Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke has a knack for supporting local businesses on his campaign treks across the country, and that often includes local restaurants and food trucks.
“We ate really well all over the state of Texas,” O’Rourke told Eater during a stop at Austin Community College’s Highland campus as part of his statewide college tour. State on October 5. O’Rourke says he and his team always ask people in those towns when he’s planning where to eat. “I always try to find local family businesses that are doing something good,” he says, “and usually people from a community [who say]’This is where you have to go when you’re in name-this-town.’”
Earlier this week in Austin, he shared that he went to fast food restaurant (and Eater Austin 38) Bird Bird Biscuit because of a staff member’s suggestion, which he called “the most amazing sandwich ever.” that I never had”.
In Tyler, Texas, O’Rourke often stops at Stanley’s famous Pit Bar-BQ for a real barbecue, calling his smoked meats “one of the best I’ve ever had and in the state of Texas. “. His order is the brisket sandwich: “It’s so good.” He tells a story of how he picked it up to take away, and after he left, he realized he had forgotten to buy barbecue sauce (these days barbecue sauces are no longer as much of a misstep as before; it’s also the rules of the barbecue sandwich rather than the simple barbecue). “I was like, ‘God, it’s not going to be good without sauce.’ And it quickly turned out he was wrong: “It was one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had, if not the best,” he recalls.
Other recent barbecue stops include Porky’s Smokehouse & Grill in Marshall, TX and La Barbecue in Austin. Of the latter, he says he got it for the first time, and yes, he ordered the brisket. He called the meal “phenomenal”.
In O’Rourke’s hometown of El Paso, one of his favorite restaurants is Lucy’s Cafe, a breakfast and lunch spot near his home. Her favorite dish is the machaca plate, which includes shredded beef with tomatoes, onions, eggs, and chili con queso. “That, and a cup of coffee, there’s no better way to start your day,” he says.
Supporting independent small businesses is one of O’Rourke’s tenets in his campaign for governor. “I want to make sure we level the playing field,” he told Eater. “We don’t shy away from the success of big business, but when, for example, they don’t pay their fair share of property taxes, which they don’t today, that means the rest of us , including independent restaurateurs and contractors, and landlords and tenants by extension, all end up having to pay a bit more. To that end, he would like to reduce property taxes for small businesses while ensuring that large businesses pay property taxes.
Another way he wants to support small businesses in Texas, if elected governor in November, is to expand Medicaid to ensure more Texans have health insurance. “I want to make sure that we fully fund health care at the state level,” he says. “It means employers are not responsible or losing employees who are not healthy or well enough to go to work.” He also wants to raise the minimum wage.
O’Rourke also addresses the rising cost of living in Texas. “I want to make sure we lower the cost of living and doing business in Texas,” he says. “I mentioned earlier that we now pay more in Texas here than people are in California. This makes things a little more difficult for [entrepreneurs and business owners] find the resources to pay their employees more or take better care of their customers.
Many Austin restaurants have announced closures this fall due to some of the above reasons. Baby Greens salad drive-thru closes Oct. 7 because owner Sharon Mays doesn’t have enough staff to keep the business going; she cites the city’s lack of affordability as one of the main reasons employees leave Austin. Ice cream shop Gelateria Gemelli is closing Nov. 1 because there aren’t enough sales to sustain the business despite COVID-related expenses, as well as inflated ingredient prices and rents, according to the owner Andrew Sabola. Then there are so many other restaurants, food trucks and bars that are closing due to impending development at their addresses or refusing to renew leases due to very high rent increases.
And O’Rourke is doing his part to further support local restaurants by “always finding the local place where we can eat and trying to show it off with pride,” as he puts it.