The Advocate is a gathering place located in Berkeley’s historic Elmwood neighborhood, inhabiting a portion of the former Wright’s Garage building (circa 1918). It is the second restaurant from the owners of the critically-acclaimed Mexican joint Comal in Downtown Berkeley.
Chef Joseph Humphrey’s rustic, wood-fired Northern Californian cuisine draws its influence from the western regions of the Mediterranean, including Italy, Spain, and North Africa and is complemented by house cocktails (by SF Chronicle Bar Star Matthew Campbell), wine, and beer.
HOURS OF OPERATION
Sunday thru Thursday 5:30-9:30pm
Friday & Saturday 5:30-10pm
2635 Ashby Avenue, Berkeley CA 94705
Reservations can be made online, or by calling the restaurant after 4pm, daily. Our bar offers the full menu and is self-seated. We also hold several of our main dining room tables, as well as our community table and chef’s counter, for walk-in guests, who are seated on a first-come, first-served basis (parties must be complete to be seated). For parties larger than 8, we offer several group dining options (more details below).
Please note that we apply a 20% service charge in lieu of a tip to all checks (Click here for more info).
Groups of 8-10 people can reserve our community table (aka Table 20) at 6pm for a multi-course, family-style dinner featuring dishes from our daily-changing menu. The price to reserve Table 20 is $400, not including beverages, sales tax or 20% service charge (Click here for a sample menu). We also offer a similar family-style option for larger groups (up to 25) in our main dining room on a case-by-case basis. For even larger groups, The Advocate is available for buyouts. For further information and to inquire about availability for any of the above group dining options, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Why do you charge a service charge in lieu of tips?
Long overdue increases to the minimum wage on both state and local levels have prompted us to move to a new model of compensation that will be sustainable and fair in the long run for our entire staff, especially as minimum wage continues to rise.
Across the Bay Area and beyond, kitchen staff are paid hourly wages that are often well above the minimum, but their total compensation lags far behind their service staff counterparts. Further increases to the minimum wage will only exacerbate this imbalance unless a new approach is taken.
Won’t the quality of service suffer?
We certainly hope not. Numerous studies have concluded that there is little to no correlation between quality of service and amount of tip (http://tippingresearch.com/uploads/managing_tips.pdf). Studies have also found that women are tipped better than men, that white servers are tipped better than black servers, and that servers who draw smiley faces on the check or touch their customers’ shoulders during service get better tips (unless they are male servers, in which case the opposite is true) (http://tippingresearch.com/uploads/customer_racial_discrimination10-30-06.pdf).
Every staff member, from dishwasher to cook, bartender to server, is involved in serving our guests. If the dish or cocktail you order comes to the table carefully prepared and in timely fashion, that’s good service, service that results from the efforts of the entire staff.
We believe in what Danny Meyer calls “enlightened hospitality” – that providing good service is its own reward. We want our staff to provide the best possible service, but we want the motivation to provide this great service to come not from the hope of a big tip but rather from pride in a job well done.
It’s worth noting that our neighbors at Chez Panisse, who are known for their excellent service, have employed this model for years.
Why did you choose to charge 20% instead of some other amount?
The service charge percentage is based on the average gratuity at our sister restaurant Comal since opening in 2012. It’s long been common practice at most restaurants in general to charge a fixed service charge (usually 20%) for parties of six or more – we are simply extending this policy to cover groups of all sizes.
In some countries (like Japan), tipping is not allowed. If you leave a tip at a restaurant in Japan, a staffer will likely run after you to return your money. But this system exists across the entire country. Since we are doing something new in a price-sensitive market, we need to keep our overall menu pricing structure similar to the many restaurants in Berkeley and beyond.
It’s important to remember that, regardless of whether we accept tips, charge a service charge or move to “all-in pricing”, the ultimate average cost to the customer will remain the same.
Why not just force service staff to share their tips with the kitchen staff?
State and national labor law only allows tips to be shared with staff members who are involved in the “chain of service”. So it is not legal for restaurant operators to mandate that tips be shared with kitchen staff. As such, our solution to begin addressing the compensation gap between service staff and kitchen staff is to charge a service charge.
How does compensation for service staff compare to if they made minimum wage plus tips?
On average, our service staff will make approximately the same amount per hour in total compensation as they would if they were paid minimum wage plus tips. We use a compensation model for service staff that consists of a sliding scale hourly wage along with a revenue share system that allows employees to share directly in each night’s revenue. The hourly wage portion of their compensation varies depending on the quality of their work. By creating a sliding scale, we create the opportunity for growth and advancement, and motivation to excel.
How is the service charge money used?
Service charge monies are used exclusively for employee wages and benefits. Ultimately, this new system costs The Advocate more in labor costs than the previous one, as we are paying our service staff at a similar level to other comparable Bay Area restaurants and offering higher pay for our kitchen staff. We feel good about these additional costs because we believe this compensation system will create a better staff culture with less turnover.
Why did you remove the tip line from the credit card slip?
To eliminate any confusion as to whether a further tip is expected.
Why don’t you just incorporate the cost of service into the menu pricing and eliminate the service charge?
We considered doing so, and still hope to do so sooner than later. But it’s a difficult thing to do in a competitive marketplace where the vast majority of restaurants price their menus based on the assumption that their service staff will make a significant portion of their compensation from tips. As more restaurants move to a service charge in lieu of tip (which we believe will happen in the coming months and years), the circumstances will be more favorable to taking this additional step.
Group Dining Sample Menu
SELECTION OF HOUSE-MADE PICKLES
HOG ISLAND OYSTERS on the half shell, Meyer lemon-celery mignonette ($7 per person supplement)
CRISP FLATBREAD COOKED IN THE COALS house-made ricotta, Tate’s Hell honey, argan oil, herbs and flowers
MIXED SPRING LETTUCES shaved raw vegetables, spiced wild native pecans,cane syrup vinaigrette
CHICKPEA FRITTERS Manila clam and fennel tartar sauce, cured steelhead roe, crispy chickpeas
LAMB TARTARE vadouvan, toasted shallots, mint ($5 per person supplement)
STEWED CRANBERRY BEANS coal roasted vegetables, spring onion couscous
PORCHETTA stuffed with spring mustards and nettles, potato puree, mustard jus
HAND-ROLLED CAVATELLI CARBONARA Urfa pepper, gulf shrimp, spinach
GRASS FED RIBEYE STEAK charred baby carrots, scalloped Yukon Gold potato, chermoula ($10 per person supplement)
WARM GINGER CAKE ginger-poached apricots, Meyer lemon ice cream, candied pistachios
Recent Posts from the Blog
June News from The Advocate
Wednesday, June 15th, 2016
An Evening with Gamling & McDuck at The Advocate
Friday, April 29th, 2016
Diablo features The Advocate’s Chickpea Fritters in their “Side Dish” column
Tuesday, April 26th, 2016
SF Station includes The Advocate in their list of “Best Brunches: East Bay”
Tuesday, April 12th, 2016
The Advocate Cocktail Series #6: American Werewolf
Friday, April 8th, 2016
The Advocate Cocktail Series #5: Sopchoppy Sling
Thursday, April 7th, 2016
The Advocate serves straightforward California cuisine and does it very, very well — better, in fact, than just about any other restaurant I’ve visited in the East Bay this year.
Squid a la plancha is one of the best preparations I’ve had in recent, or distant, memory. The rings and tentacles are infused with a slight smokiness and are uncharacteristically juicy and tender…
Chef John Griffiths’ creative, seasonal menu interprets Moroccan and Mediterranean dishes through Northern California ingredients, straddling the line between foodie-delighting whimsy and comfort fare with aplomb.
Title: Diablo Magazine Reviews The Advocate, “Berkeley’s New Classic Restaurant”
Berkeley’s Elmwood neighborhood has scored what promises to be one of the East Bay’s next destination restaurants…
The Advocate has arrived in Berkeley’s Elmwood neighborhood. And like the name suggests, it has everyone’s best interests in mind…
At the Advocate, Campbell’s cocktails are defined largely by the produce that arrives into the restaurant and by extension, the seasons…
If there’s one thing that the two guys behind downtown spot Comal know how to do, it’s create a buzzy restaurant…
We wanted the food to be along the Mediterranean vernacular, for it to be very approachable, but to highlight some of the more esoteric regions—have more of a focus on southern Italy, Sardinia and Sicily, get some North African spices in there..”
It’s been mostly radio silence since the owners of downtown Berkeley’s smash-hit Comal announced last year that they were opening a new restaurant. Finally, partners John Paluska and Andrew Hoffman have released details about the new project, poised to be the highest profile-dining establishment yet in Berkeley’s quaint Elmwood district…
The name was chosen because it was also the name of Elmwood’s original newspaper, said Paluska. It also seemed fitting for a restaurant in a city known for its activism. “It’s a tip of the hat to Berkeley…”
Getting to The Advocate
The Advocate is located on the edge of a dense residential area. We encourage you to use alternate means of transportation when possible and to respect both the neighborhood and its residents. It is a beautiful walk to the restaurant from the surrounding areas and we encourage you to find parking a few blocks away to decrease circling in the immediate area around the restaurant, which is quite busy, and to lighten our impact on our closest neighbors.
From San Francisco
Take the Bay Bridge, get on I-80 East towards Berkeley/Sacramento. Take exit 10 on to Ashby Ave, CA-13, keep left on Ashby Ave. Follow Ashby east for 2 miles and The Advocate is on your left.
From the East
From Highway 24, take the Exit 5B, Tunnel Road/Ashby Avenue. Drive west on Ashby for 1.9 miles and The Advocate is on your right.
From Marin County
Take the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge on to 580E. Take exit 10 on to Ashby Ave, CA-13. Follow Ashby Avenue east for 2 miles and The Advocate is on your left.
From the South Bay
Take 880N to 80E towards Berkeley. From I-80E take exit 10 on to Ashby Ave, CA-13, keep left on Ashby Ave. Follow Ashby east for 2 miles and The Advocate is on your left.
AC Transit bus 51b leaves from the Rockridge BART Station about every 15 to 20 minutes every day of the week and during all hours of operation at The Advocate.
AC Transit bus 49 leaves from the Ashby BART Station every 30 minutes weekdays, and 40 minutes on weekends and runs until 7pm.
Walking and Biking to The Advocate
The Advocate is a short one mile walk or bicycle ride from the Ashby BART Station or the Rockridge BART Station. Russell Street, one block north of Ashby, is a designated Berkeley bicycle boulevard.
Taxi and Car Service to The Advocate
Taxi service, Uber and Lyft are available from the BART stations as well, and the Rockridge BART Station has a Taxi Stand.