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 $32, you get an authentic Jamaican dinner for two at Sweet Fingers in San Leandro (up to a $71 value). The dinner includes:
- One appetizer (up to $14 value)
- Two entrees (up to $20 value each)
- One dessert (up to $8 value)
- Two domestic beers ($4.50 value each)<p>
Sweet Fingers’ kitchen teems with the aromas of well-seared jerk chicken, spices, and savory fare from a Caribbean-centric menu. Pairs of diners can synchronize their dives into a spread of crispy fried plantains or zesty crab cakes before digging forks into a beachy main entree, such as the Jamaican-style jerk chicken washed ashore in a dry-rub of zesty spices, or a coconut-vegetable splash ideal for vegetation-hungry land sharks. Each entree arrives with rice and beans or white rice and plantains, and a domestic beer list offers up accompanying malty nectars. To signal dinner’s end without blowing mournful notes on a torso-sized hunting horn, diners can split a slice of pie or pudding with fillings including sweet potato, carrot, and cornmeal.
Guests enter Sweet Fingers through a prominent yellow-and-black façade, settling into a casual dining room with red-and-green tablecloths 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.