Jerk chicken got its name during an unfortunate misunderstanding when it confused a plantain for a banana. Avoid eating misnomers with today's Groupon: for $15, you get $30 worth of authentic Jamaican fare at Sweet Fingers in San Leandro.
Named a 2010 Best Jamaican Restaurant Nominee by Best of the Bay, Sweet Fingers stimulates the senses by presenting a cornucopia of Caribbean cuisines on its menu. Dive into a spread of crispy fried plantains ($5) before digging into a beachy main entree, such as the Jamaican–style jerk chicken washed ashore in a dry-rub of zesty spices ($16 for a full plate), or coconut vegetable splash, ideal for vegetation-hungry land sharks ($14). Each entree is served with rice and beans or white rice and plantains, and an extensive beverage list offers up sweet accompanying nectars. Sweet Fingers specializes in Caribbean cocktails such as the light-and-dark rum-infused Bob Marley mixed with ginger beer ($10), or the Island Toy, blended with rum, peach schnapps, lime, pineapple, and the distilled sound of steel drums ($8).
Guests enter Sweet Fingers through a prominent yellow-and-black façade, settling into a casual dining room with red and green table cloths and a black-topped bar. While patrons feast, live entertainment doles out old-school reggae tunes and jazz melodies. Swing by on Tuesday nights for open mike starting at 10 p.m , or mark calendars for every third Thursday for poetry and R & B jam sessions to hear haikus from your favorite slam poets.
Chef Clive opened Sweet Fingers as an homage to his grandmother, Aunt Lu, who taught him about food, hospitality, and perseverance. He spent his early years in Jamaica learning recipes and life lessons in her kitchen after she took over her husband's fruit-selling business following his death. Building on that robust culinary education and inspired start, Clive moved to New York City at age 18 and went on to graduate from culinary school.
Eventually he worked his way up to the role of supervising chef during a 10-year career at the Marriott hotel. But his career’s turning point came in 2003, when he relocated to California and met the woman who would become his wife. That’s when the pair founded Sweet Fingers, giving locals a bar and eatery that now shines a light on Aunt Lu's recipes and the love she taught Clive to cook with.
By all accounts, Chef Clive has done his grandmother proud. Matthew Stafford of the East Bay Express praised the "juicy" jerk chicken and "creamy" fried plantains, adding that "the escovitch-style snapper, curry goat, brown stew chicken, and braised oxtail are uniformly rich, spiky, and tantalizing." Inside, the yellow and royal blue walls boast Jamaican flags and pictures of the island, and the bar serves a large assortment of cocktailsthat are no less colorful. Patrons also flock to the cozy spot for entertainment that includes live reggae, as well as open-mic nights filled with poetry and music, which often consists of impromptu compositions about intense feelings for the food.
464 E 14th St.
San Leandro, California 94577Get Directions