I was born and raised in the south, so I am proud to be a dyed in the wool Southern girl! I lived in Atlanta most of my life, and although we are in Knoxville now, my heart is back in the big ATL. One of the reasons I love Atlanta so much is the city is packed full of culture, amazing food and some of the friendliest people you ever want to meet. For many years, I lived just off Ponce de Leon, on Myrtle Street, which is a pretty popular part of town. Right down the street from my apartment on Myrtle, is Mary Mac’s Tea Room. I could not only look out my window and see Mary Mac’s Tea Room, but I could open the windows and smell the heavenly food being made.
I am not going to call myself an expert about food, but I know what I like. I am a sucker for some down home southern cooking, and when I am not in the mood to cook it for myself, Mary Mac’s is always happy to oblige! I cannot tell you how many times we walked down the block to have our complimentary cup of Pot Likker, a basket of sweet cinnamon rolls and a huge hearty meal.
Mary Mac’s opened in 1945 by a woman named Mary McKenzie. Mary was struggling in the post WWII economy, so she decided to share her down home Southern cooking skills with the folks in Atlanta. Because a fine Southern woman could not just open a restaurant, many women called their establishments “Tea Rooms.” Of the 16 Tea Rooms in Atlanta, Mary Mac’s, 65 years later, is the last standing. I can assure you this is due largely because the food is made-from-scratch and is served with genuine southern hospitality.
Mary Mac’s changed hands when Margaret Lupo bought the place in the 1960’s. Margaret built Mary Mac’s as the bustling place to eat and be seen for the next 30 years. As a matter of fact, Mary Mac’s became one of the best known restaurants in the south. In 1994, Margaret Lupo hand-picked John Ferrell to be her predecessor, and John has done Ms. Margaret proud! At any time, you can expect to see a variety of customers at Mary Mac’s. You may see your next door neighbor, your first grade teacher, a former US president or two or one of a ton of celebrities.
The servers are not just employees of Mary Mac’s, but are part of a big family. You do not need anyone to tell you this, because it is completely evident by watching the staff interact with one another as well as with their customers. Our server was hand picked for us and we could not have loved Ms. Donna anymore than had she been one of the family. as a matter of fact, by the time we left, we felt like we had found a long lost member of the Hutchinson/Stallings/Conwell clan and a friend for life. Donna explained to the “virgins” in the group that the tickets and pencils were on the table for a reason; you fill out your own order ticket! The kids really thought that was super cool and had a great time choosing their food wisely and carefully penning their choices.
Donna has been with Mary Mac’s for many years after retiring from her vocation as a beloved teacher. She is a fountain of knowledge and is quick to suggest a favorite menu item with that 500 watt smile of hers! The kids instantly fell in love with Ms. Donna, especially Henry. With a background in teaching, Ms. Donna was able to spot Henry had autism and knew exactly how to draw him out of his shell. In my 20 years of restaurant management, I have never encountered a server like Ms. Donna. And just think what the rest of the staff must be like, right?!
When it came time to eat, we were all ready for a down home Southern feast, and that is exactly what we got! For appetizers, we all decided to share and I am so glad we did. This gave everyone a chance to fall in love with the Spicy Deep-Fried “Mudbugs”, whihc are a large portion of Louisiana craw fish with a jalapeno tarter sauce, of course the fried green tomatoes, the fried shrimp, the heavenly deviled eggs and the fried okra was a huge hit. Chelsea had the fried pork chops, and they were incredibly moist and the flavor was spot on! She paired this with the tomato pie, which is a must have when you are at Mary Mac’s.
I had the fried chicken, and let me tell you, they do not play around! You get 4 pieces of slap your mamma good, fried to a golden perfection chicken, which went perfectly with my mashed potatoes. Mike had the Pan Fried Cube Steak with Brown Onion Gravy, which was seriously the best I have ever tasted. Chris had to have the Brunswick Stew with his Meatloaf, which I must admit was waaaay better than mine! The kids has burgers, which were honestly so darn good! Henry hardly ever eats when we go out, and he gobbled up his burger and fries in record time. To end the meal, Caitlin was brought a piece of the Peanut Butter Pie for her birthday dessert.
When you visit Mary Mac’s, do not leave without getting yourself a copy of their cookbook. It is filled with many of their popular dishes, including the Shrimp and Grits, which was Caitlin’s favorite by a landslide. So, when you are in Atlanta, make sure you head over to Mary Mac’s, and go early, because there is usually a line by 5:30 or 6:00! You can see the entire menu here, so you can drool a little over what you are going to order when you are in town! Be sure to give Mary Mac’s a follow on Twitter! Oh and Mary Mac’s caters, so if you have a family reunion, corporate event, wedding or other occasion, be sure to keep Mary Mac’s in mind!
Mary Mac’s Tea Room
224 Ponce De Leon Ave NE
Atlanta, GA 30308
11am – 9pm
Serving Lunch & Dinner Every Day
Open Thanksgiving Day 10am-7pm
Bulk Order Pick Ups 10am-8:30pm on 11/25 & 11/26