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Served up family style
Whats the allure of cafeteria-style Southern food? All the love that goes into it.
Paden Smith, 13, a home schooled eighth-grader from Brunswick, chooses some food Monday from the buffet line at Curt's Cafeteria in Oakwood. - photo by SARA GUEVARA


It's just a family affair for Southern-style cafeteria restaurants in Hall County.

Curt's Cafeteria in Flowery Branch, Reid's Cafe in Murrayville and Longstreet Cafe in Gainesville are all family-owned operations. This adds to their Southern charm - and tasty down-home cooking.

Bob Flowers, the longtime night manager at Curt's Cafeteria, said there is one main reason why the Southern cafeteria-style restaurants are popular.

"Because Southerners like to eat," he said. "The same people are waiting to get in every day at 4:30 p.m."

Flowers said the crowd that frequents the restaurant varies from professionals to construction workers.

"Day time it's working people for lunch," Flowers said about the 20-year-old eatery. "You know, secretaries ... we have a lot of construction people, and evenings it's older people and families."

For breakfast, the restaurant offers eight to 10 meats and 10 or 11 other items "like eggs and grits, hash browns," according to Flowers.

The dinner service has about six meats and 12 vegetables and Flowers said the most popular lunch and dinner items are chicken tenders, country fried steak and baked chicken.

It takes about five employees at night and 15 to 18 employees in the morning to produce Curt's Southern-style feasts. They arrive at the restaurant around 4 a.m.

Just about 10 miles from Curt's is Longstreet Cafe, owned by Tim Bunch, who also has his family in on the restaurant business. Bunch said Southern cafeterias' charm involves the memories of grandma's cooking.

"It's kind of what grandmama had on Sundays," said Bunch, who has owned Longstreet for 10 years. "The fried chicken and the creamed potatoes ... Southern people had grown up in a time that they worked hard and I guess food was a comfort for them.

"Most everybody in the South used to have cows and chickens and in the summertime they would eat their harvest and everybody on Sunday would go to grandmama's."

P. Martin Ellard, a retired Gainesville CPA, has eaten at Longstreet Cafe for years and said he goes to the restaurant at 7 a.m. Monday through Friday for breakfast.

"There are several men there at the table and we just have a lot of fun talking," he said.

Ellard said he varies his breakfast items, but his favorites for lunch and dinner are corn on the cob, sweet potatoes, corn bread and "‘course their banana pudding is hard to beat," he said.

Bunch, who recently opened a second location on Pearl Nix Parkway, boasts fresh vegetables and hand-peeled potatoes and the restaurant's ever-popular fried chicken.

But at Reid's Cafe, Christy Barker said their cat head biscuits are locally famous.

Every morning her father, Eddie Rundles makes the huge fresh biscuits for Reid's Cafe regulars.

"I've even got people that come to the drive through that just says, ‘Give me my usual,'" said Barker, Reid's Cafe manager. "‘I can't even remember what my usual is.'

She said the popularity of her family's 12-year-old restaurant is the atmosphere.

"They all come in every morning; they all come in and eat together and it's the same old people," she said. "It's like the whole town gets together."

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