by Chloe Morris
My dad’s office was literally two blocks away so eating here when we were younger was a regular thing when we came to play at his office. It’s been about a couple of years since I’ve been at Mary Mac’s so I talked a friend into joining me for lunch last week. I remember when Mary Mac’s was just a tiny space. Over the years, they’ve added a room here, a room there, and now they just about occupy the entire block. By the way, be very careful when crossing the street in these parts — we almost got killed twice, and while crossing on a crosswalk, too!
The one thing I love the most about this place is the service. They are all so warm and hospitable. So proper and professional. I surmise these wonderful people have been serving here for many years. I don’t think there’s anyone here under the age of 40.
First the bread basket. I am a certified breadaholic. I love soft, moist, yeasty rolls and sweetish corn bread. Unfortunately, such is not the case here (anymore). The rolls, while warm and freshly baked, didn’t have the yeastiness southern cuisine is known for. The corn bread was also a tad on the dry side. You’ll need to slather a good amount of butter to compensate.
We started with an order of Mudbugs. These are big, plump crawfish tails battered lightly in cornmeal then fried golden. The crawfish had a good bite and not too chewy. The chunky tartar sauce is a bit too mayonnaisey so I suggest you dip them in cocktail sauce instead.
My fried pork chops were moist and tender, fried perfectly, and had a thin, crisp batter, but was just a bit undersalted for my tastes. The creamed corn was absolutely fantastic. They use fresh corn with light cream. Delicious. However, I was quite disappointed with my collard greens. They were offensively bitter. Don’t get me wrong, though, I love bitter vegetables and always order bitter melons from Asian restaurants. If you haven’t eaten bitter melons before, don’t. Really. It’s an acquired taste and I don’t know anyone except me and my mom who actually like the stuff. But if you must, then take baby steps and get bitter melons in black bean sauce. But back to my collard greens. I’ve eaten a fair share of collard greens in my life and I never fail to get it whenever I’m in a southern restaurant including here. The collard greens here were uneatable. And I don’t remember them being that bad here. A bit more vinegar while cooking would have solved the problem and my addition of copious amount of pepper vinegar couldn’t save this one from anything. Oh well.
My buddy’s Chicken and Dumplings doesn’t even sound appetizing to me. Maybe because I have never, ever tasted a good Chicken and Dumplings. The starchy, chewy, sticky dumplings just don’t do it for me. And I still don’t know what possessed my friend to order this awful excuse for baby food. Incidentally, my mom made homecooked baby food for us. So yes, we were spoiled. So I was already prejudiced before his food ever came and I wasn’t surprised because I was right all along. I still have not found a place that makes good chicken and dumplings.
I still love this place. I have fond memories here. And it’s an Atlanta institution. We never fail to bring out-of-town guests here all the time. If you haven’t been, you have to try it at least once.
All-you-can-eat lunch special available to parties of 3 or more.
Mary Mac’s Tea Room
224 Ponce De Leon Ave NE
Atlanta, GA 30308
To read more lively reviews by Clhoe Morris go to her blog at Chow Down Atlanta at www.chowdownatlanta.com