Pioneer Cafeteria

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The Pioneer Cafeteria was a chain of buffet-style restaurants owned by Marvin Ratliffe and Bert Gurley. Gurley bought the first location on Parkway East near the Gadsden Highway in Roebuck in 1959 and put Ratliffe, a caterer, in charge.

The partners added a steakhouse and supper club in Roebuck and purchased two locations from Britling Cafeteria, one in the AmSouth-Sonat Tower downtown and one, a former Barber's Cafeteria, on the west end of Eastwood Mall. Pioneer was also tapped to operate the restaurant, lounge, and meal service at the Medical Towers Building on 11th Avenue South.

The original restaurant moved to 9213 Parkway East in the 1970s.

The last location to close was the flagship in Roebuck, which was in business until 2004, operating as the Frontier Cafeteria during its last years.


  • Wolfson, Hannah (February 26, 2004) "Founder of Pioneer closes cafeteria Sunday." The Birmingham News