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How Bay Area Restaurants Are Supporting Government Workers During the Shutdown

With free tacos, pastrami, and more specials and discounts

Tacos at Al Pastor Papi Patricia Chang

Furloughed federal workers who missed their paychecks on Friday are entitled to at least a few consolation benefits during what’s now the longest government shutdown in US history. Local restaurant operators such as Miguel Escobedo, who runs Mexico City style taco stand Al Pastor Papi, are offering shutdown specials to federal employees caught in the political crossfire as President Trump refuses to pass a government spending bill that doesn’t include $5.7 billion in funds for wall at the Mexican border.

In his case, Escobedo is giving away two tacos and one free agua fresca to federal employees with proper ID starting tomorrow, January 15, and lasting “until this shutdown ends.” Escobedo says he was inspired to offer the special by his brother Carlos, an investigator for the District Attorney in Sacramento who has been furloughed during the shutdown.

“He brought up the idea, and I thought it would be an amazing gesture and act of kindness and encouragement to anyone else going through this ordeal,” says Escobedo.

Many of the government workers who won’t receive pay during the shutdown are clustered around the DC metro area. There, celebrity chef José Andrés and his disaster relief nonprofit World Central Kitchen have pledged to feed the 800,000 federal employees.

But here in California, federal workers could use a hand, too. That’s what businesses like Solomon’s Delicatessen are offering: The Davis restaurant is giving out free pastrami sandwiches to federal workers today. More specials are to be found at Jules Thin Crust, a pizzeria in Oakland with more locations in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Jules announced it would give unpaid federal workers and their families a free slice with presentation of a federal ID.

Helping federal workers affected by the shutdown needn’t be seen as a directly political act. But that’s partly how You You Xue, owner of Millbrae Hunanese-style restaurant Wonderful, sees his move to offer a 50 percent discount to federal workers and their families.

“I’m someone who you could describe as politically involved, and I felt bad for these workers,” said Xue. “I thought they were being taken advantage of... people are being held hostage over a totally manufactured crisis.”

So far, about a dozen federal workers and their families have taken advantage of the special. Located near San Francisco International Airport, Wonderful’s customers include TSA agents, customs workers, and air traffic controllers, all of whom are affected by the shutdown.

Xue likes to points points out that if he stopped paying his employees at Wonderful, “I’d be sitting in jail.”

“This is employee abuse,” he says.

Know a restaurant offering aid to workers? Let us know in the comments, or send a tip to