It was all not surprising, even if worse than hoped. Luby’s does not serve good food, in my opinion nor has it ever really done so. I wrote three guidebooks that highlighted the best inexpensive restaurants in the Houston, Houston Dining on the Cheap. The first was published in 2002, the third and last one in 2007. Luby’s was not included in any edition nor was it ever seriously considered for inclusion. Cafeterias like Luby’s did not feature the most interesting fare, and usually didn’t or don’t use anywhere near the best quality ingredients. And then those ingredients are used in preparation that were left sitting in steam trays for a while, very rarely helping its enjoyment. Items cooked to order elsewhere were usually done so in batches well beforehand and left to sit. The food and value at these weren’t nearly good enough, especially in a city like Houston, which is not only one of the very best restaurant cities in the country, but also most affordable. Why would I, or anyone who really enjoys food, go to Luby’s when they could go to a taqueria, a bahn mi or pho stop, one featuring well-made Cajun cookery, or a number of other types of restaurants, even those serving the Southern-rooted fare like Luby’s serving tastier food that was also usually cheaper. The competition greatly hastened the demise of cafeterias, sooner in Houston than in lesser restaurant cities in the state.
Luby’s had its partisans, though. I enjoy reading Mimi Swartz’s monthly columns about Houston and Texas in the New York Times. She is a longtime contributor to Texas Monthly who appears from her writing to live in the Heights and in it recently wrote a paean to Luby’s. After reading the article, I began to doubt her judgement. I should try, I will try, to limit that assessment to her food likes.
Luby’s board voted to dissolve the struggling company last month. It was recently reported that local restaurateurs Christopher and Harris Pappas of Pappas restaurant fame, and who had run Luby’s since 2001 and own a substantial stake in the corporation, filed paperwork so that they may possibly bid to buy its assets. After much regional publicity about its demise, we might actually still see some Luby’s in the future. I certainly don’t need to, nor its disturbingly square fish.
Entrance to Luby's offices, for now, in downtown Houston