I was determined to make it work. The Hyde Park duplex I moved into was well over my budget, and I spent chunks of my savings doing what any privileged newcomer did – going to my first ACL, eating at Starlite or Mars, and buying T-shirts at Factory People. I was so caught up in the Austin whirl that I hardly noticed my checking account dwindling. True, I was down to a 27" waist, but I had this.
I threw a bunch of newly ill-fitting clothes in a bag and headed to Buffalo Exchange, selling ironic Eighties mesh and a polka-dotted tuxedo. I went to Half Price, banking that I would never really be into industrial music again and would continue to roll my eyes at Jack Kerouac (that last point was right). Back then, that was all it took. I could buy a pack of hot dogs for the return on selling Double Nickels on the Dime. If I cashed in my change jar, I could even eat out.
When we talk about affordability in Austin, we tend to talk about taxes and housing, the giant banners flapping over a city changed. But that's just one portion of a city's true price. The rest are handfuls of sand slowly eroding quality of life. Cheap beer is replaced by $13 cocktails. Weekday breakfast is replaced by chef-driven brunch. Many of us moved here because the cost of living let us make music or (pretend to) write novels. We were given so much more and more and more that we hardly noticed when it became less.
As someone who reports on fancy brunches and craft cocktails, I'm certainly entrenched in the problem. And I am glad to see an explosion of world-class food. I certainly don't begrudge chefs or barmasters wanting to use the best. But I do begrudge the change in the air that makes it unfashionable to open anything not falling under the vague rubric of being "upscale."
With few exceptions, restaurant money is being thrown to New American eateries designed by name architects. Some of those are welcome, some not, but a creative, growing city needs to cater to more than just young professionals on date night. Perhaps it was a fantasy to think that we would have places like Las Manitas or Tamale House forever, but in a city where Patrick Terry became a very well-to-do man redefining fast food (with the help of a name architect albeit), it's odd that the sparkle of culinary glory is blinding culinary opportunity.
Over the past decade, I have seen Austin mature, but a city still needs to cater to its irresponsible kids - not to mention the working families who economic inequality is leaving behind. Austin, it's time to feed them.
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