SOUTHERN FOOD ATL. Only have time for one, which is the best? Mary Mac's, Collanade...?
I'm leaning towards Mary Mac's right now. I read some negative, but also that it has returned to its former greatness over the past few years. My second choice is Collanade. Which is the better of those two? Or is there something even better I am missing?
I'll be staying downtown and would prefer not to have to drive to far. I'm looking for the most authentic, historic, classic, ect... southern restaurant.
If you don't want to drive far from downtown, Mary Mac's is closest, and is an institution. I haven't eaten there for several years so can't speak to the inconsistency issue. The Colonnade is a bit farther (we're talking 15 minutes instead of 5 minute drive, not super far), and has a great, very Atlanta mix of clientele, traditionally (at least in the last few decades), "gays and grays." Food is solid and very southern (there's chicken fried chicken on the menu). Both are good choices, but I'd personally make the drive to Cheshire Bridge. Don't be scared off by all the strip clubs.
1879 Cheshire Bridge Rd NE, Atlanta, GA 30324
Mary Mac's Tea Room
224 Ponce De Leon Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30308
Mary Mac's has declined hard over the past 8 yrs or so. I would go to Bobby and June's Biscuits and BBQ on 14th or Silver Skillet on 14th. Both are institutions in Atlanta and have retained their quality through the years.
200 14th St NW, Atlanta, GA 30318
Fair warning. I have not eaten at Mary Mac's in many years. Used to live nearby and frequent it but so long ago I won't comment on the food. Except I suppose they still bring out the basket of cinnamon rolls that were always welcome. I have eaten at the Collonade a couple of times in recent years with relatives who like to celebrate birthdays there. Most reviews I see give the nod to Collonade for food.
If ambience is very important, maybe Mary Mac's gets the nod. I don't know if this makes sense to you, or anyone else, but Mary Mac's seems late 40's, 50's; the one I would have gone to with my grandmother because the surroundings (inside, and the neighborhood residential atmosphere) would have appealed to her - while the Collonade seems more 60's, the one I would have gone to with my parents because it would have been more their style, after they got past the glitzy commercial joints nearby.
My recommendation is Watershed, in Decatur. Scott Peacock emphasizes the fresh foods that are the heart of true southern cooking -- regional veggies, revisited classics. No fried chicken except on Tuesdays, but I've never been disapointed in a meal there.
Last time I went to Mary Mac's I was very disapointed. Food has definitely gone downhill. Colonnade is WONDERFUL and is a good second choice. Colonnade has a great vibe. And they mix a mean cocktail. Be sure to have a designaed driver. That said, some of the classic veggies are a bit tired. If you do go to Colonnade, go for the fried chicken, enjoy a few rolls, and save room for strawberry pie.