ballon was not immediately available for an interview.

Mike Woods, left, and Solomon Johnson are seen in 2021. The chefs launched the Bussdown as a ghost kitchen and Oko as a pop-up. Soon they will open Oko in Tribune.

Stephen Lam/The Chronicle

Oko’s two owners, Johnson and Mike Woods, will split their time between Oakland and Washington, D.C., with a branch of their other pan-African project, the Bussdown, formerly a ghost kitchen in Oakland, set to open this fall in the United States. . Capital city.

Landing a space to operate day-to-day is a big milestone for Oko. Launching in 2021, Johnson says he’s been looking for a home “all this time”. It hasn’t been easy, as restaurant real estate remains fiercely competitive despite a wave of pandemic-related closures.

With Oko, the chefs put a gourmet twist on traditional African Diaspora dishes and ingredients: they combined the Jamaican flatbread with the double Trinidadian, finished with elegant marinated baby carrots and swirls of green onion; they turned smoked yams and crispy plantains into fries and dip; they served black cod on a creamy yucca mousse. With the Bussdown, chefs canned modern versions of jerk chicken and mac and cheese. Solomon said he was still working on Oko’s menu at the Tribune.

Solomon Johnson places shrimp in a takeout box for the Bussdown, the virtual restaurant he ran with Mike Wood in Oakland.  The two chefs will soon take over Tribune for Oko at Tribune.

Solomon Johnson places shrimp in a takeout box for the Bussdown, the virtual restaurant he ran with Mike Wood in Oakland. The two chefs will soon take over Tribune for Oko at Tribune.

Stephen Lam/The Chronicle

The move to the new kitchen also marks the start of a new cycle for Johnson and Woods, who worked as line cooks and head chefs respectively in the same space while operating as Tribune Tavern.

“It’s really exciting, and we’re happy to be back in this space,” Johnson said.

Mario Cortez (He/Him) is a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected]

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