Why I Love Kuby’s but Hate S.M.U.
When asked why I ended up enrolling in the University of Texas state school system, the truth is — my S.A.T. scores weren’t high enough to get into Rice.
Sure, I’m proud that I graduated from a state university. But part of me still peaks across the imaginary crevasse separating the haves from have-nots, connivingly curious about life on the other side. As with many kids who grew up working-class who spent our adolescence checking price tags and scrambling for lunch money, we couldn’t afford the high tuition to a private school. Our parents weren’t rich enough. We weren’t quite smart enough to get academic scholarships. And, we lacked the talent to play sports or do something else creative to get the tuition-free ride. So, stuck on the poor side of the tracks and frowned upon by trust-fund BMW-driving brats, that left some scars. I admit this experience fueled a personal resentment and class awareness which remains to this day.
Wait — wasn’t this article supposed to be about “Why I hate SMU?”
Yep. I’ll get to this in just a moment. Hang on.
I wanted badly to get into Rice University, which is located in Houston. Rice was really super cool. It had a small enrollment compared to most other major colleges — only about 5,000 students total. But Rice produced many extraordinary graduates and also enjoyed a stellar academic reputation. Rice was widely considered to be Texas’ version of an Ivy League school. But what appealed to me most was Rice’s scandalous counterculture. Sometime during the late 1970s at a college football halftime show, the Rice University marching band paraded into a formation in the shape of — now imagine the utter shock of this — a giant marijuana leaf. Then, before 20,000 or so rain-spattered fans huddled in disbelief in an 80,000-seat stadium the Rice Owls marching band blasted out the song “Mary Jane,” by funk-rocker Rick James. While bands elsewhere around the country played stale Broadway tunes and marched lock-step in strict military formation, Rice did the unthinkable. I wasn’t part of the drug culture, but I still looked at that bravado as something that I wanted to be a part of. Students being crazy and free-spirited and having the times of their lives — all while getting a first-class education. That was for me. Where do I sign up? The movie Animal House should have been filmed at Rice.
Side Note: Rice’s academic deeds are equally contentious. Consider the controversial report issued a few years ago by the James Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University, which obliterates the failed “War on Drugs.” [READ MORE HERE]
Rive had two academic counterparts within the state of Texas. TCU, in Fort Worth, was very much like Rice so far as size goes, but severely lacked its academic reputation. Plus, TCU was Viagra hard for Bible-thumping Christianity. TCU is, after all, Texas *Christian* University. Even though the city was just 30 miles from Dallas, it might as well have been in the suburbs of Outer Mongolia. I loathed everything about Fort Forth, as did just about everyone else from Dallas. So, there was no way I’d ever go to TCU. To me, Fort Worth was a stupid hick town. No one from Dallas ever went to TCU. Not even Christians. It just didn’t happen.
The other upscale private university within Texas many of us wanted to attend was Southern Methodist University — “SMU” for short. The red-bricked SMU campus is fortressed within the Highland Park and University Park sections of super-snooty North Dallas. It’s Beverly Hills sans the palm trees smoking a crack pipe while riding a polo pony wearing an argyle sweater with a bow tie. Envision SMU’s campus on Mockingbird Lane and every stately manner house and residency within a three-mile radius being worth at least a couple of million dollars — and way up. It’s Dallas’ version of The Hamptons or Martha’s Vineyard or Palm Beach, only with far more ritzy homes and lots more right-wing rich assholes. Indeed, even though Dallas is solidly Democratic politically speaking, this is one of the most conservative and uber-wealthy neighborhoods in America. The musty homes and the musty people and the musty attitudes come straight out of the ’50s — the 1650’s. That’s SMU.
To be fair, SMU has produced an interesting gaggle of graduates — from former first lady Laura Bush (who seems like a really nice person) to television mogul Aaron Spelling (who produced many of the shitty big-haired bimbo-brained television shows that most of us grew up loving and addicted to during the 70s and 80s)….from H.L. Hunt (once the richest man in the world) to his son Lamar Hunt (who founded the American Football League and owned the Kansas City Chiefs)….from actor Powers Boothe (who died recently — R.I.P.) to Oscar-winning actress Kathy Bates (who was cast in her first movie after someone saw her performing in a college play). SMU also produced lots of great football players — from “Dandy” Don Meredith to Eric Dickerson, plus many more.
SMU wasn’t always despised as it is today. During the 1970s, my father took me to most of their college football games, which were played then at the old blue and white striped Cotton Bowl until SMU illegally went pro and moved into the horrors of football warehousing — Texas Stadium. The Mustangs were plenty terrible way back then. But they were gutsy. They were almost always competitive and wildly entertaining. Seems like SMU lost every game I attended by a score of about 45-36, but we always sat comfortably 25 rows up on the 45-yard line since barely half of the cavernous stadium was filled with fans of a lousy losing football team.
Eventually, SMU and its corrupt alumni living in football-mad Dallas decided they were fed up with losing all the time and didn’t care any longer for playing in a stadium smack dab in the middle of a Black neighborhood, known as Fair Park. So, they broke just about every rule in the college football rulebook in order to build themselves into a national title contender. Before the conversion over to the dark side, no good athlete wanted to go to SMU, especially since the in-state powers Texas and Texas A&M were so strong and to the north Oklahoma basically used the entire state of Texas as it’s minor league football farm system. So, SMU had to get super creative. They slipped football players envelopes full of cash and gave others new cars to drive — just to play at a rich school in North Dallas.
The tipping point for my loathing of SMU and its horrible graduates (except for Kathy Bates) and the start of my declaration of class warfare came during, appropriately enough, during a football game. While attending the annual SMU-Texas rivalry when both teams were legitimate national champion contenders, I experienced a true moment of personal and philosophical epiphany.
At that game, on the opposite side of the field (I was sitting in the University of Texas section), the SMU student section unfurled a huge banner like 50-feet long. It was large enough for everyone in the stadium to see. The banner was unfurled. It read: “Our maids and butlers went to Texas.”
What the fuck! Hey, it was bad enough SMU openly cheated to recruit players. Everyone knew those crimes were going on, which ultimately led to the hammer being thrown down called “the death penalty,” which all but obliterated SMU’s football program. It was bad enough that the perfectly sculpted students who all looked like Tucker Calrson were all spoiled brats who never worked a day in their lives. It was really bad that SMU was, academically speaking, an inferior school to Texas (quick — name anyone from SMU who’s ever done shit — except for Kathy Bates?).
I hate SMU. I still hate SMU. SMU sucks. Unless I’m betting on SMU. Then, I cheer for SMU and I become SMU’s biggest, fattest, poorest cheerleader.
I love Kuby’s.
Kuby’s is a German-themed restaurant that first opened in 1961. The family-owned market and eatery nestled in the corner of Snider Plaza, due northwest of the SMU campus off Hillcrest, draws a steady clientele of both on and off campus loyalists — including me. My first Kuby’s meal was sometime around 1978. Since then, I estimate that I’ve eaten at Kuby’s at least 60-70 times, including this my most recent visit.
Here’s my meal, ordered for lunch. Question: What do you think this cost?
Try this — $7.95
Wanna’ know the difference between good versus great? The Details.
The attention to details here is marvelous. Three piping hot house-made sausages of your choice. Two different kinds of mustard are served, including spicy. Not just one generous side of sauerkraut, but two sides — cut fresh from white cabbage and red cabbage. The German potato salad is warm and perfectly seasoned. Rye bread quartered served with real butter. A couple of pickles serve as garnish. Plus, a handy steak knife to make shoveling easier. This is absolute cheap meal perfection.
Dallas is the best city in the country for outstanding cheap eats (okay perhaps, Los Angeles ties for first). This is a city packed with stupendously tasty meals. Kuby’s is sort of the embodiment of affordable excellence, am out-of-the-way hermit for insider locals that many people probably have no idea exists, especially in restaurant-heavy Dallas, consistently melding high-quality ingredients with outstanding value.
The layout: Kuby’s is divided into two sections. There’s a neighborhood market with a butcher on the premises. European products are sold here. It was also something of a cultural center, for a while. For many years before the Internet existed and made international news and foreign languages easily accessible, this was practically the only place in Dallas you could pick up fresh copies of Der Spiegel or Frankfurter Allgemeiner. All the waitresses and staff spoke fluent German (and stil, from what I saw last week).
The restaurant — open for both lunch and early dinner — offers instant counter seating if things are too busy and heavy wooden lodge-style tables and chairs, as you might expect in the Bavarian Alps. Lunches are typically bustling. The counter is mostly stacked with people reading who pretty much keep to themselves. Tables are filled with college students and Highland Park locals.
My only disappointment with Kuby’s was the recent shocking discovery that they’d changed their traditional recipe for the classic German delicacy — Black Forest Cake. For decades as long as I could remember, Kuby’s used to serve the best Black Forest Cake in America. I usually ordered two slices. Yes, it was that great. The former cake used to be multi-layered with a perfect balance of white Bavarian cream, fresh tart cherries, chocolate sponge cake, and an unusual crunchy texture that made each bite of torte a screaming orgasm for the taste buds.
Inexplicably, Kuby’s altered the dessert. It wasn’t nearly as good. So, I asked the waitress about this and she said desserts are now made out of house. Perhaps it was the cost. Perhaps it was a matter of space. Perhaps it was the time it took to make fresh daily desserts for what amounts to a lowe profit margin. Whatever the reason, changing that classic recipe and bringing in an outside supplier was a huge and a big letdown. I wanted two slices. This time, I ordered just one. Mega-saddenz.
Even with the disappointment of dessert, my meal was almost as good as I remember. Kuby’s receives my highest recommendation for German food lovers who are looking for quick service and extraordinary value.
Kuby’s the only thing about SMU I love — oh yes, and also Kathy Bates.