Remembering The S&W Cafeteria - And Response (3)

Thursday, June 2, 2022

Growing up in Chattanooga in the 1950s, I ate at many local restaurants because my mom didn’t like to cook. One of my first experiences began with the S&W Cafeteria. It was part of a chain of family style cafeterias based in Charlotte, NC.

Opening in 1932, our local S&W had one serving line and an entry on Market Street. By the early 1950s they had two serving lines and upstairs seating opening through to Broad. A silver Toledo “lollipop” scale for customers to check their weight stood next to the Market Street entry until they went out of business.

Today that might be bad for business. Both entries had revolving doors which had great appeal to seven-year-olds.

Along the walls where you stood in line were these little metal snap-lock coat hooks with a key. When you picked up your tray to start down the serving line,  your set of flatware was tightly wrapped in a white cloth napkin. First was meats with many choices including a large side of roast beef continually sliced. Next were soups and vegetables, then breads and my first taste of toasted French bread with garlic butter, ooh la la. Then salads, deserts and drinks. A friendly server was there to assist you with each.

As you looked for seating, there were both tables and booths with mirrors behind them giving the impression of a larger space. The wall mirrors in Galatoire’s in New Orleans‘ French Quarter give a similar effect.

The S&W served breakfast, lunch and dinner beginning at 7 am Monday through Saturday and they closed on Sunday. Scrambled and poached eggs were my favorites along with their hot buttered whole wheat toast. I also remember the three hot cereals-oatmeal, cream of wheat and whole wheat Raulston. Servers were happy to mix two of them in your bowl if you asked.

Lunch and dinner offerings were usually the same. Sometimes a group would go there for lunch when I was in college. My two favorites were fried shrimp and beef stew. The stew gave the whole restaurant a warm, down home fragrance I haven’t quite experienced since they closed in 1982.

I got to know many of the employees, Hettie Hester was a long time server when you first started down the line, Boots Rogers was one of the cashiers, Ezell Tibbs and Roy Glover would help you with your tray and they knew your name. Former East Ridge City Councilman Larry Sewell’s dad was one of the managers. I only knew him as Mr Sewell. He was one of the busiest men I ever knew as he kept the serving lines operating at peak efficiency.

Prices were right, food was fresh and hot and especially in the evening you always saw someone you knew. It was not uncommon to see folks standing and chatting before or after their meal-another similarity to Galatoire’s. I miss those times and the good food.

Perhaps some of you remember similar stories about the S&W.

Let us know at news@chattanoogan.com

The Quasi Gourmand

* * *

Quasi,

My dad always said it stood for Stand and Wait. I have fond memories and it was a treat to go there as a kid.

Jeff Nation

* * *

My parents took me to the S&W quite often when I was probably 8-10 years old.  My favorite?  Strawberry Shortcake.  Still the best I’ve ever had. 

Pat Hagan
 
* * *
 
The strawberry short cake was my favorite dessert also.  Once a week my mother, Sally Kampmeier, would pick up my Dad, Roland Kampmeier, on the sidewalk at Seventh and Cherry where he worked on the eighth floor of the Power Building for TVA. 
 
The S&W was almost a community center.  Our family always enjoyed brief visits to our table from old friends.  Wonderful memories.
 
Bill Kampmeier
Nellysford, Virginia

 


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