Mary Mac’s Tea Room doors first opened in 1945 when Mary McKenzie decided to use her good Southern cooking to make money in the tough post-World War II days. In those days, a woman couldn’t just open up a restaurant, so many female proprietors used the more genteel Southern name of “Tea Room.” Ponce de Leon Avenue sported clanking trolley cars, the Atlanta Crackers Baseball team and tents serving ice cold watermelons. There were many ornate movie theaters like the Fox Theatre just down the street. And there were at least 16 other Tea Rooms around intown Atlanta with Mary Mac’s being the only one of them left.
In the early 1960s, Margaret Lupo bought Mary Mac’s and over the next 30 years grew it into a larger restaurant by buying up property next door to it and expanding. She was a hard working business woman who loved Southern cooking and brought Mary Mac's from a small little Tea Room to one of the South's best known restaurants. She accomplished all this during a time when there were very few women in business and it would be difficult for any woman to secure a bank loan. Click here to read Serenbe's Marie Nygren's blog about the early days of Mary Macs. It contains some great insight and history on Mary Macs. Marie is the daughter of Margaret Lupo.
The current owner, John Ferrell, purchased Mary Mac’s in 1994. He was actually hand-chosen by Margaret Lupo to take over her beloved restaurant. And he has not let her down as he continues a great tradition of Southern cuisine and hospitality. The location has stayed the same, and the food remains nearly identical to what it was over sixty years ago.