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Sunday Southern Cookin’ at Mary Mac’s Tea Room – Atlanta GA Atlanta, GA

Posted on: May 1, 2011


Sunday Southern Cookin’ at Mary Mac’s Tea Room – Atlanta GA

224 Ponce De Leon Avenue Northeast Atlanta, GA 30308

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Though we were not dressed to fit in with the church crowd, we absolutely loved our Sunday dinner at Mary Mac’s Tea Room in Atlanta GA. Since 1945 folks in these parts have enjoyed the southern cooking and hospitality at this landmark restaurant. And so did we!

Mary Mac's Tea Room Neon Sign Atlanta GA(Their cool neon sign didn’t hurt their chances of making it on the RetroRoadmap either!)

I was excited to visit Mary Macs as I have loved most “southern cookin’” that I’ve had (mmm biscuits, nom) and it was a good opportunity for me to try some of the more unusual things that you don’t get at restaurants up north. And the “Tea Room” name? According to their website:

Mary Mac’s Tea Room doors first opened in 1945 when Mary McKenzie decided to use her good Southern cooking to make money in the tough post-World War II days. In those days, a woman  couldn’t just open up a restaurant, so many female proprietors used the more genteel Southern name of “Tea Room.”

Mary Mac's Tea Room Midtown Atlanta 1945

The restaurant is no longer owned by Mary Mac (was she all dressed in black? With silver buttons down her back?) but is flourishing under the ownership of  John Ferrell who was hand picked by the last owner to take over the business. And by the crowds we encountered he’s doing it right!

While the place was bustling when we first arrived ( they don’t take reservations on Sundays) the restaurant occupies many rooms, so we were seated in a sun filled dining area after just a short wait. It was actually very cool to see people all dressed up – from church or what have you, and frankly I was a bit embarrassed I was not better attired. No one else seemed to mind though.

Dining Room Interior

Our waitress asked if we had been here before and when we told her we hadn’t she explained that we were to write down our order on the checks ourselves. Oh the pressure! The responsibility- the legibility! It was a quaint custom indeed.

Ordering Food At Mary Mac'sWe didn’t have to worry about ordering any yeast bread or cornbread as we were given a complimentary basket with rolls in it, and they were just delish. You can see them below with our iced tea – the yeast rolls were a fave in my book.

Bread Basket and Sweet TeaBecause we were newbies here we were given a complimentary sample of “pot likker” and corn bread. Pot likker is the juice from greens, and I have to admit I was wary – but it was very tasty! So much so that on a later visit to another southern restaurant I ordered greens, knowing I’d like ‘em from this experience.

Cornbread and Pot Likker

There are all sorts of tasty things to choose from on the menu – and the side order list is almost longer than the entree list. Each entree we ordered came with two sides. I lurve fried chicken so I opted for that and decided to branch out and get some Brunswick Stew  and cheese grits as my sides. RetroRoadhusband got the Roast pork with dressing.

Fried Chicken, Brunswick Stew and Cheese GritsOur food was delish, there was way too much of it, of course, but that’s how it goes. Before we left I wandered around the different rooms and saw table after table of happy folks enjoying their traditional meals on a sunny Sunday, and could imagine the same thing happening 65 years ago.

A quick stop at the front desk to pick up one my fave souvenirs of the trip, a Mary Mac’s fan (a bargain at $1 apiece) just like the church folks of yore would have, and another historic place (with a cool neon sign) added to the RetroRoadmap!

Mary Mac’s Tea Room

Mary Mac's Tea Room on Urbanspoon