Dining passport designed to boost restaurant business

“Come for the Culture, Stay for the Food” ring any bells with readers?

That’s the new slogan for this gown town courtesy of Visit Berkeley, whose job it is to boast about our fair city’s appeal to potential visitors.

Berkeley boosters are making a big push to promote this small city’s culinary chops. On Wednesday, they, along with the Berkeley Restaurant Alliance, announced their latest venture on the food front: The Berkeley Dining Passport — essentially a gussied up discount card — valid at 22 eateries around town.

Mayor Tom Bates was on hand to pick up a passport (he paid) and nosh on nibbles like crab cakes, seared asparagus, and fancy mac&cheese at the passport launch party at Adagia restaurant, across the street from campus. Adagia owner Daryl Ross cooked up the idea for the culinary reward program with a global gourmet theme.

Here’s how it works: You part with $20 and in exchange you receive a mock passport accepted at participating restaurants, offering draws ranging from free corkage, appetizers and desserts, to dollars off and discounts. Unlike real passports, the Berkeley Dining Passport is only valid for a year — and won’t pass muster with Homeland Security.


A portion of passport sales benefit the Berkeley Food & Housing Project, so there’s the feel-good incentive to buy into the program.

Of course, it’s intended to entice people out of their homes and into local restaurants, at a time when many folks say they’re eating in more for economic reasons.

Participating restaurants, representing the cuisines of five continents, include Adagia, Anh Hong, Bistro Liason, Breads of India, Cafe Platano, Caffe Venezia, Cioccolata di Vino, eVe, Digs Bistro, Filippos, FIVE, Henry’s Gastropub, King Tsin, Kirala, La Rose Bistro, Meridian International Sports Cafe, Rick and Ann’s, Riva Cucina, Taste of the Himalayas, Thai Delight, Trattoria Corso, and Zatar.

Many of these eating establishments have garnered good reviews over the years, several are considered among the top picks in town, and some have received nods from folks profiled in this site’s Berkeley Bites column.

The passport project was made possible by seed funding from the city’s Office of Economic Development. Passports can be purchased online, at participating restaurants, and in person at the Visit Berkeley Information Center. No photo necessary.


Sarah Henry is a freelance writer who muses about food matters on her blog Lettuce Eat Kale. Follow her on Twitter and become a fan of Lettuce Eat Kale on Facebook.