Michael Matsos

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Michael C. Matsos (born November 8, 1918 in New Bedford, Massachusetts; died January 13, 2012 in Birmingham) was the co-founder of Michael's and long-time owner of the Golden Rule Bar-B-Q chain. He also operated Emil's Cantina, Rossi's and La Paree during his career as a restaurateur.

Matsos was the son of Greek immigrants and grew up in Brooklyn, New York. He came to Alabama shortly after the Great Depression, joining family members that operated a small restaurant next door to the Tutwiler Hotel downtown. He soon enrolled at the University of Alabama to study business. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps from Alabama and served with the 15th Air Force in Italy during World War II. After his discharge he was drafted by the Civil Aeronautics Administration and served as a traffic controller at Atlanta Municipal Airport in Atlanta, Georgia. An illness in his family led him to seek a discharge from civil service in 1947 to take over operation of the restaurant.

In 1948, with little more than a pre-war Chevrolet to his name, he and partner Bill Demoes secured a business loan from Bank for Savings and Trust president Milton Andrews to buy the business, which they renamed "La Paree". In 1953 Matsos sold his share in the downtown restaurant to Demoes and opened a second "La Paree" in the Holiday Inn on Bessemer Super Highway in early 1954. Soon he changed the name of the motel restaurant to "Michael's".

Other hotel locations followed in Huntsville and Madison. In 1958 he opened "Michael's Sirloin Room" on 20th Street South in midtown Birmingham where it became a landmark anchor for "The Strip" across from the Parliament House hotel. He brought in Connie Kanakis as a partner, later adding Mike Boackle and Nick Palma. William Orr served as executive chef for the chain.

In 1961 a Michael's steak house expanded to a new Holiday Inn in St Petersburg, Florida. This time, Matsos was also a co-owner, with fellow Birminghamian C. R. Dudley, of the motel, and of the franchise for all Holiday Inns in Pinellas County, Florida.

In 1970 Matsos took over the small Golden Rule chain from Jabo and Ellene Williams Stone on a 20-year royalty agreement, and was also one of the investors in the Hyatt House hotel at the BJCC.

Matsos, a one-time cancer survivor, died in 2012. He was survived by his wife, June, and two children, Charles and Michele.


  • "For M. C. Matsos, Loan on Old Car Lead to Success." [sic] (February 19, 1961) St Petersburg Evening Independent
  • Evans, Amy (October 3, 2006) "Michael Matsos, Golden Rule Bar-B-Q" oral history interview. Southern BBQ Trail. Southern Foodways Alliance
  • Williams, Roy L. (January 13, 2012) "Birmingham restaurant operator Michael Matsos dies at 93." The Birmingham News

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