It was 1945 when Mary MacKenzie opened Mary Mac’s Tea Room near Peachtree Street on Ponce de Leon Avenue. In those tough days right after the end of World War II, enterprising women in search of a living were establishing restaurants all over Atlanta. At the time, a woman couldn’t just open up a restaurant, so many female proprietors used the more refined Southern name of “Tea Room.”
Though our restaurant has grown over the years, it’s still 1945 in the kitchen. They still do things the way Mary MacKenzie and her successor, renowned owner, Margaret Lupo (1962-1994), did things. Every morning, they shuck bushels of corn, handwash carefully selected greens, and snap fresh green beans by hand. They bake scrumptious bread and desserts, like old-fashioned banana pudding, coconut cake, and fresh Georgia peach cobbler, and brew up the best sweet tea – “Table Wine of the South”.
Not many things have changed since they opened their doors in 1945 – down to the pencils and order forms at each table and the complimentary cup of pot likker and cornbread muffin served to each first-time diner. Some traditions at Mary Mac’s are kept for sentimental reasons, while others are maintained because they work so well.
Photo’s on the walls show diners such as the Dalai Lama, Congressman John Lewis, James Brown, Beyonce, Senator Hillary Clinton, Alan Jackson, and President Jimmy Carter. The location has remained the same and some employees have been there for over 45 years.
They also have a special 75th-anniversary edition cookbook, including 16 new pages of recipes and photographs. It was written by John Ferrell who purchased Mary Mac’s Tea Room in 1994 from Margaret Lupo. It seems that the readers on Amazon.com love this book giving it an almost perfect average of 5 stars. There are over 125 recipes on its 224 pages. It also contains richly illustrated photography, old menus, postcards, and artwork from its magnificent history.
Appetizer options include the fried green tomatoes with parmesan horseradish sauce, the rich deviled eggs, and the homemade pimento cheese dip served with veggies. They have Brunswick Stew, vegetable soup, fried green tomatoes, Mudbugs (Louisiana crawfish), and chicken livers.
Mary Mac’s Tea Room has a vast array of house specialties, such as pan-fried cube steak with brown onion gravy, roast pork with cornbread dressing, the flaky chicken pot pie, and the Cajun-spiced blackened catfish filets. They serve oxtails, pork barbeque, fried chicken, chopped sirloin, roast turkey, chicken ab=nd dumplings, and meatloaf.
There is even a vast selection of delicious vegan items for people following a gluten-free diet. For a sweet end to your meal, try Mary Mac’s Tea Room’s sensational Georgia peach cobbler, made fresh daily with the state’s signature fruit, banana pudding, and peanut butter pie.
The restaurant was mentioned in the Designing Women episode “The Women of Atlanta”, wherein Julia (Dixie Carter) made mention of “The Blue-haired ladies that play Bridge over at Mary Mac’s Tea Room” as a possible photographic subject for a magazine.