The DeKalb Difference Blog

Matthews Cafeteria: A Taste of Southern Heritage in Tucker, Georgia

Matthews Cafeteria is a beloved institution in the Tucker community, where it’s served up traditional Southern fare for more than 60 years.

The restaurant has been featured on the Food Networks’ Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives with Guy Fieri, Travel Channel’s Food Paradise, listed as one of the best Meat and Three’s in the country by Paula Deen Magazine, covered by Atlanta Magazine for Michael’s biscuit technique and has received many more accolades including a Best of Georgia Award for Southern Food in 2021.

For six decades, this beloved eatery has stood the test of time, bearing witness to the cultural and socioeconomic shifts of the South. Among the most recent changes is the influx of Hispanic immigrants, bringing a new energy and diversity to the area. At Matthews Cafeteria, the staff and customers reflect this melting pot of cultures.

Over the decades, one thing remains constant: The tradition of breaking bread over vibrant conversation and delicious homemade Southern food. At Matthews Cafeteria, politics are left at the door, and all are welcome to come together and share in the warmth of good food and community.

At this “meat ‘n’ three”, you can grab a tray, fill it with made-from-scratch chicken pot pie, stuffed bell peppers, fried okra and cornbread, then make your way to the tables covered with red-checkered tablecloths to chat with locals.

Located on Main Street in the heart of downtown Tucker, in DeKalb County, Matthews Cafeteria has been a local staple since 1955, feeding a loyal customer base and thriving as the region has gone through historic changes.

Michael Greene, the current owner and culinary lead at Matthews Cafeteria, inherited the beloved establishment from his grandparents-in-law, Louise and Bill Matthews. His wife and co-owner Jenna Greene grew up going to the restaurant.

The couple keeps the family legacy alive by serving up delicious homemade Southern cuisine daily, crafted with the same care and passion passed down from generation to generation.

Michael says that Southern food is more than just a meal, it’s a reflection of the rich heritage and history of the region, a taste of home that he proudly brings to every plate.

When asked about the meaning of Southern food to him, Michael, a passionate food historian, says Southern food holds a special place in his heart and the hearts of those who crave it. “Southern food is clearly defined in people’s minds as comforting and familiar,” he says. “It’s like a warm hug, reminding you of family and the simpler things in life. It’s the taste of tradition and slowing down.”

Michael is a true believer in using only the freshest and highest quality ingredients, ensuring that each bite is bursting with flavor. He also sources from local businesses when possible. One of the most popular dishes on the menu is the country fried steak, made with steak from Tucker Meat Market, the beloved neighborhood butcher shop.

Michael understands that the key to the restaurant relies not just on fresh ingredients but also with the employees. Every day, the kitchen hums with activity as he and his team create delectable treats from scratch such as the Lemon Icebox Pie, which is made with a 100-year-old recipe and a two-day process, with Michael and staff legend Janice, who’s been with the cafeteria for 38 years, at the helm.

Michael says working at the restaurant is a true labor of love because it’s such a labor-intensive business. From the early morning hours, when the chefs and staff arrive at 5 AM, to the last dish washed at night, the dedication and effort that goes into every dish is palpable. Michael embraces the hard work and has built a team that does the same. Because his employees work together as a team – not just as employer and employees – the result is a low turnover rate. Many employees have worked at Matthews for 15 years or more.

Michael says Matthews Cafeteria’s success is due in large part to its location in DeKalb County. The county has experienced a significant increase in population in recent years, and is known for its diversity, fast-paced economy, and abundance of amenities and attractions. This growth has attracted people to the area and helped the restaurant to thrive.

He added the incorporation of Tucker as a city was a win for the community because it brought more businesses to Main Street and re-energized downtown Tucker. More restaurants opened which in turn attracted more people. It’s been a great business ecosystem, Michael says.

Michael says Matthews Cafeteria has enjoyed six decades of being part of the Tucker community and he intends it to be there for decades more.

If you’re inspired by the Matthews Cafeteria story to open a business in DeKalb County, take the first step today! Reach out to Katrina Young, the Business Retention and Expansion Manager of Decide DeKalb, to begin your venture.