The New York Times may have declared the camel rider as Jacksonville’s primary contribution to the dining world; however, another curious culinary invention was created here, too, equally deserving of your attention. Let me regale you with a story of my recent visit to the forgotten enclave of Lubi’s.
The Southside location (11633 Beach Blvd.) is a well-preserved time capsule maintained so that one can study the sort of mad gastronomic science once practiced in Jacksonville’s commercial kitchens. The menu boasts six versions of a hot sub aptly called The Lubi. The base is made up of browned ground sirloin, American cheese, onions and your choice of mayo, mustard, and hot or sweet peppers. The bread is a mix between a giant hot dog bun and hoagie roll. Variants include the Mozzarella Lubi (with sour cream, mozzarella cheese and marinara), Mean Machine (with lettuce, tomato, mozzarella cheese and Italian dressing) and Stroganoff Lubi (with sour cream, mushrooms, gravy and mozzarella cheese).
I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of tequila-filled night inspired someone to bake an oversized hot dog bun, stuff it full of condiments, onions and ground beef, and top it with a Hamburger Helper-inspired stroganoff. My invitation to that party must have gotten lost in the mail, sadly.
I decided to dip my toe in the water by ordering the comparatively tame Our Famous Lubi (topped with Kraft American cheese) with mayo, mustard and hot peppers. My Lubi artist began to construct this meaty delight on a sheet of aluminum foil, and suddenly things became quite interesting when she whisked my meal toward a microwave in order to “steam the bun.” Is she really going to put that aluminum foil-wrapped meat dog in the microwave? Oh my God, she’s going to burn this place to the ground!
Is this how it ends? Everything I thought I knew about modern science flew out the window as 30 mesmerizing seconds ticked by without that microwave (and the surrounding kitchen) bursting into flames. The only logical conclusion I could come to was that the doors of Lubi’s open some kind of space/time vortex where the laws of physics are manipulated by sorcerers called Lubiloyees. (Or that the aluminum foil-looking wrap actually contains no real metals.)
The experience of eating The Lubi goes just how you’d imagine it would, except that you’ll need a fork (the walls of this hot-dog-hoagie-bun get soaked quite expeditiously by a combination of hot pepper juice and beef fat).
In historical context, Jacksonville has always been known as a drinking town. It makes perfect sense that a tasty item like The Lubi was invented to soak up so many of the night’s mistakes. If you enjoy scratching your historical curiosity, or perhaps were over-served the night before, a trip to Lubi’s is just the thing for a cure. Actually, it’s good any time.