Mary Mac's Tea Room

Mary Mac’s Tea Room and Papi’s Midtown East

Feast. Blackened catfish. Collard greens. Sweet potato soufflé. Pot likker.


I usually don’t find myself in Atlanta, but when I do, I make it to Mary Mac’s.

The backstory. This was the time before I started my Master’s in public health; I was visiting schools in Atlanta, specifically Emory, in order to make a decision on where I wanted to go. Although I didn’t end up attending Emory, I wasn’t going to pass up on the chance to do some food exploration in and around Atlanta.

As a city, Atlanta is rather spread out. A vehicle would have made things easier, but for those who don’t have a car, there is MARTA, a transportation system that is quite similar to BART. I wasn’t the biggest fan of it (nor am of BART), but it gets the job done. In the case of food exploration, I headed out on foot, which may not have been the safest thing to do, especially in downtown Atlanta. But it was alright. The food, on the other hand, was fantastic.

I hit two locations in the same night to maximize the food fun. One, southern hometown goodness, and two, Cuban cuisine, which I would eventually find myself to love (writing in the “future” tense here, since I do love that type of food right now).

Food hopping is difficult when alone. Tapas become a meal, entreés become a feast, and feasts become complete and utter gluttony. Eating alone subtracts from the experience, so when hopping alone, I usually go for the takeout-leftover combination. Try a little bit of everything and leave some for tomorrow. Usually works out pretty well, unless you don’t have a fridge. Then you just eat until your pants burst.

</img>
Cornbread!

The night started with clearing the hotel nightstand so I could lay out all the food. It started with some cornbread, which was a bit dry, but had all the corn flavor that one could desire.

</img>
Blackened catfish.

Moved on to some blackened catfish. “Blackened” in this case really means dry-rubbed with cajun/creole spices and pan seared until the spices are nice and “burnt.” This imparts a smoky but not burnt flavor; the balance is delicate. Don’t overdo it.

</img>
Forests of fun.

Collard greens are usually made with a longer ingredient list than just boiled greens. There’s some pork/chicken stock involved, onions, smoked pork hocks, and vinegar. Boil and simmer for several hours until the greens are nice and tender.

</img>
Sweet pertaeto pie.

Mashed sweet potato. Sweet whipped cream, sugar, and sometimes some booze. All highly palatable items whipped together for a irresistible side.

</img>
Ropa vieja.

“Old Clothes,” is the literal translation. Shredded beef. Tomatoes. Cumin. Oregano. Onions. Peppers. Deliciousness like colorful rags. A heavy Cuban stew for the hearty.

Yeah. I ate all of it.

~F