Maybe you’re the type of person who watches videos of people deep-frying turkeys year-round, tucking them away on a Pinterest board full of Thanksgiving inspiration. Maybe you harvest your own cranberries to make a homemade sauce that bears no resemblance to the gelatinous, can-shaped blobs that define the holiday condiment in the popular imagination. Maybe you’ve got an overstuffed binder full of ideas for how to make the perfect ham glaze (Tabasco + grape jelly + brown mustard?) that you wait all year to deploy. Maybe you get up at dawn on Thanksgiving to hand-knead the dough for your famous rolls, risen twice before baking, with a pot of boiling sweet potatoes raring to go.
If so, cool. Click on to the next article and have a great Thanksgiving, and feel free to tag us in the Instagram photos of your feast. It sounds amazing.
If you’re still here, let’s get right to it: The holidays are stressful. They’re a lot of work. Thanksgiving requires some degree of sacrifice just a month before another, even more stressful holiday season for most Americans. If you’re not cooking Thanksgiving dinner, you’re probably traveling. If you’re not traveling, you’re enduring the company of uncles and cousins and friends-of-uncles and friends-of-cousins you’d rather not see, hoping that the football games are competitive enough to help you tune out political rants from people who, if not for a shared connection on your family tree, you’d probably cross the street to avoid.
At the same time, Thanksgiving dinner is a tradition. There’s something exceedingly lonely about sitting out a holiday entirely, boiling a pot of pasta on the stovetop to eat with butter and garlic powder with the lights off, while at homes across the nation, everyone else sits down to a holy storm of turkey, potatoes, cornbread dressing, and green bean casserole.
For those of us who want to experience the good parts of Thanksgiving, while also being able to avoid the parts of the holiday that spike our cortisol levels, there is an option. It’s called Luby’s.
Luby’s occupies a special place in the hearts of many Texans. The LuAnn Platter was a staple of a lot of people’s childhoods, a place where they watched their grandparents eat liver and onions while they enjoyed chicken-fried chicken and mac and cheese. It’s in more than forty cities in Texas, which means that it bypasses the occasional regional prejudices that Texans tend to exhibit. Luby’s tastes the same in El Paso and Beaumont, in Weslaco and Mesquite, in Austin and Longview. It’s a place that fills many of us with various feelings, and none of ’em are bad.
And they serve Thanksgiving dinner there, too. On years when financial, chronal, or geographic realities made a trip out of town to spend Thanksgiving with family impossible, I’ve looked for a way to have a Thanksgiving experience on my own terms, and Luby’s has been an above-average choice. There aren’t a lot of restaurants open on Thanksgiving—IHOP, Denny’s, Waffle House, and the like stay open, but who wants pancakes for Thanksgiving dinner?—but Luby’s would rate highly regardless of the competition.
The appeal of Luby’s on Thanksgiving is largely that it serves Thanksgiving dinner every other day of the year, too. It doesn’t need to gussy up its menu in an attempt to offer a special Thanksgiving menu. Roast turkey, mac and cheese, sweet potatoes, and rolls are a perfectly acceptable Luby’s meal on any given Thursday. It’s not veering off into unconventional territory, like the pasta-themed Thanksgiving dinner offered by Maggiano’s Little Italy (at $49.95 a plate!), or entrusting a restaurant that mostly does mediocre burgers to serve up a delicious turkey dinner (looking at you, Applebee’s)—rather, it’s the occupant of a perfect Venn diagram between “Thanksgiving” and “casual dining.”
There are times in a person’s life when a Luby’s Thanksgiving might not be the ideal way to celebrate. When there are young kids involved, or aging parents, or other responsibilities that make attending—or hosting—a Thanksgiving dinner in a family home the most responsible way to treat the holiday, then even the chain’s Thanksgiving special (turkey, dressing, two sides, and dessert for $11.49) is unlikely to provide an acceptable alternative. But if you spend a couple years celebrating the holiday with a few friends at Luby’s, where someone else has to do all the cooking and cleaning up and the only loud uncles in the building are not your own relatives, you might find that, when it’s time to celebrate Thanksgiving, that $11.49 special sounds pretty good.