Britling Cafeteria macaroni and cheese recipe

Birmingham, Alabama was chock a block with cafeterias and lunch counters inside 5 and dimes when I was a kid. I had numerous favorites spanning the town (long shuttered Joe’s in Woodlawn was particularly good and has escaped every search engine known to man) but Britling was the one that enjoyed the most success. A. W. B. Johnson founded the chain way back in 1917 with Birmingham serving as the first location and springboard for subsequent operations in Memphis, Louisville and Oklahoma City. The cafeterias had a long heyday til the 70s came along when the inevitable proliferation of fast food chains began cutting into their margins.

One solitary hold-out in the Birmingham suburb of Hoover fought the good fight til the late 80s when it was sold and converted into Battle Buffet.

When I began writing about food in that long ago-era, one of the first topics I addressed was macaroni and cheese. Fanning out across the town searching for the best version provided many culinary highlights: Newberry’s on 2nd avenue north had a basement diner that put out an estimable version; the aforementioned Joe’s in Woodlawn was incredible and included the then-exotic white cheese (!) but it was Britling that ruled the roost.

The below recipe is a good one, but duplicating the circumstances of the meal (lunch lady with a beehive scooping the noodles out of a steam pan, elderly Black man carrying your tray to the table, big glass of Red Diamond sweet tea to wash it down) will never be known to my readers.



3 eggs

1 tablespoon salt

1-1/2 cups milk

1/4 cup margarine

1 – 8 ounce package macaroni, cooked

12 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, grated


*Beat eggs

*Add salt and milk

*Melt margarine, add to egg and milk mixture

*Pour over cooked macaroni

*Stir in cheese

*Place macaroni and cheese in pan and set that pan into a larger pan of warm water

*Bake at 350 degrees about 45 minutes, until done

*To serve, cut into squares

Yield: 6-8 servings

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  1. Sandra McLaughlin says:

    By far, Mr. R. L. Reeves, Jr., this IS the best macaroni and cheese I’ve ever tasted! Thanks, so much, for posting this recipe. It’s so good in fact that even MY husband loves it.
    S. McLaughlin

  2. I grew up in Birmingham and was a picky eater until my aunt MeMe carried me to Britling‚Äôs restaurant….the macaroni and cheese and desserts were my all time favorites. Even 50 years later, my tongue savorsūüėä

  3. This mac and cheese is WAY too salty. I am making it again with no added salt. I cannot believe how much salt is called for in this recipe. I will add back some salt after tasting unsalted version.

  4. Cynthia Warren says:

    I grew up going to Britlings at least once a week. We drove thirty minutes from Shelby Co to get there…and we dressed up. Beautiful memory!

  5. Julian Street says:

    I’m 82 and what memories! We always looked forward to shopping downtown. Back then you had to dress up to go downtown. If it was Saturday, Mother would drop us of at the Mickey Mouse Club at the Alabama Theater. No matter what day it was, lunch was always at Britling’s. Everything was delicious, but almost always got the mac & cheese. Will have to make this one.

    • RL Reeves Jr says:

      Glad you liked it and thanks for sharing your memories. We always got the fried chicken and macaroni and cheese. Sad to see the cafeterias are all shuttered.

  6. My grandmother worked at Britling in 5 pts West, then Battle Buffet in Hoover for 29 years. If you ate there, you probably ate her food. My aunt also worked there. I remember dropping them off in their freshly pressed white early mornings and late nights. There were alot of sacrifices made by Black staff driving “over the mountain” during that time. My family loved Mr. Battle though and were super loyal to him.

    • I love old stories like this. And I ate at both locations so I’m certain I had plenty of their delicious foods. Thanks. rl

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