Families queued up to pile trays with roast chicken and dressing, beef liver and onions, fried fish, and a local favorite—chicken tetrazzini—at the Luby’s restaurant in the Redbird neighborhood of Dallas. One man joked that he should’ve gone to Burger King instead, as he settled in behind the dozens waiting in line on Sunday afternoon.
Manuel Veliz popped out from behind the counter with gel-tipped hair and a black Adidas-logoed face mask. A chef named Jean has been there seventeen years, he told me, and regular customers ask about two-decade mainstay Kate anytime she’s not working. But in recent months, Veliz, the restaurant’s 42-year-old manager, had been fielding his team’s questions about their uncertain futures, after Luby’s shareholders voted overwhelmingly last fall to put the 75-year-old Texas institution out of business. All of its locations were soon to close.
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Last week brought much better news for Veliz. The cafeteria chain announced it had at last found a buyer for its brand and 32 of its remaining Texas locations, half of which are clustered in Houston and San Antonio, in a $28.7 million deal with Chicago-based food and technology entrepreneur Calvin Gin. The deal is expected to be finalized by the end of August.
Unable to contend with debts that had ballooned to $35 million, Luby’s had been on the hunt for someone to take over its operations and assets since June 2020. The company’s announcement at the time noted that “there can be no assurance one or more sale transactions will result from this process.” A couple of those words stuck out to those who grew up dining on LuAnn platters: “no assurance.” The restaurant beloved by generations of Texans looked like it might well fold altogether.