Hiiiiiiiii dear readers,
I’m sorry I’ve neglected you for so long, but alas, I am back. This review is on Mary Mac’s Tea Room in Atlanta, GA. My visit to this lovely place for some good ol’ Southern food was a while back, so my memory is a little rusty. However, as they always say “a picture is worth a thousand words” and I have plenty of them ;)
When I was visiting my friend Skinny B*tch (sorry for the profanity, but she requested to be called that :p…I will shorten it to Skinny B from now on), I wanted a real taste of Southern food, so I decided that I must dine at the famous Mary Mac’s Tea Room. This “tea room” has a long history in Georgia. It was founded in 1945 by Mary McKinsey, who created this establishment at a time when women first founded their own businesses by establishing restaurants because many were widowed as a result of World War II and were forced to find a means to make their own living. To detract from the taboo that women were running their own businesses through these restaurants, the eateries were called “tea rooms” rather than restaurants.
Intrigued by the little bit of knowledge I had about the restaurant beforehand, I headed to Mary Mac’s with Skinny B. Expecting there to be a long wait on a Saturday afternoon, I was surprised to find that we were seated immediately because the place was ENORMOUS. The inside decor of the restaurant reminded me of a homey and humble old house with a few giant rooms. When we sat down, the waiter gave us a menu and an order sheet. In continuation of Mary Mac’s traditions, restaurant patrons write down what they want on the order sheets rather than have the waiters take down the orders.
After Skinny B and I ordered our food, we enjoyed the complimentary pot likker and cornbread served to first-time Mary Mac customers. They were both soooo delicious. The cornbread was moist and warm with a delicious hint of cornmeal flavor. Never having had pot likker before since it is a traditional Southern food, I tasted a spoon and it instantly reminded me of a homemade Chinese vegetable soup that my mom makes. After being confused about what I was eating, I drilled the waiter about pot likker. It turns out that pot likker is a vegetable broth made from collard greens that people used to eat very often because it was simple and they did not have much money for much else. According to the waiter, Mary Mac makes giant vats of pot likker everyday by throwing giant chunks of ham into the broth. No wonder the broth was soooooo delicious. Drools…=)**
We also received complimentary cinnamon rolls and cornbread. The cinnamon rolls were amazing!!! Despite their tiny size, they were so filling. The rolls were warm and soft with just the right balance of cinnamon and frosting so that it was neither too sweet nor too bitter.
For appetizers, we ordered spicy deep-fried “Mudbugs”. Don’t worry. We didn’t eat any bugs. The dish is just a nickname for deep-fried Louisiana crawfish served with jalapeno tarter sauce. Although I am not a huge fan of fried food, that dish had me grabbing for the “Mudbugs” non-stop. The outside was fried to perfection; it was hot and crunchy but crumbled to the bite. The fish inside was still moist and tender.
For my main meal, I ordered baked chicken with the sides of fried okra, tomato pie, and broccoli souffle. The side dishes sounded kind of weird, so I was excited and scared about trying them at the same time.
The baked chicken came with cornbread dressing and chicken gravy, which was heavenly. I didn’t eat much of the chicken because I was quite full from the appetizer and the side dishes that I ate, but I remember that it was still very moist. There was also some cranberry sauce on the side.
I think my favorite part of dish were the side dishes. I was skeptical about the tomato pie because I was expecting a real pie with tomato chunks inside. However, the tomato pie is my top recommendation. The “pie” turned out to be a thick mix of tomato chunks/sauce with some melted cheese and crunchy cheesy bits on top. It tasted like a pizza. The broccoli souffle was similar; it was a cohesive mix of broccoli held together by melted cheese with little cheesy crunches on top. It tasted yummy as well, but the broccoli was bit too soft for my taste. The fried okra was fried just right– it was lightly fried on the outside while maintaining the whole moisture and chew of the vegetable on the inside.
Skinny B ordered the fish with the sides of mashed potatoes with gravy and the cream corn . (I don’t remember which type of fish because they had a few choices, but it looked nicely cooked). For a picky eater, Skinny B seemed pretty satisfied with her meal.
To finish off my Southern meal, I ordered the peach cobbler. To my disappointment, the peach pie was not what I expected. It was a big mash of syrupy peaches with a little piece of pie layer on the top. Too sweet for my taste, I stopped eating it after a few bites.
Overall, I really enjoyed my food except for the dessert. I felt like I had the “real Southern” experience, which makes my meal feel extra special. :)