Listen closely, and you can hear teens and SMU students joking about the Park Cities’ worst-kept secret: Anyone detained overnight in Highland Park or University Park gets a meal from Bubba’s.
But how did this tradition come into place?
“There wasn’t a whole lot of thought that went into it,” University Park spokesman Steve Mace said. “A few years back, there weren’t as many food places around.”
But for Bubba’s, the decision was highly strategic.
“The original agreement with University Park was to provide meals for prisoners under the requirement that the officer had to walk inside the store,” Bubba’s manager Harold Cox said. “That was a cheap way of getting security — if anyone had ill plans toward us, they’d see an officer.”
Cox estimates that the deal probably started in 1996. As for Highland Park, the town’s contract with Bubba’s has been in place since April 2007. But for right now, there’s a little hitch.
“Since we are without a facility now, Addison Police Department is where we transport persons that have been arrested,” Department of Public Safety Sgt. Lance Koppa said. “We anticipate continuing this agreement after the Town Hall remodel project is completed.”
So how does it all go down? Mace said that when a prisoner is being held, an officer will go by Bubba’s and pick up an order. But they may do other duties after that, so the meals aren’t necessarily hot when detainees get their hands on those Styrofoam boxes.
“I know that for folks in the holding cell, Bubba’s may be the furthest thing from their minds,” Mace said. “It’s kind of cold and dark, and not a fun place to be. It’s not the way you want to get Bubba’s.”
What do they get exactly? For breakfast, Bubba’s provides a sausage-and-egg biscuit with orange juice. For lunch or dinner, it’s milk, four tenders, a roll, and a sans-utensil veggie such as fries. If there’s a prisoner with diabetes, Bubba’s skips the milk or orange juice and goes all-veggie.
In terms of finances, Mace estimates that the meals cost University Park roughly $1,000 every eight or nine months. For Bubba’s, the goal is not profit-oriented.
“We don’t make money off the meals,” Cox said. “The city does assist us quite a bit. We try to maintain that relationship.”