Photography by Danny Fulgencio
Gene Street Sr. was immensely successful in business but married and divorced four times in the course of starting and running food-and-beverage empires, including the Black Eyed Pea, Good Eats and Consolidated Restaurant Cos., which owns El Chico, among other brands.
So the two middle Street children went their own ways. Mariel joined the Peace Corps after graduating from the University of Texas at Austin. Marco graduated from Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts and skipped college to pursue a career in music.
However, the pull of their legacy was strong. They now own Liberty Burger, which has six locations, and Streets Fine Chicken, which has two. They recently opened Roy G’s, a restaurant and bar in Oak Lawn.
They also live across the street from each other with their wives and babies, who were born eight months apart, in Kings Highway.
Mariel wanted to start a food truck in Austin after the Peace Corps, and she brought the idea to her two older brothers, Gene and Dace, who owned Snookie’s Bar & Grill. They didn’t buy it.
“They were like, OK, hippie,” she says.
But she didn’t give up, and a friend helped her with a business and marketing plan. This time, her brothers were in, and they agreed to turn Snookie’s into the first Liberty Burger. That was in 2011, and they opened new stores every year for the following four years.
Meanwhile, Marco was living in a recording studio that he built with friends in a warehouse that his dad owned. After six years, that life was becoming too lonely, and Mariel convinced him to come on board and run the Liberty Burger she was opening in Lakewood.
“Working with family, especially in a business like this, doesn’t always work out,” Marco says. “We love working together, and I just feel so lucky.”
“It keeps looping around to things dad touched,” Mariel says.
The elder Gene Street borrowed $5,000 from his aunt and partnered with Phil Cobb to start his first bar, J. Alfred’s, where Al Biernat’s is on Oak Lawn.
Street and Cobb also owned a honky-tonk on Cedar Springs called Faces, where Willie Nelson and Ray Wylie Hubbard used to play.
Mariel and Marco opened their new restaurant and bar, Roy G’s, in the same space last year.
“The neighborhood is so fun,” Mariel says. “They’ve really welcomed us.”
Their dad, who is sort of retired and has lived in the same Preston Hollow house since they were kids, complains that Roy G’s isn’t “scalable” like Liberty Burger and the Black Eyed Pea. But it’s not meant to be.
“It has more soul,” Mariel says. “It’s specifically for that neighborhood.”
This generation of Streets is more interested in quality of life than making bank.
The siblings have thought about opening a restaurant in Oak Cliff in a similar vein, something that’s just for our neighborhood, but the right location hasn’t come along.
Marco started hosting “Streetsgiving” at his house about five years ago, and they’ve managed to get the whole family, all five siblings, ex wives and everyone, at least once. And because they have the original recipes, they did a Black Eyed Pea takeover a few years ago at the Streets on Cedar Springs with their dad and Cobb greeting guests and the children and grandchildren waiting tables and cooking. All the proceeds went to the Resource Center, and they plan to do it again sometime.