So the Luby’s Cafeteria on Buffalo Speedway has finally bitten the dust. Thanks to the observant journalists over at swamplot.com, I knew this day was coming soon (somehow, a new HEB will be squeezed onto the site). In December 2007, the bulldozers and back-hoes dispatched the empty building that once housed MY Luby’s, and today, the parking lot and foundation were demolished. By no means an architectural treasure, the Luby’s at 5215 Buffalo Speedway was a neighborhood landmark. It’s been shuttered since 2005 thanks to the Pappas family reorganization, but plenty are still open for business. I can’t remember my last meal there, but I do remember, even at Noon on a weekday, why it was lovingly referred to as “Old People Luby’s.” It was that way long before the assisted living facility was built right behind it.
Of course, just about everyone there was “old people” when my family had our weekly Sunday dinners there in the 1970s and 1980s. As young boy, I always got fried fish, fried okra, macaroni & cheese, pecan pie, and a glass of whole milk. To this day, my younger brother never misses a trip to Luby’s when he visits from Chicago – he gets the same order, but with red Jell-O and no vegetables. He uses the new-fangled take-out counter, while I’m a dining room guy. Way, way back, my parents assure me that it was Romana’s Cafeteria before it was bought out. This sounds familiar, but I can’t even picture their sign. The Luby’s logo burns too brightly in my mind’s eye.And if you lived inside the Loop, this was the go-to Luby’s before so-called “Gay Luby’s” opened on Waugh at West Gray in the early 1990s. The Luby’s on Old Spanish Trail near the Astrodome seemed further away than it actually was. The one on Post Oak has changed very little, although I can’t find garlic bread anymore. I haven’t been to any of the snazzy, newly-designed Luby’s, but I know I would pick a LuAnn Platter over Chili’s or TK Pootertoot’s or TGI Tuesday’s any day of the week. The green cloth napkins are the same, the mints are the same too. I still politely say “no thanks” to the loneliest person there – the salad bar lady. Recently, I’ve found it strange to pay BEFORE I eat. No more worrying about losing your receipt during dinner!
This was also the Rockets’ Luby’s. The proximity to the Summit ensured that on any given day, someone from the World Championship team would be in line pushing a tray. Maybe that’s why they had those two jumbo wood doors in front – although I never remember them unlocked. In 1994, the Buffalo Speedway Luby’s was the very same one where Houston Rocket Vernon Maxwell was arrested for allegedly waving an handgun during an argument in the parking lot. Years later, I would occasionally see the legendary Clyde Drexler quietly eating dinner with his family. I wonder which Luby’s he goes to now.
-James Glassman, Houstonian