Sweet Tomatoes (also Souplantation; evidently there has been some kind of merger) is perhaps the most successful chain restaurant in Atlanta focusing on the soups and salads market. These are restaurants where people line up to get a plate full of lettuce, carrots, celery, and other sliced vegetables, plus dressing perhaps, as the focus of the meal. There are a few Sweet Tomatoes in Atlanta, but not too many. Unlike McDonalds or Kentucky Fried Chicken, they seem to expand slowly and selectively. The closest one to Snellville that I know of is the Duluth restaurant, close to Gwinnett Place. This review will largely focus on that location.

Over the years Sweet Tomatoes has expanded their repetoire to include prepared salads.   These will be at the front of the line, before any other vegetable choices can be made. At the end they now have chicken strips you can add, for a small fee. We tend to ignore these, because one of the staple soups of Sweet Tomatoes is their chicken soup, which has much the same meats for free.

I’ve eaten here so often that I’m liable to forget something in my familiarity with this place. If it happens please forgive me. But once you’re through the line you have an abundance of other foods at your disposal. There are usually 5 or 6 soups, of which chicken soup and a chili are staples and the rest rotate. There are muffins, small cornbreads, foccacia, whole grain breads of various kinds, and usually a sourdough bread. There are slices of melons available, usually watermelon, cantelope, and honey dew melon. There is frozen yogurt, with sparkles. There are usually three different pastas served, usually in rich alfredo style sauces.  There was also a bowl of chocolate chip cookies this last time I went.

Some things to note about the Duluth location: the fancy flavored lemonades are available, but you have to ask waitstaff to get some of those. Otherwise it’s mostly soft drinks in the main drink island. Seating: there are a lot of booths, and some tables in the middle. The restaurant can easily handle dozens of patrons.

Verdict: The best and closest of the soup and salad chains, and highly recommended.

Sweet Tomatoes
3505 Mall Boulevard
Duluth, GA 30096
(770) 418-1148

Sweet Tomatoes on Urbanspoon

Matthews Cafeteria is in a low lying, single story building along Main Street in Tucker, next to the railroad tracks. A decade ago the building, the cafeteria and its food was a landmark in Tucker and it retains that status to this day. These days, having been featured on Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives”, it has suddenly acquired a fame it didn’t have before. And I have to be grateful for Matthews new ‘rock star’ status, because without it I couldn’t have convinced my wife to go back there and try it once again.

We were lucky: the line merely began right by the trays and silverware this time. It’s not uncommon to see the line out the door. As in a classic cafeteria, you get to choose what you want to eat. It begins with salads and desserts, proceeds through to the entrees, then sides, then drinks. I had the chicken pot pie, my wife and daughter had the fried chicken. My accompaniments were turnip greens and green beans, my wife had green beans and carrots, my daughter mash potatoes, gravy and fried okra. Serving size, for the most part, varies between large and extra large. The chicken breast my wife received was enormous.

The seating inside is plain, red and white checked tablecloths on tables that easily seat 4. Need more space? Scoot some tables together. The food? I think their sides are excellent, and they are made in the southern style. I tried every side we ordered and they all were very good. The pot pie was extremely good, real chunks of chicken (and the occasional small bone) in the serving. I had a bit of fried drumstick, also good. The desserts suffer a bit compared to the excellent entrees and sides, but overall, the food is quite good.

Afterwards, I was stuffed.

Verdict: Highly recommended, excellent food, exceptional value, if you can get there during their regular hours.

Matthews Cafeteria
2229 Main Street
Tucker GA 30084
(770) 491-9577

Matthews Cafeteria on Urbanspoon

PS — For those who wonder, the episode of “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” that features Matthews can be found on Youtube. And Wayne Wolf, a food blogger who started about the same time I did, has a nice brief review of Matthews.