NORFOLK, Va. -- Remember standing in line in the school cafeteria? Well, the guys at Martin's Cafeteria are bringing that experience back without having to go to class.
Customers do not wait for a waiter – they simply grab a tray and go down the serving area where cooks plate food and hand it to the customer.
"The cafeteria brings that to us, and that's what we're able to give back to the people,” Cynthia Terry, the restaurant’s co-owner, said.
Martin’s Cafeteria opened on Nov. 21, just as COVID-19 cases spiked again and old restrictions were reinstated.
"The pandemic has been really hard for us especially with this open,” Terry explained. “We were set back when we first tried to open."
They have since adapted and implemented measures such as social distancing – with reminder stickers on the floor – and requiring face masks. They sanitize the tables and seats after each customer finishes, and the tables have markers on top to denote which tables customers can use.
Terry and her business partner are not new to the restaurant businesses. They already have locations throughout Hampton Roads with different names, such as Martin’s Soul Food.
"We started out as a small soul food business,” Terry said. “Within six months of business, it just started picking up just rapidly."
But the food served at Martin’s Cafeteria, she said, is Southern food.
"Sometimes, Southern food is, you know, they say, 'Oh, all the fats, the grease,'” Terry explained, “However, we bake our food as well."
There are no menus as you see the food in the cafeteria serving area. All the food is laid out -- the entree, the sides, desserts, salads – and is prepared fresh at the restaurant and handed to you.
The food is made from scratch with secret recipes that are passed down. Terry described the barbecue chicken as, "a nice, spicy, flavorful barbecue chicken.” Meanwhile, the sides like the yams, “are unique because we make our own sauce. It's our own special sauce."
"It's a desire,” Terry said. “It was easy to accomplish because it doesn't feel like work."
Martin's Cafeteria is located at 530 North Military Highway in Norfolk, next to the Shell gas station and Military Circle Mall. It is the site of the former Piccadilly Cafeteria.
It is open seven days a week with the following hours:
- Monday - Thursday: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
- Friday and Saturday: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
- Sunday: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.