Imagine this: An experimental restaurant in Berkeley bills customers $0.00 for their meal and encourages them to pay the generosity forward however they wish.

That’s right.  Karma Kitchen, which began in March 2007, is open Sundays for lunch, issues no bills, is volunteer-staffed, and is based entirely on the premise that we could all do with a little more good karma in the world.

Paul Van Slambrouck.)

Viral Mehta, co-founder of Karma Kitchen, familiarizes the day's volunteer servers about their tasks before the restaurant opens.

Karma Kitchen rents out Taste of the Himalayas restaurant on Shattuck on Sundays from 11-3.  Customers eat a delicious vegetarian and mostly Indian-inspired meal prepared by chef Chatra Lamichaney, but they don’t get a check at the end:

“Instead, the guests of this restaurant are handed a gold envelope with a handwritten note on the outside that says, ‘Have a lovely evening.’ Inside a bookmarker-sized card states: ‘In the spirit of generosity, someone who came before you made a gift of this meal. We hope you will continue the circle of giving in your own way!””

The Christian Science Monitor, “A restaurant with no checks”

Most guests choose to pay for the next guest’s meal; others choose to volunteer at the restaurant one Sunday, but Karma Kitchen leaves it entirely up to you, as long as you give something back to the world.  How cool is that?

Karma Kitchen's current volunteer sign-up list from their website; it gives you an idea of what tasks volunteers do.

Karma Kitchen's current volunteer chart on the website shows who has signed up to do which tasks in the upcoming month of Sundays.

I am so sad that I learned about Karma Kitchen on a Sunday.  Now I have to wait an entire week before I can try it out myself and tell you about it.  If I like it, which I’m pretty sure I will, I’ll volunteer the next week.  In the meantime, you can read an early article about Karma Kitchen back when it was open for Saturday night dinners, check out the glowing reviews on Yelp, or visit Karma Kitchen’s website to learn more about their business model.