GA Voice - - Outspoken - By CLIFF BOSTOCK

This iconic South­ern, some­what touristy restau­rant opened in 1945. It hasn’t been with­out controversy.

Over the years, es­pe­cially with the restau­rant’s pur­chase by John Fer­rell in 1994, controversy has sub­sided and dé­cor has shifted rad­i­cally to­ward el­e­gance. The walls are cov­ered with the count­less celebri­ties who have eaten there.

The food re­mains about the same. The fried chicken is still the best dish on the menu in my opin­ion. I ad­mit to a pe­cu­liar ten­dency over the years to or­der the same thing, chicken and dumplings, even though I never feel quite sat­is­fied. It’s a dish you sel­dom see on At­lanta menus, so I can never re­sist. The prob­lem for me is that it is too soupy. Yeah, I know that’s usual, but if it’s soupy, the dumplings should be large. Mary Mac’s are not.

An ap­pe­tizer I of­ten or­der is the pot likker with crack­lin’ corn­bread, some­thing my mother pre­pared. It’s the wa­ter left af­ter cook­ing a pot of col­lards. Un­for­tu­nately, the crack­lings – bits of crunchy pork fat – are way too scarce in the corn­bread. Still, it’s a nos­tal­gic treat.

Fried green toma­toes and dev­iled eggs re­main just about per­fect. There’s an end­less menu of sides. My fa­vorite desserts have al­ways been the peach cob­bler and ba­nana pud­ding. Mary Mac’s isn’t per­fect, but it’s still comfy.

We also re­cently vis­ited R Thomas Deluxe Grill (1812 Peachtree St., 404-881-0246, www.rthomas­delux­e­ The 82-year- old owner, Richard Thomas, died a few weeks ago, but the restau­rant has been un­der the man­age­ment of fam­ily mem­bers for some time.

When it opened in 1985, the menu was typ­i­cal of burger joints. Some­where around 2000, though, Thomas got on a health food kick that changed the menu big-time. We’re talk­ing veg­e­tar­ian, gluten-free and ve­gan fare, free-range meats, juices, and smooth­ies. As a fre­quent cus­tomer, I wasn’t happy and Thomas chided me fre­quently.

Dur­ing my re­cent visit, a friend and I both or­dered the chicken pic­cata, one of my fa­vorite dishes gen­er­ally. An­other or­dered the sal­mon pic­cata. Alas, R. Thomas’ pic­catta lacks a vi­tal in­gre­di­ent. While the sal­mon and the chicken strips dusted with ama­ranth flour, both bur­nished with a lemony sauce, had great fla­vor, where were the ca­pers? It’s an es­sen­tial in­gre­di­ent!

The ta­ble’s best dish was a fat sand­wich lay­ered with grilled chicken. Veg­gie sides, like green beans, pureed beets and some­thing we couldn’t even iden­tify, took the most space on my plate.

These are restau­rants that have played vi­tal roles in At­lanta’s culi­nary de­vel­op­ment. While they won’t ban­ish the Don­ald, they may help you re­mem­ber bet­ter times.

Cliff Bostock is a for­mer psy­chother­a­pist now spe­cial­iz­ing in life coach­ing. Con­tact him at 404-518-4415 or cliff­bo­

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