Atlanta Dining: Mary Mac’s Tea Room

Mary Mac’s Tea Room
224 Ponce De Leon Ave NE, Atlanta, GA
(404) 876-1800

Web site: 

One of my objectives this week was to have a sit down, traditional Southern meal in a classic setting. While I have had some good Soul Food examples in Florida and New York City recently, they were both modern restaurants, and the last time I had a truly exceptional Southern/Soul Food experience that could be considered to be truly classic would be at Willie Mae’s Scotch House in New Orleans, back in May of 2005. Willie Mae’s was destroyed by flooding three months later as a result of the levvee breaches following Hurricane Katrina, and it is in the late stage of being rebuilt — so I probably won’t be able to have another meal in there for at least several months. When I heard of Mary Mac’s Tea Room, a similar, but more upscale (and much larger) Southern/Soul Food restaurant in the Poncey-Highland section of Atlanta, which has been around since the 1940’s, I jumped at the chance to eat there.

Fried Chicken, Cornbread, Okra and Tomatoes. Click on the “read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

The historic Mary Mac’s restaurant opened in 1945, and attracts people from all walks of life, from blue collar to the highest ranks of Atlanta society.

Today was St. Patrick’s day, so people were dressed up. I’m not sure if these are Church Ladies or if this is their costume.

The walls of the restaurant are adorned with photos of famous people who have eaten there.

Like this Southern gentleman.

Mary Mac’s own tabasco pepper vinegar, for sprucing up your greens and fried chicken.

The lunch menu.

An assortment of warm rolls and bread hits the table, which is very easy to fill up on because its so good.

At Mary Mac’s its customary for you to fill out your own order and hand it to the server.

Mary Mac’s corn bread muffins are excellent, although not sweetened terribly much. That’s just fine with me, cause then you can put the nice sweet butter on it.

The real stars of the bread basket, however, are the Cinnamon Rolls which the restaurant is famous for.

You can buy them up front to take home, too.

A trio of Soul Food sides — Mac and Cheese, Okra and Tomatoes, and Collard Greens. All made fresh from scratch.

Fried Chicken with “Hoppin’ John”, a mixture of blackeyed peas and rice.

Fried Chicken closeup.

There was clearly too much food, so I brought it home for later.

This house across the street reminded me of the historic houses in New Orleans’ Garden District. My, I do declare!

14 Responses to Atlanta Dining: Mary Mac’s Tea Room

  1. I LOVE mary macs.

    It’s absolutely my favorite southern restaurant in Atlanta. Ordering family style, eating about a third of the abundant food, then having the server offer to refill your bread, drinks and sides to go for free? yes please.

    I suggested that Chris Cognac go for Hungry Detective, as did their Atlanta-raised cameraman. It made me endlessly happy that they did.

  2. elle says:

    Although the atmosphere is the best for southern charm, I found the food there to be just OK–The best soul food in Atlanta is Matthew’s (Tucker) and a real bargin however, it doesn’t have the same charm as Mary Mac’s.

  3. Jon says:

    Nope, they aren’t Church ladies (well they might be, but not in the guise they are dressed in)…

    The ladies with the hats are obviously members of the famous Red Hat Society: and

    Red Hats for members over 50, Pink ones for younger.

    Apparently it started in California, but I believe its become hugely popular in the South.

    On another topic, do you know if the Chicken was Deep or Shallow Fried?

  4. You made me cry!!! I used to live in Virginia-Highlands and my friends and I used to love to go their for our southern food fix. I loved their squash casserole and mac n cheese.

    Those cinnamon rolls are to die for. I can smell them now.

    Thanks Jason for taking me down memory lane.


  5. Deep Fried, Jon. But very good.

  6. So what you are saying Jon, that these women are not, in fact, Linux freaks.

  7. Jon says:

    Well, they COULD be.

  8. mat honan says:

    I used to live just a few blocks from the tea room (on Myrtle and 10th) when I lived in Atlanta almost ten years ago. I still, still, still miss it.

  9. Willie Mae’s is reopening Monday. I just talked to the folks who helped rebuild it. Check out the info at

  10. […] interesting contrast to the “Meat and 2 veg” hardcore Southern cuisine I had eaten at Mary Mac’s a few days […]

  11. Blake Lewis says:

    that seems really tasty yummy!

  12. Chi-Town says:

    We love Mary Mac’s!!! We go there everytime we are in Hot ‘Lanta and we will see you real soon (next week in fact) so have that good old fashion cooking waiting for us.
    A Party of 10 (smile)

    JES :& Associates

  13. Dorothy says:

    My husband and I went to Mary Mac’s on a visit to Atlanta, and we both felt that ALL the dishes (sides and mains) lacked much flavor. Everything (from the macaroni and cheese to the fried chicken) was underseasoned. Perhaps that is the southern way.

  14. Obi's Sister says:

    If you want soul food, Mary Mac’s is ok (I liked the previous iteration of MM, not the current), but Busy Bee is the BEST.

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