“Eating at Meal Ticket… is like being part of a club. Owners Jimmy & Carolyn know a lot of the people who walk in, and the people who eat there regularly know the drill: Walk to the counter… gauge the mood in the kitchen, shoot the breeze if it’s not too busy and then order.” San Francisco Chronicle


Jimmy Carter, the chef, hails from Greenock, Scotland. A former olympic swimmer and a U.C. Berkeley graduate, his cooking career started here in the Bay Area in 1986. He worked at some of the restaurants which were the originators of California cuisine including Santa Fe Bar and Grill, Gertie’s Chesapeake Bay Cafe, Fourth Street Grill and Christopher’s Cafe.

In 1990 he took over the original Meal Ticket, which was located in south Berkeley, with his then French partner Stephane Mottier. After his partner left in 1994, his wife Carolyn stepped in. The original Meal Ticket was a small hole in the wall kind of place with a very loyal following and club like atmosphere. Although there was a menu, Jimmy rarely let anyone order from it. He would simply urge you to “get the specials.”

Lease problems shuttered the original Meal Ticket but provided a great excuse for a farewell party and a culinary sabbatical that took the pair around the world.

The Meal Ticket was reincarnated in its current location on San Pablo Avenue in December 2001. Business has always grown organically, solely by word of mouth. There had been little to no advertising until the Meal Ticket was featured on the Food Network show, Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives in November of 2010. The press hasn’t changed the place however, as Jimmy still cooks “down to earth food made with fresh ingredients.”

Carolyn Del Gaudio  was born in Brooklyn, New York. She came west to San Francisco in 1980, and attended law school at the now defunct, New College of California. She and Jimmy met the night she learned she passed the bar exam. Her career as a lawyer in private practice lasted 11 years, with lots of small civil rights victories. But alas the call of a wet bar towel was too strong. Now she is found happily (or grumpily) in the front of the house, welcoming and guiding new followers into the fold and labyrinth known as Meal Ticket.

Rose, Top Silverware Roll-up Technician, is Carolyn’s mom, who just moved out to the Bay Area in 2009. She can often be found at the Meal Ticket rolling silverware into napkins and is an integral part of the operation, valued highly by all the Meal Ticket staff.