Last winter when I was trying to think of places to go for the Memorial Day holiday, I was striking out left, right, and center. We had a free e-night to use which is only good for certain levels that in theory was cool but bad since it eliminated hotels in cities like Boston and Nashville (no, I never have any desire to stay at a hotel in the city’s “metropolitan” area i.e. more than 10 miles away from the downtown). So I stumbled across Atlanta. Hotels matched up, there are numerous direct flights from Pittsburgh (sadly, one of the few destinations), and there was a place called Mary Mac’s Tearoom. (I’ll be honest, so many of the restaurants in Atlanta intrigued me and it just seemed like a great foodie destination).
Mary Mac’s Tearoom has been serving Southern fare for more than 70 years and everyone from tourists to locals to politicians to even celebrities have dined there. It’s become such a famous spot that in March 2011, the Georgia House of Representatives created Resolution 477 in which Mary Mac’s Tearoom was declared to be Atlanta’s Dining Room (it was even painted on a mural there on one of the walls). So you see, dining at Mary Mac’s is almost a must for visiting tourists.
Located in the city’s Midtown area, it was only about a 10 minute walk from the Midtown station and is open daily from 11 AM-9 PM. We went right there after checking into our hotel and while I was worried about there being a wait with a lunch crowd, we got there about 11:30 AM and were seated right away. (When we left about an hour later, there was a wait).
While the menu served some traditional American mainstays (cheeseburgers, pot roast, chicken pot pie), I had wanted to go there first and foremost for the Southern specialties. There were things on the menu I only knew about from Hollywood movies and famous books-catfish, fried livers, mudbugs (Louisiana crawfish); mind you I didn’t order any of those things. You just know you’re in a different part of the world (or country in this case) when unique finds like that appear on the menu.
What I did order: I opted for the Fried Chicken (it was your choice of either three legs or one breast, I selected the latter) and for my two sides, Cheese Grits and Fried Green Tomatoes. I was so happy to finally try Fried Green Tomatoes! And I will say, they were really good. Although all of the fried breading immediately broke off upon cutting it, I still liked the taste of the green tomatoes themselves. Cheese makes anything taste grand so the grits were particularly tasty. What can I say about the fried chicken? It was delicious but fried chicken in the South at such a famous spot-well, you know it was going to be good. My dish was $11.50.
D also ordered the Fried Chicken except he went with the Four Piece Fried Chicken ($13.50) and selected the Spiced Apples and Dumplings for his two sides. Some of the other more unique and decidedly Southern sides included Black Eyed Peas, Fried Okra, Hoppin’ John.
Your meal also came with fresh rolls (I didn’t have any of these but D said you could just taste the butter on them) and cracklin’ bread as well as Potlikker. Not being from the South, our waiter provided us with a short background on this item. It developed during the Great Depression as a solution for what to do with leftover ham hock broth that had been infused with collard green essence after the greens had been cooked. During the depression, nothing was to ever be wasted so pieces of cornbread were crumbled over or dunked into the murky liquid to extend a meager meal. After the depression ended, potlikker remained a staple in the Southern kitchen and has always been served with cracklin’ bread as a starter at Mary Mac’s.
I also ordered a glass of the “table wine of the South” (sweet tea) and was I ever impressed. It was sweet but not overly so.
Everything about the meal was utterly memorable but most impressive was definitely the lightning fast speed in which we received our food. We placed our order and less than 10 minutes later, had our food. Neither of us minded since all we had eaten that day were breakfast muffins at the airport. And being the epitome of Southern dining, all the staff was utterly pleasant and kind.
I can’t say this enough, if you ever happen to travel to the Atlanta area, make sure your plans include dining at Mary Mac’s. And if you happen to be more of a local and are reading this, well don’t delay, plan to eat there as soon as possible.