Plans for deeming the corner of San Pablo and University Avenues as an International Marketplace may soon become a reality.
The marketplace campaign, supported by both city officials and local store and restaurant owners, hopes to promote awareness among the unique and ethnically diverse restaurants near and around the intersection.
According to Mayor Shirley Dean the large concentration of Indian and Hispanic restaurants and stores makes the spot ideal for the international food district designation. In addition there are places that sell Thai, Spanish, French, Chinese and Pakistani foods.
“I would really like to see it happen. People want an experience when they shop and dine. This would give them that experience, a taste of different things. That’s always been one of Berkeley’s strong points,” Dean said.
According to Dean the city hopes to facilitate the growth of the district by producing brochures detailing the unique foods and spices at each restaurant, hanging banners in the area and placing maps of the district throughout Berkeley.
With 11 unique and diverse restaurants within a block of each other, the intersection of University and San Pablo Avenues is a great location for an International Marketplace, Khanna said.
City officials, local merchants and the UAA have gathered recently at a series of meeting to discuss Ideas for the Marketplace campaign.
“At first not too many people attended the meetings, they thought we were just wasting our time. But as we go, our attendance is getting bigger and bigger and bigger,” Khanna said.
According to Khanna, the International Marketplace would include businesses and restaurants as far north as Hearst Avenue, south to Allston Way and east to either 9th or 10th Street.
“Once it gets going it’s going to be as popular as places like Jack London Square and the 4th Street area. We want to bring an awareness to the populous. We want people to try us out. We want people, when they ask where they’re going to eat in Berkeley to think of us,” said Khanna.
“I think it’s a wonderful idea. We need to have a focus in this part of town. Each business here is unique, each one has it’s own specialty,” said Jorge Pena, owner of Pena’s Bakery on San Pablo Avenue.
Mexican pastries and deserts, including flan and tres leches, a pound cake-like-mix made from three types of milk, set the bakery apart according to Pena.
“Other places sell some of the pastries but we’re the only ones to make them from scratch,” Pena said.
The campaign hopes to create greater advertising strength for the area by combining the efforts of the businesses which otherwise would not
According to Steve Winston, owner of the Spanish Tables, a specialty store selling food and wine from Spain and Portugal, the area was a good fit when he opened in September.
“I’m really excited about what’s going on. We want this to be an ethnic food shopping area,” said Winston.
According to Winston the Spanish Tables attracts customers from all over the Bay Area and is a compliment to both the New World Spanish food and other specialty restaurants and stores in the area.