Matt Guran sees his restaurants as part of the American dream.

Originally from Turkey, he moved to the United States for college and decided to stay. For the last two decades, he’s been serving up pie, patty melts and pancakes in small towns across Iowa.

After working in engineering, he started in the restaurant business 20 years ago, when he opened a family diner in Fairfield. Over the years, he has owned restaurants in Ottumwa, Keokuk, Mount Pleasant, and most recently Washington.

But he always had his eye on Iowa City, and at the end of October, 2016, he opened Frontier Family Restaurant just off Highway 6 in Iowa City.

He said his older customers often reminisce about the restaurants they grew up with, many of which have been replaced by chains like Village Inn and Perkins. He said he wants to provide a local option.

“The family restaurant is an American tradition, and it’s been dying off,” he said.

So what makes a good family restaurant?

Two things, he said.

“The essence of the family restaurant is that everything has to be created from scratch,” he said. “And the second thing is it has to be cozy, to have the ambiance. We want our customers to feel at home.”

Head waitress Tina Kincaid has worked in Guran’s restaurants since he opened the Fairfield Family Restaurant 20 years ago.

Along with the reuben and hot beef sandwich, she said the biscuit breakfast bowl, topped with hashbrowns, scrambled eggs, sausage gravy and cheddar cheese, is currently the most popular item on the menu.

“It’s about the comfort food,” she said.

Breakfast is served all day, along with pie, soup, salads, burgers and sandwiches and hearty dinners like steak or fried chicken.

“The food speaks for itself,” Guran said. “I like cooking, I like making people happy. When people sit back after a meal, and I see them… That’s a very satisfying feeling.”

Keeping with his family restaurant ethos, he is training his daughter Dilan Guran, a 20-year-old Kirkwood Community College business management student, to take over the business someday.

“When I was a kid, I was growing up with this,” she said. “Dad always took me with him, I talked to the customers and was running around the restaurant.”

Just as she is doing, her father once also studied business management, but he said he always loved cooking.

“Creating something and making others happy gives you enjoyment,” he said.

EAT UP!

WHERE: 1755 Boyrum St., Iowa City
WHEN: Winter hours: 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Saturday, 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sun. Regular hours: 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
DETAILS: (319) 519-2883, frontierfamilyrestaurant.com