By Brian Jewell
Atlanta is so full of tourism opportunities that each visitor will come away with a different favorite memory according to his or her particular areas of interest. For me, the most memorable part of my visit was a meal at Mary Mac’s Tea Room.
Located in Midtown, Mary Mac’s has become an Atlanta institution and a paragon of traditional Southern cuisine. The restaurant opened with one dining room in 1945, when tearooms proliferated around the city. Today, it is the last tearoom left in Atlanta.
When I had dinner at Mary Mac’s this spring with some Atlanta-area tourism representatives, the
experience was rich with time-tested flavors and
legendary Southern hospitality. The restaurant treats all first-time visitors to a cup of “pot likker” (the liquid left behind after boiling collard greens), which I found smooth, robust and flavorful.
Jo Ann Hayden-Miller from the Atlanta CVB recommended the fried chicken, and that’s what I ordered. The plate that came out of the kitchen far exceeded my expectations, heaped with legs, breasts and wings that had been prepared to a crispy, golden-brown perfection. Side dishes of macaroni-and-cheese and biscuits rounded out a delicious meal.
In addition to the great food, Mary Mac’s boasts a great atmosphere. The restaurant has become so popular in Atlanta that many celebrities, politicians and other well-known people visit, and the walls are decorated with their photos and autographs. And every diner gets a warm greeting and a complimentary back rub from Jo Carter, who has served as the restaurant’s “goodwill ambassador” for years.