Mary Mac’s Tea Room
Mary Mac’s Tea Room in Midtown is one of Atlanta’s most distinguished and historic restaurants. It is known for its classic southern dishes and warm hospitality.
The restaurant was founded in 1945 by Mary MacKenzie. After World War II, women were in search of work and wanted to open restaurants. However, it was frowned upon for women to own restaurants due to the patriarchal norms, so women called their businesses “tea rooms.” Atlanta had 17 tea rooms originally, but Mary Mac’s is the last standing.
Mary MacKenzie owned Mary Mac’s for 20 years before she sold the restaurant to Margaret Lupo who owned the restaurant for 25 years. Since then, Mary Mac’s has been through two other ownerships. Despite these transitions, manager and server of 12 years, Donna Amburn, claims nothing has changed.
“During the Covid crisis, we were bought out by Harold Martin, who was also interim president of Morehouse College. He didn’t change a thing, he wanted to leave it just as is,” Amburn said. “All of the recipes have always been the same and the culture the same. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Mary Mac’s has been recognized for its food on multiple occasions, winning multiple awards and being officially acknowledged as “Atlanta’s Dining Room” by the Georgia House of Representatives in 2011.
Although Mary Mac’s is known for its southern cuisine, its neighborly atmosphere is what makes the restaurant so unique. Mary Mac’s has become a popular destination for visiting celebrities and tourists. Nearly every wall in the restaurant is filled from top to bottom with photos of important figures and politicians.
“I’ve personally seen Stevie Wonder, Kate Hudson and her mom Goldie Hawn, the cast of ‘Housewives of Atlanta’ and we had a rapper in here last night,” Amburn said. “We also have a lot of politicians. John Lewis came in here all the time.”
Junior C.J. Fucile has been eating at Mary Mac’s for years, and it has become an important part of his life in Atlanta.
“I went with my mom, brother, and grandma every Sunday for about a year. We went every week together, so it became a sort of tradition,” Fucile said. “We started going after my grandma moved here from Texas, so in a sense, it was sort of a way to introduce her to Atlanta. I always felt that it was a throwback restaurant. The food and environment really felt like what I’d expect of fancy southern dinners.”
Mary Mac’s is known internationally, yet Amburn said that its primary way of advertising is through “word of mouth.”
“We have a lot of people that come in here from different parts of the country and we have a lot of foreign visitors as well,” Amburn said. “They have all heard about us through their friends. They say, ‘when you come to Atlanta, you’ve got to go to Mary Mac’s.’ The community has always been fantastic for us.”
Mary Mac’s makes it its mission to welcome all customers with open arms, and Amburn takes great pride in the community they have built.
“Whenever people come here for their first time, we offer them something called pot likker to welcome them to Mary Mac’s,” Amburn said. “We want to welcome everyone and make them feel at home. We have some really great customers and a lot of regulars that we know and love. We just love it so much.”
Fucile has grown an appreciation for the staff at Mary Mac’s and believes that they add to the entire experience.
“I think that the community contributes to the environment because it is primarily comprised of the staff,” Fucile said. “They really add to the sense of southern hospitality. Like any restaurant, I think the staff are almost as important as the food. They really dictate your experience.”
224 Ponce De Leon Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30308 (404) 876-1800