Remember when I said that Atlanta’s culinary talent has been increasingly recognized by network cooking shows? This week, Atlanta’s own Mary Mac’s Tea Room, Busy Bee Cafe and Horseradish Grill get their share of the spotlight.
Emeril Lagasse’s newest show, “The Originals with Emeril,” stops in Atlanta during this week’s episode (Thursday, June 2 at 10:30 p.m.). The show examines iconic restaurants in 13 cities across the country that have withstood the test of time.
Emeril explains that there are restaurants that have been “doing the same thing for 50-75-100 years and are still doing it right,” which often means they’re neglected in popular food culture where the focus tends to be on the trendy and new. The idea for show originated with a team of writers who thought it important to capture these authentic establishments. Emeril says, “I realized after getting into it that there was a lot of guts to this thing.”
How were restaurants chosen for each city? Emeril’s team and the Food Network team scouted locations and solicited foodie recommendations. The process was very selective. In fact, Emeril laughs that when the show stopped in New Orleans, “Emeril’s has been around for 20 years but it didn’t make the cut.”
In Atlanta, Mary Mac’s Tea Room did make the cut. Emeril receives his requisite back rub and samples the classic Southern food that has been bringing customers back for 70 years. Emeril admires that the kitchen hasn’t changed much and that some staff members have worked there for 20-30 years. He tells me that he had “great shrimp and grits” at Mary Mac’s.
Next, he makes his way to the iconic Busy Bee Cafe. He chuckles, “I can’t tell you what a day I had there.” Emeril marvels at the history of the cafe and appreciates the hospitality. He also notes that he has “some of the best fried chicken I’ve ever put in my mouth.”
And because the show didn’t want Atlanta to be represented only by classic Southern and soul food, he visits Horseradish Grill, “a place full of locals, full of spirit [and] completely different but truly original.” There, he visits the restaurant’s organic garden to harvest greens and tomatoes, which are used to prepare braised greens and fried green tomatoes that accompany chargrilled mountain trout.
Though he could only visit three restaurants during this episode, Emeril says that he would like to bring the show back to Atlanta at some point because “Atlanta has an original perspective.”
Check out three of our own on “The Originals with Emeril” this Thursday at 10:30 p.m. on The Cooking Channel.
–by Jenny Turknett, Food & More blog
– Jenny Turknett writes about Southern and Neighborhood Fare for the AJC Dining Team. She also publishes her own blog, Going Low Carb.