Delicious Stops

Mary Mac’s Tea Room

By July 2, 2024 No Comments

Delicious Stops:

Review of Mary Mac’s Tea Room, Atlanta, Georgia

On a recent return from a month-long trip in Europe, my craving for authentic Southern food led me straight to Mary Mac’s Tea Room, a beloved institution in Atlanta, Georgia. Picked up from the airport by Teresa, my long-time friend from high school, we headed directly to this historic restaurant, eager to indulge in its renowned dishes.

A Southern Institution with Deep Roots and Delicious Fare

A Warm Welcome and Rich History

The welcoming atmosphere of Mary Mac’s Tea Room instantly makes you feel at home. The General Manager, Tina Rayner-Leftwich, graciously sat with us and shared the fascinating history of the tea room. “Mary Mac’s originally opened with one dining room,” Tina explained, “Today, we have six bustling dining rooms and a full-service bar. The restaurant has expanded to 13,000 square feet, occupying several storefronts, and is one of the city’s five-largest restaurants. Though our restaurant has grown over the years, it’s still 1945 in the kitchen. We still do things the way Mary MacKenzie and her successor, renowned owner Margaret Lupo (1962-1994), did things. Every morning, we shuck bushels of corn, hand wash our carefully selected greens, and snap fresh green beans by hand. We bake our own scrumptious breads and desserts.”

She also shared a bit of history about tea rooms. “Back in the 1940s, it wasn’t common for women to own businesses, but many women, particularly those widowed by World War II, needed to support themselves and their families. Naming their establishments ‘tea rooms’ made it more socially acceptable for women to run these businesses. Mary Mac’s was one of sixteen tea rooms in Atlanta at that time, and it has stood the test of time to become a beloved institution.”

Me and Tina Rayner-Leftwich, the General Manager of Mary Mac’s Tea Room.

Signature Dishes That Define Southern Comfort

Our meal started with a complimentary bowl of potlikker, the flavorful broth from Mary Mac’s famous collard greens, accompanied by  mini “cracklin bread “  cornbread muffins, a special treat for first-time visitors.

About “Pot Likker Soup”

At Mary Mac’s Tea Room, the potlikker soup, made from the rich broth of slow-cooked collard greens, is a true Southern delight. For those unfamiliar, potlikker  is the savory liquid left behind after boiling greens, infused with a medley of flavors. Some parts of the South call it pot liquor but around my neck the woods we call it “Potlikker”. My grandmother used to swear by it, claiming it could cure anything from a common cold to a broken heart. She’d always say, “It’s the Southern penicillin, y’all!” Whether you’re a potlikker novice or a seasoned connoisseur, this soup is sure to bring a comforting taste of the South to your soul.

This tradition sets the tone for the hearty, home-cooked meal to come. Even though this was not our first time dining at Mary Mac’s, they were kind enough to serve us a bowl of the potlikker soup.

We couldn’t resist ordering their famous fried chicken, a dish that epitomizes Southern cuisine. The crispy, juicy chicken was everything I had hoped for and more. Alongside, we enjoyed the creamy macaroni and cheese, another staple that did not disappoint. The fluffy squash casserole, a favorite from my previous visits, was as delicious as ever, and the fried green tomatoes were perfectly seasoned and crispy.

Other specialties at Mary Mac’s are

The tomato pie, a celebrated dish at Mary Mac’s, is always a favorite. I order it every single time. I don’t know of anyone who wouldn’t love their tomato pie!  In this post, I’ll include the link to my copycat recipe to Mary Mac’s Tomato Pie so you can try recreating this delicious dish at home. The blend of ripe tomatoes, cheese, and the buttery Ritz Cracker crust is simply divine. Check out my copycat recipe here!

Mary Mac’s Tomato Pie (Copycat Recipe)

Other favorites at Mary Mac’s Tea Room include their baked chicken and turkey with dressing, both exceptionally juicy and flavorful. I’ve enjoyed these dishes on multiple occasions, and they consistently impress. The homemade meatloaf is a comforting classic, while the savory, slow-cooked pot roast reminds me of my mother’s famous Coca-Cola pot roast that she used to make on Sunday’s. Tender  and richly satisfying it’s the kind of comfort food that could make anyone feel right at home.  Additionally, their fried okra provides a delightful, crispy side that complements any meal. And I just have to mention their sweet potato soufflé is off the charts-light and fluffy with a hint of cinnamon and topped with toasted marshmallows. Each of these dishes showcases the culinary excellence that Mary Mac’s is renowned for.

Teresa enjoying her meal.

Homemade Yeast Rolls: A Must-Try

No meal at Mary Mac’s Tea Room would be complete without their homemade yeast rolls. These rolls are to die for – soft, warm, and perfectly fluffy, making them an essential part of the dining experience. They are so good that they alone are worth the trip to Mary Mac’s.

Decadent Desserts to Savor

Despite being delightfully full, we couldn’t leave without sampling the desserts. The homemade peach cobbler was the perfect ending to our meal. When I took my first bite of cobbler, it was a true “bless your heart” kind of moment—sweet, warm, and so comforting it felt like a hug from the inside.

Their banana pudding, made from scratch with a pile-high meringue, is the perfect Southern finale that will have you scraping the bowl for every last bite.

Mary Mac’s also offers bourbon pecan pie, old fashioned strawberry shortcake, coconut cake and a yummy bread pudding topped with their famous wine sauce all of which looked tempting enough to warrant a return visit. We also couldn’t resist purchasing a pan of their homemade cinnamon rolls to take home.

Each dessert is a testament to Mary Mac’s ability to turn simple, traditional recipes into something truly extraordinary.

Their peach cobbler is out of this world!! Best flaky crust!

Mary Mac’s famous homemade cinnamon rolls.

A Slice of Southern Hospitality

The staff at Mary Mac’s treat every guest like family, making the dining experience all the more special. Their sweet tea, often referred to as the “wine of the South,” is the perfect accompaniment to any meal. This kind of hospitality and dedication to tradition is what makes Mary Mac’s Tea Room a must-A Hub of Celebrity Sightings.

A unique aspect of dining at Mary Mac’s is their use of green pencils and order tickets. Guests fill out their own orders using the famous green pencils, a charming tradition that adds to the restaurant’s quaint appeal. It’s interesting to note that Mary Mac’s sharpens about 500 pencils a day to keep this tradition alive.


A Hub of Celebrity Sightings

During our visit, we learned that Mary Mac’s has a myriad of famous faces over the years, from former President Jimmy Carter, Hillary Clinton, the Dalai Lama, James Brown, Beyoncé, Justin Bieber to actor Richard Gere. And it’s been rumored that members of the royal family of England have dined here as well. The walls adorned with photographs are a testament to the restaurant’s storied past and its role in the community. Most definitely Mary Mac’s is the place to see and be seen among locals, tourists, politicians and celebrities.

Behind-the-Scenes Kitchen Tour

One of the highlights of our visit was the gracious invitation from the manager to tour the kitchen. This behind-the-scenes look was absolutely amazing. We got to meet many of the cooks and see firsthand how they operate such an efficient and impressive kitchen. This personal touch made our experience at Mary Mac’s even more memorable.

Nothing like made-from-scratch banana pudding. Made just like my mother taught me how. Mary Mac’s has the real deal “Southern Banana Pudding.”

Frying up their famous fried chicken!

Their delicious sweet potato soufflé.

Final Thoughts

Mary Mac’s Tea Room is more than just a restaurant; it’s a cultural landmark that preserves the flavors and traditions of the South. Whether you’re a local or a visitor, dining at Mary Mac’s offers a taste of history, hospitality, and delicious Southern cuisine that is sure to leave a lasting impression. The homemade yeast rolls alone are worth the trip – soft, warm, and perfectly fluffy, they epitomize the comfort and quality of this beloved institution.

I extend a heartfelt thanks to Tina Raffner-Lefwich, the gracious and kind General Manager of Mary Mac’s Tea Room. Her generosity in sitting down with us to share the rich history and captivating stories of the restaurant’s previous owners, as well as providing an insightful tour of the kitchen, was truly appreciated. Her hospitality added a special touch to our visit, making it an unforgettable experience.

I happily give Mary Mac’s Tea Room a 5 star!

Don’t for get to check out my copycat version of Mary Mac’s famous tomato pie here!

Mary Mac’s Tomato Pie (Copycat Recipe)


              MARY MAC’S

                 Tea  Room

                  Open Daily From 11am-9pm


                    224 Ponce De Leon Ave. NE

                           Atlanta, GA 30308




Hi, my name is Aletia. I am a true blue Southern girl, cookbook author, entrepreneur, self-taught food photographer and lover of chocolate.