Pros: Freshly prepared and reasonably priced
Cons: Food preparation may vary from place to place
Do I dare tell my husband that there is a third party through which I indulge my desires for something fresh that makes my lips tingle, my mouth water, and fills an emptiness within me? It's enough to make one blush, especially given the association that said third party's name generally has with the senior citizen population. But I will spill my secret to you all instead.
So, just who is this third party? I?ll tell you. It?s Luby?s Cafeteria. And let it be known that this isn?t your school-aged child?s cafeteria either.
Weaving through typically lengthy lines, peering over silver-tinted coifs, through super-strength prescription glasses, and around baggy golf shorts with poorly matched socks and deck shoes, I ultimately arrive at a mouth-watering display of fresh salads, attractive standard entrees, steaming vegetables, and tempting desserts. The time happens to be lunchtime, so I can slip inconspicuously through the line as the crowd is a little less geriatric and a little more John and Jane Q. Public. First, though, I grab my warm tray that is still moist from the dishwasher and my wrapped silverware so that I can later carry my food to my table safely.
Behind the glass are the salads all standing on fresh ice and surrounded by decorative lettuce leaves. They all look marvelous ranging from green salad with your choice of dressings, carrot and raisin salad, Greek salad, pasta salad, spinach greens, Caesar salad, and fruit salad. It?s summer, and fresh fruits abound, so I opt for the fruit salad today. To my surprise, Luby?s gets fresh with me right then and there in the line! The fruit salads normally use frozen peaches, but due to a bumper peach crop this year, fresh peaches fill my bowl accompanied by grapes, bananas, and plums. They were all fresh! I conceal my look of guilty pleasure and slide my tray in rhythm with the others down the line.
I pass some Jell-o and tapioca, but not being a fan of those, I skip past them and head straight for the entrees.
The assembly line of the entree staff working in synchronicity with the employees replenishing the steam tables and those who pile plates high with vegetables almost looks like I?m watching a twelve noon cuckoo clock show. A little lady asks me what I want, and I must make my decision quickly. Do I opt for the full portion meat platter, the Luann platter that comes with a ? portion of meat, two vegetables, and some bread, the manager?s special that varies from promotion to promotion, or the veggie platter that offers three equal portions of vegetables? That?s a tough call given that chicken fried steak, fried chicken, baked chicken, baked fish almondine, salmon croquettes, fresh cut roast beef, turkey and dressing, liver and onions, and fried haddock fillets are all beckoning me. Today isn?t enchilada day, which is on Tuesday, so I decide on the Luann fried haddock no tartar sauce. My plate is then placed in the hands of another worker who asks me which vegetables I would like to go with my fish. This is yet another challenging decision. Through the steamy glass, I must decide between baked macaroni and cheese, freshly mashed potatoes that are the consistency of heavy cream, fried okra, steamed broccoli, green beans, spinach, sweet potatoes, and sweet yellow corn. Their macaroni and cheese is a personal favorite of mine, and I try to balance it out with a serving of green beans.
Adjacent to the vegetables are their piping hot breads. Cornbread, jalapeno bread, cinnamon rolls, and their signature yeast rolls are always available.
Last but not least is their dessert section. Since I have fruit salad on my tray, I make the executive decision to avoid having a dessert this time although it is truly difficult to ignore the graham cracker-covered cheesecake, lemon meringue pie, coconut cream pie, fresh strawberry pie, fresh strawberry shortcake (when in season), pound cake, custard, and chocolate icebox pie.
I grab a glass of unsweetened tea to help wash down my meal, and I am given a ticket. My dinner comes out to less than $9, and I search the dining room to find a place to sit.
One drawback to Luby?s is that the food?s preparation tends to vary from restaurant to restaurant. As a result, I have been disappointed in the taste of one dish over the way another location will prepare it, but it is still fresh nonetheless. Some of the newer establishments offer freshly grilled burgers and other made to order items that the older ones aren?t equipped to serve.
For those on the go, you can call, fax, or place your order in person, and it will be packaged up in a convenient reheatable carton.
Catering is also available for large groups, and they are open for service on major holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter.
The dining rooms are decently maintained with tables bussed frequently. The courtesy carts that offer me more tea, extra utensils, or a take home container are few and far between, but the staff is friendly when I approach them with my requests.
As always, my food is hot and fresh, and I relish it as I enjoy yet another rendezvous with me, myself, and I at Luby?s sans my husband. Should he discover their ?freshness? with me, I think that my waistline will suffer far more than my marriage will.