Iconic Atlanta restaurant loses its key ingredient - CBS46 News

Iconic Atlanta restaurant loses its key ingredient

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(Source: WGCL) (Source: WGCL)

It’s a southern tradition like no other.

“Their cinnamon rolls are just to die for,” customer Mitzi Killian said.

“It’s just like eating at home,” customer Paul Howard said. 

“The pot roast is really good,” customer Deborah James said.

Mary Mac’s Tea Room has served Atlanta for more than 70 years. It’s southern hospitality at its finest.

Yes, customers dine at the restaurant for the fried chicken, whipped potatoes and banana pudding, but they also love that special ingredient you won’t find on the menu.

“She is the institution. She’s what makes Mary Mac’s, Mary Mac’s,” Killian said.

“When I come in, she comes in and she rubs my back,” Howard said.

“Coming today and seeing her again was really, really special,” customer Anna Sanders said.

Meet Ms. Jo Carter, the one and only Goodwill Ambassador, a legend in her own right.

“Oh yea, they’re like, 'Is she Mrs. Mary Mac?' I’m like no she’s not Mrs. Mary Mac,” Mary Mac’s server Keela Taylor said.

Never mind the celebrities who have dined here through the years, like the Dalai Lama, Richard Gere and Alan Jackson. Ms. Jo is by far the most famous.

“Alan Jackson said, honey just put it on me,” Carter said.

And for a quarter of a century she’s made customers laugh, greeting them with a touch of kindness.

“It’s a personal touch and it makes you realize the old southern charm is still around,” Killian said.

“You’ve got to be able to walk the walk and talk the talk,” Carter said.

And while the talking has never been a problem...

"You’re a good looking man, did anyone ever tell you that?” Carter asked a customer.

It’s now a challenge just to get around.

“Rheumatoid Arthritis. He’s a bad man. Don’t never pick him up,” Carter said.

The time has come to make some choices. Some easier than others.

“I’m trying something new. Tomato pie. I’ve never had it before,” Sanders said.

But Ms. Jo’s choice is not that easy.

“My plans were to die here, but it got changed,” Carter said.

So while most of the traditions at Mary Mac's will stay the same...

“All good things have to come to an end. And I think that’s what’s happened to me here,” Carter said.

Ms. Joe's shift is finally ending, but her time at the restaurant will not be forgotten.

“If I could do it all over again, I’d do it exactly the same way,” Carter said.

On her last day, Georgia's Secretary of State honored Ms. Jo with a special certificate naming her an "Outstanding Georgia Citizen."

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