Mary Mac's Tea Room - Atlanta, GA - Summer/Fall 2009

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The Travelin Man
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2009/11/01 19:33:12 (permalink)

Mary Mac's Tea Room - Atlanta, GA - Summer/Fall 2009

I have been completely remiss in posting any trip reports, but I have been traveling and accumulating photos and stories.  So, one day, when my life becomes my own again, I may be able to post a few memories from the summer/fall of 2009.  Thanks to Tony Bad, who gave me some quick Picassa tutorial advice when we last saw one another, I was able to get some photos edited and uploaded this week.  This trip occurred earlier this summer when my buddy, DoubleDeadGuy, was doing his summer law internship in Atlanta. 

Most of the trip was not really photo-worthy.  We went to a couple of places near his Buckhead apartment.  Primarily, those "other" stops involved more the consumption of beer and the watching of college baseball than the acquisition of Roadfood.  Atlanta is, apparently, a notable beer bar town.  One of my previous favorite stops, Three Dollar Cafe, appears to gone from the Atlanta food scene, but there were plenty of alternatives.  Our first stop, which I think was recommended by noted beer connoisseur, Poverty Pete, was called Taco Mac.  They have a couple of locations around Atlanta (and further in the southeastern US).  I do remember enjoying the place - all of the servers are very beer-knowledgeable, and I recall the food being better-than-average pub fare.  IIRC, I may have had a decent burger there.  DDG was a semi-regular there, so perhaps he will feel the need to chime in further.

One other stop included the Cheyenne Grill.  I thought that I remembered it being part of a local "restaurant group" - which, at the very least, adds some element of differentiation to what might otherwise seem corporate-chain-like.  Their web site says that they are under new ownership, but so long as the new owners keep things similar, I would make a return visit.  We were there on a Saturday afternoon and the place was pretty empty.  But, the staff was friendly and the TVs were easily tuned to what we wanted to watch - which, again, was more important than the food.  My understanding was that the location changed in the later nights to a hangout for the younger crowd - and they usually drew a pretty good number of folks.  Hopefully, they will work out the ownership situation and remain a strong option.

The highlight of the weekend, though, from a food stand point was Mary Mac's Tea Room in midtown Atlanta.  I know that Mary Mac's is highly thought of around here, but this was my first visit.  Getting DDG out early to beat the crowds was a bit of a challenge, but we did arrive just about the time they opened the doors.



In the south, is there any more appropriate beverage than what Mary Mac's calls "The Table Wine of the South?"



Our bubbly server, Dee Dee, immediately recognized us a newbies.  I am not quite sure what gave it away - but, it truly could have been any number of things.  Poker players would identify these are serious "tells."  At Mary Mac's, all first-time patrons are welcomed with a gift of an appetizer-sized portion of pot likker, a small cup of greens soaked in a delicious broth.  It comes with cornbread, and you are encouraged to break up the cornbread into the broth.



Due to our early arrival, our bread basket came with most of the included choices still warm.  Clockwise, from the center: a yeast-y yeast roll, cornbread, and wonderful cinnamon rolls.



To order the family-style meals, you need to have at least three people seated.  Since there was just the two of us, we had to order the standard fried chicken plate, which was served as half of a fried chicken (breast, wing, thigh, drumstick) with two sides.  I opted for the mashed potatoes and the macaroni and cheese.  There wasn't a dud on the plate.  It is obvious that the mashed taters were freshly prepared and the mac and cheese was flavorful, but not gooey - just the way I like it.



I guess I forgot to mention the fried chicken.   Ummm....it was REALLLLY good.  This may be sacrilegious, but I might like it better than Stroud's.



DDG opted for fried okra and tomato pie; a house specialty, made with tomatoes, onions, cheddar cheese, and Ritz crackers.



I sat dessert out.  My plan was to head south after lunch, and after gorging myself on chicken and sides, I felt that a dessert would make me want a nap more than a drive home.  DDG opted for the homemade banana pudding, which I promptly compared to his Mom's.  I hope Mom ain't reading this, because my boy would be in deep trouble if his Mama ever found out that he claimed that Mary Mac's 'nanner puddin' was ALMOST as good as Mom's.  I am pretty sure that is the highest praise anyone is ever going to get from a true Southern boy.



Did I mention that DDG liked his dessert?  REALLLY liked his dessert?



There are a few more photos in my Flickr account, if anyone is interested - including close-ups of the tomato pie, mac and cheese.

I did make a return trip later in the summer.  I went with a larger group, so we did order the family-style dinner, which provided more choices on sides and allowed for split entrees.  I didn't take photos, but we did get the chicken and dumplings and some of the other sides.  The only problem is that they have a strict "no doggie bag" rule on the family dinners.  I guess this was a misunderstanding on my part, as I have never been denied taking food home from the initial serving portion.  Since you do have the opportunity to order seconds, I can see them not allowing doggie bags on the seconds.  In this case, they could only be throwing the food out anyway, so I am not sure why they wouldn't allow folks to take home the leftovers from their initial meal?  Still, this policy is clearly stated on the menu, so it was obviously not a point to argue, but I did feel bad about wasting so much good food.  I would have been tempted to wrap some of it in napkins and put it in my camera bag and carry my camera out on my shoulder.

All in all, Mary Mac's is a winner, though I would recommend ordering the single meals instead of the family dinners, if there is even a chance you might have some leftovers, as they do allow you to wrap up the individual meals.
#1

22 Replies Related Threads

    EatingTheRoad
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    Re:Mary Mac's Tea Room - Atlanta, GA - Summer/Fall 2009 2009/11/01 19:38:36 (permalink)
    Awesome write-up. I love love love love Mary Mac's, it's possibly one of my favorite restaurants....ever. Everything there is amazing. How much is the family-style dinner per person?

    I could honestly go there just for their bread basket...the yeast roll, oh my god...and the cinnamon roll, they melt in your mouth.

    They have my most favorite pecan pie ever:

    post edited by EatingTheRoad - 2009/11/01 19:42:16
    #2
    Nancypalooza
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    Re:Mary Mac's Tea Room - Atlanta, GA - Summer/Fall 2009 2009/11/01 21:20:09 (permalink)
    Awesome writeup and pictures Steve!  I imagine your friend liked the banana pudding very much indeed.

    We ordered the family style last summer sometime and I want to say it was in the vicinity of $18 a person?  Does that ring a bell with anybody?


    #3
    myterry2
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    Re:Mary Mac's Tea Room - Atlanta, GA - Summer/Fall 2009 2009/11/01 21:24:14 (permalink)
    One of the best writeups this year...fantastic pics...a job well done.
    #4
    buffetbuster
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    Re:Mary Mac's Tea Room - Atlanta, GA - Summer/Fall 2009 2009/11/02 07:26:21 (permalink)
    Fried chicken better than Stroud's?!?!  Don't make me one star you, young man! 

    Excellent write up and photos!  I knew you were a fan, but didn't realize you liked the place that much.  That banana pudding and macaroni and cheese sure does look pretty wonderful, though.

    Oh, and seeing a guy use his bare fingers to get at the last little bit of the banana pudding?  Yeah, definitely a buddy of yours!
    post edited by buffetbuster - 2009/11/02 16:14:34
    #5
    hatteras04
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    Re:Mary Mac's Tea Room - Atlanta, GA - Summer/Fall 2009 2009/11/02 10:05:14 (permalink)
    Mary Mac's was one of the highlights of my trip through the south in the spring.  We also we treated to a complimentary cup of pot likker each and I would go back just for more of that. 
    #6
    The Travelin Man
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    Re:Mary Mac's Tea Room - Atlanta, GA - Summer/Fall 2009 2009/11/02 11:39:05 (permalink)
    buffetbuster

    Fried chicken better than Stroud's?!?!?  Don't make me one star you, young man! 


    I am a heretic.  I know.  In the meantime, I am looking forward to some fine rightly fried chicken in a couple of weeks in Indianapolis to make me forget all about Mary Mac's! 

    buffetbuster
    Oh, and seeing a guy use his bare fingers to get at the last little bit of the banana pudding?  Yeah, definitely a buddy of yours!


    That is also my buddy who will be joining us in Indy....and who plans on bringing us treats from the Homemade Ice Cream and Pie Kitchen!

    Nancypalooza

    We ordered the family style last summer sometime and I want to say it was in the vicinity of $18 a person?  Does that ring a bell with anybody?


    That sounds about right.  The difference in price justifies the added choices one can have.  I like the idea of getting fried chicken AND something else, with the sides.  Still, it seemed ridiculous that we could not take home the food that we paid for.
    #7
    billyboy
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    Re:Mary Mac's Tea Room - Atlanta, GA - Summer/Fall 2009 2009/11/02 11:43:36 (permalink)
    TTM, I wonder if Mary Mac's ran into the problem of people abusing the buffet and piling up their plates with the purpose of taking the food home.  That rule may be in place to encourage folks to only take what they can eat and then go back for more if they are still hungry.
    #8
    rumaki
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    Re:Mary Mac's Tea Room - Atlanta, GA - Summer/Fall 2009 2009/11/02 11:56:34 (permalink)
    Mary Mac's doesn't have a buffet, I don't think. When you order family-style, you get platters and bowls of food and side dishes brought to your table by the wait staff.
     
    But I guess the point is that it isn't just family-style, it is all-you-can-eat, in house.
     
    I really enjoyed my trip to Mary Mac's in the fall of 2008 (I went alone, on a business trip, and so family style wasn't an option). There was plenty of delicious food, the waitress couldn't have been nicer -- it was great. However, although it was very good, I do not think the chicken is as good as Stroud's, or Hollyhock Hill in Indianapolis.  But it is a matter of taste.
     
    Hollyhock Hill serves family style, at least if you order fried chicken.  Even if you don't have fried chicken, I think all the sides are family style.  And they've never suggested (to me) that you couldn't take leftovers home -- in fact, they usually bring you a bag for the chicken, without asking, if there's any left.  Same at Stroud's, at least the last time I was there three or so years ago.
    #9
    Mrs.Crunch
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    Re:Mary Mac's Tea Room - Atlanta, GA - Summer/Fall 2009 2009/11/02 12:06:48 (permalink)
    WOW! Wonderful! I've never been to Atlanta but if I do go I know where I'm going! I do the same thing too, whenever out of town and search out restaurants I make sure I know what time they open their doors to beat the crowds.
    #10
    The Travelin Man
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    Re:Mary Mac's Tea Room - Atlanta, GA - Summer/Fall 2009 2009/11/02 12:11:28 (permalink)
    That is correct; there is no buffet.  I really have tried to think this through from all angles, and I just cannot come up with one good explanation of why you cannot take home your original order of food for which you have paid, that they will just throw out anyway.

    I suppose that my own simple solution will be to not order the family-style meal in the future.  When I am there by myself, as rumaki points out, it is not even a decision.  If I am there in a group, I am sure that we can organize our choices such that we may still be able to sample a few meals.  To be clear, I harbor no ill will towards Mary Mac's for this policy - I just don't understand the point.  Now that I full-well know the rules, I will adjust my own behavior.
    #11
    The Travelin Man
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    Re:Mary Mac's Tea Room - Atlanta, GA - Summer/Fall 2009 2009/11/02 12:13:15 (permalink)
    Mrs.Crunch

    WOW! Wonderful! I've never been to Atlanta but if I do go I know where I'm going! I do the same thing too, whenever out of town and search out restaurants I make sure I know what time they open their doors to beat the crowds.


    I don't know that I would go so far as to say that I ALWAYS do the proper research, inasmuch as my screen name has become synonymous with finding a cadre of closed restaurants.  But, when I know a place can get busy, and time is most important, I do try to make sure that my meal doesn't alter other important plans.
    #12
    Nancypalooza
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    Re:Mary Mac's Tea Room - Atlanta, GA - Summer/Fall 2009 2009/11/02 13:25:43 (permalink)
    Okay, now you're making me squeeze my head and think really hard.  We were there in June 08--I remember because it ended up being the day Tim Russert died.  We picked up Julie's sister Rachel at the airport and went to Mary Mac's for lunch, and if we'd been paying close attention we wouldn't have ordered family style, because we're all wimpy eaters.  I think the family style thing was attractive because of exactly what Steve is saying--two entrees and a bunch of sides.  But seriously, I could have *sworn* we took home leftovers.  I remember a running conversation with the waiter about what piddly amounts of the food we were actually eating.  I wonder if this is a new policy at Mary Mac's?
    #13
    PaulBPool
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    Re:Mary Mac's Tea Room - Atlanta, GA - Summer/Fall 2009 2009/11/02 13:39:31 (permalink)
    Just back from a week in Atlanta, and on Thursday the 29th went to Mary Mac's for dinner with a buddy. His order, chicken & dumplings, cole slaw and fried green tomatoes; mine, fried chicken breast, mac 'n' cheese, and black eyed peas.
    Started with the pot likker, and immediately liked what I tasted. Collards have to be just so for me to enjoy them, and this broth with greens was just wonderful. Cornbread broken into it made for good 'soppin' up! The bread basket would have been a meal in it's own, everything was warm, fresh, and very tasty.
    The meal itself was, overall, quite good. The chicken breast was big, meaty, tender and juicy without being greasy or oily. Good flavor, good coating, but could have been just a touch more cooked. Mac 'n' cheese had good flavor, but was barely warm when served, which made it sort of gummy. If it  had been piping hot, it would have been more enjoyable. The black eyed peas, however, were outstanding; well cooked yet not at all mushy, hot and tasty, with a nice oniony/salt/smoky flavor.
    My buddy's chicken and dumplings was quite good, tasty and well cooked. The cole slaw was creamy and crunchy, a nice side. Fried green tomatoes were crispy, not oily, and very tasty. Both plates were well cleaned at the end of the meal!
    I had the peach cobbler, warm and sweet, a perfect ending to the meal. Washed it all down with excellent, not overly sweet, 'sweet tea'. My meal, including dessert, topped out at $16.58 before tip - a true bargain for such wonderful food.
    Our Waitress, Trish was warm and friendly, management checked on us twice during our meal, and we left feeling as if we'd had a good meal at the home of a new friend.
    Oh, and we did see people asking for, and receiving, 'take home' boxes for meals that went unfinished.
     
    #14
    TJ Jackson
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    Re:Mary Mac's Tea Room - Atlanta, GA - Summer/Fall 2009 2009/11/02 13:52:25 (permalink)
    I liked the free sample pot likker (on our single stop at Mary Mac's on the way to the House of Mouse earlier this year) so well it was one of the sides I chose to go with my meal.  Fabulous.
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    TnTinCT
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    Re:Mary Mac's Tea Room - Atlanta, GA - Summer/Fall 2009 2009/11/02 14:19:16 (permalink)
    We got to experience Stroud's for the first time this summer, and I am pining for another exemplary chicken experience - it looks like you found a winner.  I head down to Atlanta reasonable frequently on business, and looks like I may have to seek out Mary Mac's. Do you know if the location is walkable from the MARTA transportation?
    #16
    wanderingjew
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    Re:Mary Mac's Tea Room - Atlanta, GA - Summer/Fall 2009 2009/11/02 14:33:32 (permalink)
    TOURIST TRAP!!
     
    Seriously,
     
    glad to see you finally posted your report. I remember you were telling me about your visit like 5 months ago or something like that.
     
    I haven't been to Mary Macs in 15 years. I went with with two others so we were able to enjoy everything family style and that was my first experience with Pot Likker and apparently the quality has held up over the years. I now regret not re-revisiting the last few times I was in Atlanta.
     
     
     
    #17
    rumaki
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    Re:Mary Mac's Tea Room - Atlanta, GA - Summer/Fall 2009 2009/11/02 15:57:45 (permalink)
    Mary Mac's is just a few blocks from the historic Fox Theater.  I believe the closest MARTA station is North Avenue.  I felt perfectly comfortable walking there (woman alone) for an early dinner, but it was in the early autumn, and still light out.  Might be a little dicey after dark.
    #18
    buffetbuster
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    Re:Mary Mac's Tea Room - Atlanta, GA - Summer/Fall 2009 2009/11/02 16:17:45 (permalink)
    The Travelin Man 
     

    buffetbuster
    Oh, and seeing a guy use his bare fingers to get at the last little bit of the banana pudding?  Yeah, definitely a buddy of yours!


    That is also my buddy who will be joining us in Indy....and who plans on bringing us treats from the Homemade Ice Cream and Pie Kitchen!
    Oh.
     
    What I meant to say is that it is easy to tell from the photo that your friend is extremely intelligent, of high moral character and possesses, uh, ummmm, impeccable table manners.  Yeah, that's what I meant to say!

    #19
    Greymo
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    Re:Mary Mac's Tea Room - Atlanta, GA - Summer/Fall 2009 2009/11/02 17:04:14 (permalink)
    Let us not forget...............he is good looking ...as far as his manners, I think his buddy  talked him into doing that!                                                                                                                                                                     





                                                                                                                                                               
    #20
    The Travelin Man
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    Re:Mary Mac's Tea Room - Atlanta, GA - Summer/Fall 2009 2009/11/03 00:44:55 (permalink)
    A couple of quick things...

    PaulBPool
    Started with the pot likker, and immediately liked what I tasted. Collards have to be just so for me to enjoy them, and this broth with greens was just wonderful.


    Not to nitpick, but I believe that Mary Mac's actually uses turnip greens in the pot likker.  I am not a fan of collards - they taste bitter to me - but this is a wonderful soup/broth/appetizer/side dish...ahhh....who cares what you call it!

    PaulBPool
    Oh, and we did see people asking for, and receiving, 'take home' boxes for meals that went unfinished.


    For the sake of clarification, *I* took home a doggy bag on my first visit, when I ordered the fried chicken off the regular lunch menu.  I only ate half of my chicken at the restaurant, and snacked on the rest around Cordele on the drive home.  However, for their FAMILY DINNERS, it clearly states on their menu that it is for dine in only, all you can eat, and there are no doggie bags.  It appears as though this rule is strictly enforced, but, as they say, your mileage may vary.  My experience outside of Mary Mac's has always been that you could not pack up any extras that you might order after your initial serving - but, boxing the initial portion was fair game.  Mary Mac's does not appear to abide that policy - and, as I said, now that I know the rules, I will act accordingly.
    #21
    The Travelin Man
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    Re:Mary Mac's Tea Room - Atlanta, GA - Summer/Fall 2009 2009/11/03 00:45:53 (permalink)
    buffetbuster

    The Travelin Man 
     

    buffetbuster
    Oh, and seeing a guy use his bare fingers to get at the last little bit of the banana pudding?  Yeah, definitely a buddy of yours!


    That is also my buddy who will be joining us in Indy....and who plans on bringing us treats from the Homemade Ice Cream and Pie Kitchen!
    Oh.
     
    What I meant to say is that it is easy to tell from the photo that your friend is extremely intelligent, of high moral character and possesses, uh, ummmm, impeccable table manners.  Yeah, that's what I meant to say!


    Sucking up for pie?  Is that what this world has come to?  For shame.
    #22
    CajunKing
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    Re:Mary Mac's Tea Room - Atlanta, GA - Summer/Fall 2009 2009/11/06 17:08:23 (permalink)
    buffetbuster

    The Travelin Man 
     

    buffetbuster
    Oh, and seeing a guy use his bare fingers to get at the last little bit of the banana pudding?  Yeah, definitely a buddy of yours!


    That is also my buddy who will be joining us in Indy....and who plans on bringing us treats from the Homemade Ice Cream and Pie Kitchen!
    Oh.
     
    What I meant to say is that it is easy to tell from the photo that your friend is extremely intelligent, of high moral character and possesses, uh, ummmm, impeccable table manners.  Yeah, that's what I meant to say!


    This comes from the man who licks his pie plate clean and then starts on piece number 3 or 4. 
    #23
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