San Francisco's latest innovation is protesting Trump's immigration policy on a restaurant bill

Tristan Fewings / Stringer / Getty Images

The battle over President Trump’s immigration policy has inflamed passions across the country, but Twitter and Facebook aren’t the only places to protest anymore.

In San Francisco, America’s tech capital and an epicentre of foodie culture, there’s a new way to protest: restaurant checks.

Well, at least one activist deli in the city so far is embracing the tactic.

I witnessed the new form of protest on a recent Sunday, while fetching some bagels and lox. The location of the incident:Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen, one of the few good Jewish delis in San Francisco – even if it offers more of a West Coast twist on deli classics, rather than fulfil the promise of an authentic eatery with East Coast bona fides.

While paying my bill, I noticed a pithy, strategically placed message directly under the signature line:

Immigrant CheckAlexei Oreskovic

“We are all Immigrants,” it read.

It’s possible that this is a reference to a pervasive internet image: Back in 2015, a viral photo showed a restaurant check with “Tip for U.S. Citizens Only” written in lieu of a gratuity for the server. While even the fact-checkers at Snopes have never been able to confirm that the incident in question ever happened, the picture still resurfaces periodically on social media.

So, perhaps, Wise Sons is offering its own take on that meme at a time when the immigration debate is once again front and center. San Francisco is a sanctuary city, and many of the local tech leaders, such as Mark Zuckerberg and Sundar Pichai, have spoken out to defend the benefits of immigration.

Given that bagels became a classic American breakfast item thanks to the Jewish immigrants who brought them from Poland, the message on my food invoice struck a pretty persuasive chord.

Iniziamo il nostre viaggio nel mondo dello street-food,partendo proprio da quella,che secondo noi è la patria del cibo da strada.San Francisco è la casa di @wisesons jewish Delicatessen(Gastronomia).Diverse locations sono sparse per la citta’,sul sito internet,potrete scegliere quella piu’vicina a voi(http://wisesonsdeli.com). Tra le tante proposte consigliamo il #Pastrami,La zuppa con #matzoballs e i fantastici #bagels che vengono fatti artigianalmente ogni giorno. Per noi di #streetfoodwarriors è uno dei migliori Street-Food della West Coast. Can U dig it! #streetfood #foodporn #foodblogger #foodlover #foodstagram #roma #rome #igersitalia #italia #delicatessen #follow4follow #followme #repost

A post shared by Street Food Warriors Roma (@streetfoodwarriors) on

In a place like San Francisco, where people orient-their lives around food almost as much as they do around the startups they work for, the check-borne protest is a clever way to get a message across.

This could be huge…

Because this is San Francisco, the instinct after seeing something cool is to wonder how “scalable” it is. And it did not take me too long to recognise the potential of this medum.

From Pupuserias to Gyro joints, every restaurant in the city has the power to unleash a groundswell of activism by harnessing the thin slips of paper. And the causes need not be limited to immigration. Net neutrality for lunch? Climate change at dinner service?

Alas, the revolution isn’t here yet.

I’ve inspected every bill that’s crossed my table since that day, and have been disappointed to find only boilerplate commercial copy highlighting a web address, a phone number or a curt nod of gratitude for my patronage.

Maybe Wise Sons was just ahead of its time. Like every great tech product that originates in Silicon Valley, timing is everything.

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