Mariel Street prepared to open the dive bar Roy G’s in her family’s favorite neighborhood.
(Photos by Arnold Wayne Jones)

Born into a storied restaurant family, Mariel Street continues to call Oak Lawn home with the new watering hole Roy G’s

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES | Executive Editor

Just because Mariel Street grew up in the restaurant business didn’t mean she knew all the complexities of
opening a restaurant, as her first venture painfully proved to her.

Marco and Mariel Street outside their new concept.

Returning from a stint in the Peace Corps and still in her mid-20s, she opened her first Liberty Burger in 2011. And while she had a basic understanding from her dad about some of the bigger issues, the mechanics of day-to-day operations floored her.

“When the Liberty Burger on Forest Lane opened, I was wildly unprepared,” she now freely admits. “Everything was a guessing game, and my guesses were way off. We thought we’d do 300 people a day, but I was running out of food in an hour and a half with people lined around the block. I slept there on a military cot for a couple of weeks because there was no point going home. I realized that just because I’m a drinker doesn’t mean I know how to develop a bar program. It took several months to get my sea legs and to figure out how I could run a Friday night on my own.”

The main lesson she took away from the experience was she couldn’t do everything on her own. “I realized I had to put the right team together,” she says.

That was less than a decade ago, but already she’s an old hand at this restaurant game. There’s no place she and her family enjoy opening a restaurant more than the gayborhood. And the latest, Roy G’s, is an even more profound homecoming than usual.


Mariel was born into restaurant royalty. Her dad, Gene Street, began his business with “some one-off restaurants, like the biker bar J. Alfred’s in the space where Al Biernat’s now is,” the Old Church, and a place called Faces, which he later sold to the late gay-club mogul Frank Caven, Mariel explains. But it was his launch in the 1970s of the Black-eyed Pea, which became a huge franchise (and which Street later sold), that cemented the Street family name in the pantheon of great Dallas restaurateurs — alongside names like Brinker, Lombardi and Wynne — as powerhouses of hospitality. And for all of that time, the Streets have demonstrated a fondness for Dallas’ gayborhood: Snookie’s, Lucky’s, Good Eats and the original Black-eyed Pea were all situated blocks from each other along Oak Lawn and Cedar Springs. So it suits Mariel just fine to call it home.

The Roy-Al burger, one of the signature bites on the new menu.

“I started going [to Pride] when I was 19 or 20,” she says. “There’s so much energy on the Strip, and such a predictable [customer base]. They are clear on what they want; they are not flighty. They want to be treated well, to get good service, to get consistency and to have fun. They don’t want rigid, uptight, buttoned-up. People go on the Strip to enjoy themselves and enjoy that sense of community that is not found on any other street in Dallas for the gay community. That’s what I love about it. When the community embraces you down there, it’s a fun thing. I love to spend time at Street’s Fine Chicken, because it’s like family there.”

That wasn’t the case initially, once the family took back over the old Black-eyed Pea space.

“Those first six months of Fine Chicken were rocky,” Street says. “It was not doing what we thought it was. People were upset about [closure of] the Black-eyed Pea and were just waiting not to like us. We had to overcome [the misconception of us] kicking out [the Black-eyed Pea]. We did some tweaking on price points to get people to give us a chance, and we turned it around. Now it’s the No. 1 [store] in our company — it went from very bottom to the very top.”


When the space that until more recently housed Zephyr’s became available, Mariel and her brothers jumped at the chance to take it over. For one reason, it was in a building their dad originally owned when it was a honkytonk called Faces. When Gene Street sold the building to Frank Caven, “it was for a suitcase full of cash, which would never fly today,” Mariel laughs. It also offered a chance to revive a beloved concept… at least, that was the first thought.

“We considered going old school and opening Snookie’s Revival,” she says, mentioning the beloved joint that for nearly 30 years occupied a corner across from Lucky’s, until the downturn of 2008 caused it to close. “But we just kind of got stuck on the idea that memories are always better than reality. Everyone would come in and say, hey, it’s a hickory burger but it’s not the hickory burger, or is the electric blue lemonade the same as the old electric blue lemonade, even though we have the same [people making it]?”

So for the new store, they wanted something of the caz-hang vibe of Snookie’s without the baggage of serving someone’s reverie of what it was. And it became a passion project for the Streets.

“I call Liberty Burger my baby, because Gene Jr. was still really consumed with Snookie’s [when I was opening it],” Mariel says. “Marco took the ball and ran on Street’s Fine Chicken. But with Roy G’s, it’s really been me and Marco. It’s more collaborative. We’ve had a lot more fun figuring out our roles in the place. Liberty Burger is all about burgers, and Street’s Fine Chicken is chicken. But this is the most fun because it’s a blank slate. I never design the menu — I’m in the branding and marketing; Marco is the food guy; Gene Jr. is the bean counter. But we’ve been eating and testing since October. Two days a week we sit down and gorge on stuff.”

They began making a list of all the best bar food they like, and where to find it. “We retro-fitted the menu to what we had in the kitchen — like, we don’t have a pizza oven, so no pizzas. But we are also giving ourselves room to listen to what people say about the menu and to have fun with it. We’re definitely doing a late-night drunk menu, when we stay open until 3. Homemade versions of your favorite drunk food, like bagel bites and deep fried monster tacos; we’re going to make our own taquitos — the perfect fix for a late night. ”

It’ll be a lot of work behind the scenes. Even with all their experience, the first 100 days of a new business are exhausting. “Marco and I both had to sit down our wives and explain we wouldn’t be around much for three months!” Mariel says. (Mariel, her wife and one-year-old live in Oak Cliff — they had their first date at Bolsa — a few doors away from Marco and his family.)

It’s important to Mariel that Roy G’s (as in ROY G. BIV, the mnemonic for remembering the colors of the rainbow) quickly be perceived for what it hopes to be: A neighborhood hangout, the kind of Cheers-y (no uniforms on the servers), everybody-knows-your-name home to tasty but familiar and affordable pub-grub (price points at $10 or less), endless liquor selections and most of all a welcoming atmosphere.

“We love the Strip and wanna keep taking over spots there. We are familiar with the people who live [and work] down there. We are trying to make a local watering hole — great bar food, some of it fancy but a lot just familiar.”