With independently-owned restaurants gradually becoming a thing of the past, it's comforting to know there is a delightful, country-style cafeteria on Main St. in Tucker that was featured on Guy Fieri’s show, Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. With its genuine family atmosphere, Matthews Cafeteria has been making both customers and employees feel at home since 1955.
The restaurant is located next to the railroad tracks on Main St. in Tucker; co-owner Mike Greene described one of his more unusual customers: “the train that crosses Tucker stops here often. The engineer jumps out of his cab, comes into the cafeteria, picks up food and hops back on the train," he said, adding, "we have one loyal customer who says, “'our food is so good, it stops trains.'”
Bill Matthews started his cafeteria in 1955. His son-in-law Charles Greene bought the business from him in 1979 after marrying his daughter Alice and working for him for several years. With help from his wife, he has continued to prepare original family recipes accompanied by spontaneous friendliness and a great sense of humor. You can readily see that Charles’ son Mike Greene, now the third generation to run Matthews, carries on the family tradition of warmth and laughter.
Many people eat at Matthews twice a day and a few sturdy souls go there for all three daily meals. On an average day, there are between 1800 and 1900 hundred people served. The place bubbles over with affable conversations salted with old timers teasing one another with the kind of sarcastic jibes shared by friends.
Charles Greene explained they have become a favorite for supplying the catering for many corporations who have conferences and meetings in Atlanta. "Those who come from other parts of the country – especially up North, want to taste Southern cooking,” he said.
Unlike many fast food restaurants where food is pre-prepared or frozen, the vegetables at Matthews are all freshly cooked. A different menu is prepared every day that includes five or six meats and ten different vegetables. 200 pounds of catfish are served every Friday and the place is known for turkey and stuffing made with corn bread muffins. “The extra crust on the muffins is what makes it so good,” said Mike Greene. Customer favorites also include fried pork chops, mashed potatoes, freshly baked biscuits and homemade banana pudding.
Depending on the fruits in season, you can have a cobbler made of peach, apple, blackberry or strawberry. Any of these have a tendency to fly off the dessert counter, according to Greene. Despite Southern cooking being criticized for being fattening, this kitchen has not used hydrogenated oils in 30 years; Greene eats in his cafeteria twice a day and assured us that he weighs less now than he did in high school.
There is little doubt that the family has been able to sustain a welcoming environment that serves consistently good food. The people return in droves. Visiting Matthews is like a trip back into the values of the fifties. Matthews is open five days a week from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. They provide catering and holiday menus.