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Organizers of a Columbia City eat-around hope the fund-raising event will help the neighborhood secure a spot on local eaters' mental lists of dining destinations.

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Columbia City Wants Recognition for Its Restaurants

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Organizers of a Columbia City eat-around hope the fund-raising event will help the neighborhood secure a spot on local eaters' mental lists of dining destinations.

"Columbia City isn't considered by a lot of Seattleites as a place to go out," event organizer Mika Yamamoto says. "Hopefully this will raise awareness of Columbia City as a great place to eat. There are pretty great places here that can rival anything else in the city."

Yamamoto discovered the depth of Columbia City's cuisine while planning the Chow Down, which runs from 5-9 p.m. tomorrow night.

"As a committee, we've been meeting at the restaurants, and there's pretty incredible ethnic diversity," Yamamoto says. "It was fun to test out the restaurants."

Participants in the program must purchase a $75 passport, which entitles its holder to an appetizer-sized "bite" at 13 restaurants. El Pilon is serving empanadas, Jones Barbecue is offering pulled-pork sandwiches, and Island Soul is frying plantains. Other bites include a sunshine roll at Wabi Sabi and oil-poached mackerel at La Medusa.

Event organizers are capping sales at 100 passports to facilitate the flow of dinner traffic. Yamamoto says the majority of passports sold thus far have been purchased by neighborhood residents. "We have maybe 20 percent who are coming from outside," Yamamoto estimates. "That's the benefit for the restaurants."

In addition to introducing Columbia City's restaurants to potential new customers, the event is also raising money for the Rainier Valley Food Bank. Corporate sponsorships have paid for passport printing, T-shirts, and other administrative costs, so all of the money collected will be used to buy food for the agency.

"We're excited to involve the community in a creative way," Yamamoto says.

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