Sometimes you come across a restaurant that is so eclectic and loaded with history that you just have to sit back and take a moment to savor the memory. Such was the case when I came upon Mary Mac’s Tea Room in Atlanta, GA. I was in town for a quick weekend of conference planning with my good friend and Masonic Brother Ben and his wife Sherrie. It was a grueling task of eating, drinking and working to select the perfect lunch and dinner locations for an upcoming meeting in February. Atlanta is loaded with good food, but the restaurants are somewhat tough to deal with, especially when it comes to a large group.
We are in the hotel plotting where to eat next and Ben has this craving for fried chicken, probably because we just drove past Gladys Knight Chicken & Waffles. I soon learn that this is his favorite food. He likes chicken like I love a fish fry. The concierge overhears us talking. He doesn’t know what the hell a fish fry is but when it comes to fried chicken he tells us we must try Mary Macs Tea Room. I’m confused at this point, we want fried chicken and he is talking
tea rooms. There is no way in hell I am hanging out at a tea room unless it’s got long island ice tea! I have this nagging in the back of my mind that keeps bouncing the name through my cranial space and I begin to remember reading something about this place, so I hop on my iPhone and look it up. It seems that in 1945 a Mary McKenzie was looking to make some coin by operating a restaurant, however, Southern culture did not bode well for females running restaurants. She circumvented the situation by calling it a Tea Room, over time there came to be about 16 Tea Rooms in Atlanta; Mary Macs is the only survivor. It has since been sold to two additional owners but still continues with great food and unique clientele. In the old days they had Miss Bessy’s Brothel across the street, this would generate hungry patrons (we all know men like to eat after sex) and girls who need to keep up their energy to keep the city and state officials stress free. Now days they have Richard Gere and the Dali Lama dining there. I am wondering if the Dali Lama dipped into the fried pork chops or fried chicken liver? No vegans here bubba.
As we enter two young lady’s Aicha and Bryce greet us. They arrange for a great table and an outstanding waitress. This is when we meet Marion Mims who has been working there for over 16 years. She allegedly proposed to Richard Gere when he was in for dinner (he was recently single then). She is full of stories and sage advice. She looked at me and suggested I should have one of everything. In principal I agree. As I thought about this Ben orders the 4 pc Fried Chicken dinner with three sides. This is also known as a meat and 3. I follow suite and for my side orders get Fried Green Tomatoes, Mac & Cheese and Pickled Beets. Dinner starts with a complimentary bowl of Pot Likker. This is the salty liquid that remains after they boil the greens and is actually good. We also have a basked of some of the sweetest rolls known to man. The chicken arrives and Ben is in seventh heaven. I focus on the sides – outstanding Fried Green Tomatoes and awesome beets. The Mac & Cheese however, is a disappointment. The Fried Chicken is second to none and is gone is no time flat. Marion is loven the fact
that the three Yankees are packing away the food. She proceeds to cover the homemade dessert menu and convinces Sherrie to order the Peanut Butter Pie. After spending a day in the South I felt it would be ungentlemanly of me to let her have dessert alone to I ordered the Bread Pudding with Wine Sauce. Take it from the Big Ragu when I say that if I didn’t know what sex was I would say this was the best thing I ever ate in my life. I’ll let that visual settle in for a while!
After dining in 5 restaurants in two days I would highly recommend this as a must go to when in Atlanta. On the way out the door Sherrie bought a Mary Macs Cookbook and has been trying out the recipes on Ben on a regular basis. I will also leave you with this bit of information, if you are in Atlanta and need a great driver who knows the restaurants and night life call Person 2 Person Transportation Service and request Andrew his cell is 678-499-0737.
The Big Ragu gives this Joint (Tea Room) a 4.5 outa 5