This Atlanta Eatery Has Been Cooking Up Delicious Soul Food Since 1947
Welcome to the Busy Bee Cafe!
More than two hours before the first customer even sits down, the staff at Busy Bee Cafe is getting ready. They squeeze the lemons each morning and slice the pound cakes by hand. It's the same sounds you would have heard back in 1947, when a self-taught cook named Lucy Jackson, better known as Miss Lucy, opened Busy Bee Cafe just outside downtown Atlanta.
And that combination has attracted national attention including tourists from around the world and celebrities including Jay Z, Bernie Sanders and Kobe Bryant to name a few.
Today, Atlanta native Tracy Gates who took over the restaurant in 1987 from her father, knows Southern cooking is all in the detail. She makes every dish from scratch with local, seasonal ingredients and purchases all of her products from the farmer's market.
Gates also believes in learning from history and keeps her self-described 'manuals on foot' close. "I always keep an elder cook on staff who are usually in their 60's and 70's because I tend to run into challenges with the products with the way they grow them now," Gates notes.
That also includes those in the front of the restaurant. Jacqueline Baity has been a server at BusyBee for more than 30 years. She wears a hat that reads 'Queen Bee' and without hesitation will tell you why Busy Bee has stood the test of time, "The food is cooked with love."
Chef Richard Sanders II, who was born and raised in Atlanta, says that "the South on the Plate" logo on the tee shirts worn by the staff at Busy Bee, is as much about the feeling as the food. "It literally tastes like home like when I was five years old and going to Big Mamma's house," he recalls.
And the customers agree. 85 year old Mary Grissom has been coming to Busy Bee for what she calls 'a long time.' She keeps coming back because she says, "It's just like home." Her advice to anyone who hasn't tried this southern staple, "They don't know what they are missing."
And for Gates, although her food has won many awards, a smile and a nod from a customer like Mary, may be the highest honor. Gates says, "The best compliment is from an elderly person because this is what they grew up on. If I can reproduce what they know, I know hit it."
Despite the fact Busy Bee does not advertise, demand is so high customers can wait up to two hours to be seated. Fortunately, a second restaurant is slated to open this coming January on 111 Trinity Avenue in downtown which will include a commercial kitchen to also allow for more catering and shipping options outside of Georgia.