Ode to a Lube Job - Goodbye, sweet Luby's
According to THE HOUSTORIAN DICTIONARY: AN INSIDER’S INDEX TO HOUSTON, “Lube Job” is slang for eating a meal at Luby’s Cafeteria.
Well, it looks like we’ve all had our last Lube Job.
It was announced today that Luby’s Inc has voted to liquidate its business, distributing proceeds from the fire sale to investors. Over the next few months, all Luby's locations will close, and many will be razed to the ground to make room for new developments. It truly is a sad day for the state of Texas.
If you aren’t from Texas, you’ve probably never heard of Luby’s, a cafeteria-style restaurant founded in 1947 and famous for dishes such as chicken-fried steak, baked cod, and liver and onions. You may, however, be familiar with the LuAnn Platter, a famous discount value meal that offered half an entree and two sides for an affordable price, in addition to inspiring the name of the character voiced by Brittany Murphy on Mike Judge’s KING OF THE HILL.
I’m really going to miss Luby’s. Growing up, my family went there relatively often. I always enjoyed a trip to the restaurant because I could always count on a heaping tray of my favorite, unhealthy, carb-loaded side dishes such as mac and cheese, fried okra, mashed potatoes, and more. The entrees were okay, but it was the side dishes were the magic happened.
Luby’s was a popular choice for when my family would dine out on Fridays during Lent because there were always a few different fish options available, such as the aforementioned baked cod, fried shrimp, and - when I was lucky - gumbo.
Now, in the twilight of this once godlike restaurant chain, let''s recognize the few impeachable facts about dining at Luby’s:
The majority of people who ate at Luby’s were elderly. The restaurant was popular among the silver-hared crowd, especially during their 5 PM dinner rush.
Don’t waste time on the salad. It doesn’t come with your meal, it costs extra and you’re going to get generous helpings as is with your main entree and side dishes. Lettuce is meant for being eaten at home, not at places where creaming cheese-covered broccoli is an option. That said, I was always intrigued by the raisin and carrot slaw and the various gelatins that greeted visitors during their trip through the food buffet. Not enough to ever order them, but intrigued nonetheless.
Don’t overdo it with the extra packets of butter for your rolls. They’ll charge you for those. And don't try and pocket the packets, either. You'll be caught, or the butter will melt in your pocket before you get to your seat. Either way, it's an uncool thing to do.
Figuring out if you were going to be able to add a slice of pie or cake to your tray was a game of chicken played with your parents. The trick was to make sure you were in line after your parents. That way, you could see if they added a slice to their tray and then add one to your own. I was tricked a few times by getting in line before my parents and then missing out on the cake or pie because I assumed that option was off the table. They never offered to share.
Despite the fact that you have to carry your own tray of food to your table, you always needed to tip the servers who bring you refills on your drink, extra silverware or napkins or just offer a friendly smile. Never stiff these guys - they were awesome.
After I left home to attend college, it was years before I stepped foot in a Luby’s again. I had left Luby's in the past and moved on to places that served beer or where I could order from a drive-thru and take the food home to eat while watching cartoons at home.
I’m not sure why, exactly, I decided to go back to Luby's a few years ago. Maybe I was feeling nostalgic for the past, maybe I was just craving some liver and onions with a side of cabbage. Either way, I stepped into a Luby’s for the first time in a decade in 2015. Let me tell you, brothers and sisters, it was like going home.
I scoffed at the offer of a LuAnn Platter. Fill my tray up with all the heapings, I proclaimed. I added my slice of pie, plus two packets of butter. I had just gotten paid, after all. I made my way to my table and proceeded to feast upon my homecooked bounty of tasty vittles.
I was sitting there, enjoying my food in personal solitude, when I heard a young girl at a table next to me ask her dad a question that broke my heart.
“Daddy,” she said. “Why is that sad man eating by himself?”
I was embarrassed at the moment but now, a few years later, I have no shame. Of course, I would go to Luby’s by myself. A proper Lube Job is, after all, a very personal matter. I'm glad I was able to make a final visit to Luby's. I said my goodbyes and now, five years later, I truly am a sad man, eating all by himself.
Goodbye, Luby’s. May I see you in Restaurant Heaven.
Fuddruckers can burn in hell, though. Don't charge me more for a hamburger just because I have the option of pooring melted cheese from a spigot to my heart's content.