Heating Up

Now at Luby's: Jalapeño Mac 'n' Cheese

Luby's is kicking its classic side dish up a notch.

Videography by Katharine Shilcutt September 16, 2014

Luann platter with liver and onions, fried okra, and jalapeño mac 'n' cheese.

Given enough time in any given social situation, my mother will inevitably tell one of her favorite stories about the time I embarrassed her in front of a dining room full of people at Luby's by peering around as she picked out a table for us, noticing the general age of the fellow diners in our immediate vicinity, and accusing my mother in the incredibly piercing voice of a self-righteous 7-year-old: "MOM, WHY ARE WE SITTING IN THE OLD PEOPLE SECTION?"

I share this story now not to diminish my mother's repertoire (trust me, as with any mom, she has plenty of other stories involving me embarrassing her in front of strangers), but to address the fact that Luby's has always had a bit of reputation as an older person's restaurant of choice. As I've gotten older myself, I've come to appreciate the perks that come with dining in the "old people section": it's calm and quiet, the food is consistent, the service is kind and efficient.

But Luby's isn't necessarily content to register on people's radars as an old fogey type of place—and I don't blame them. Luby's wants to remain relevant, and to that end has employed a number of changes over the years: trolleys no longer trundle around the dining room, as the service has been updated to a more typical server-style model; when it can, the restaurant brings in produce from area farms to embrace the farm-to-table movement as much as possible; and in its latest move, Luby's has kicked an old classic up a notch by adding jalapeños to its mac 'n' cheese.

This new side dish is now available at all Luby's across Houston. In addition to the fresh, crunchy red and green jalapeño peppers laced throughout the pasta, it's also topped with crumbled jalapeño cornbread (in lieu of the popular crunchy breadcrumbs that crown so many other updated mac 'n' cheese dishes). It looks and sounds great. The thing is, though, that the original mac 'n' cheese is still far superior. I didn't dislike my jalapeño mac, but I did find myself wishing I'd ordered the plain version—though this is as much a tribute to Luby's superior mac 'n' cheese than anything else.

Either way, though, I appreciate that Luby's embraces change as it ages alongside us, its patrons—as long as it leaves the classics intact while it does. This is why we go to Luby's, after all: for Luann platters full of liver and onions, for plastic glasses of sweet tea, and the serene calm of the old people section.

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