MARIETTA, Ga. — Country: Ireland

Dish: Soda bread

Location: Marietta

Stop #44

You may think you know what Irish food is all about. But a visit to Johnnie MacCracken’s Celtic Firehouse Pub in Marietta may have you thinking twice.

“Corned beef is not Irish at all. You can’t go to Ireland and order corned beef,” owner Gary Leake, said. “You’ll find fish. You’ll find pork, chicken."

While Leake may offer the popular corned beef on the menu (with steamed cabbage, of course), he says a taste of what’s really sacred to the Irish palate means a slice of warm soda bread.

“How does this dish represent Ireland?”

“This, honest to God, is a link to the past. It survives generations,” Leake said. ”When somebody eats this, it brings back memories, and that’s what we do having this on the menu.”

The soda bread evolved out of necessity, considering the island's access to other ingredients.

 “When baking soda made its way into Ireland, this type of bread became very popular because they didn’t have access to yeast,” Leake said.

“My original recipe was grandmother-driven,” he explained. “This recipe actually was modified by an employee...he could make the best, best soda bread you’d ever had in your life. And he wouldn’t show anyone how he did it, except for one gentleman who still works for us.”

Johnnie MacCracken’s uses the recipe to this day.

“How does this dish represent Atlanta?”

“When people walk into this place, they drop to their knees, because this is the closest thing to the style you would find in Ireland,” Leake said. “People walk in here and think it’s been here 100 years.”

At the Table is a digital series produced by 11Alive's Matt Pearl and Liza Lucas. Metro Atlanta features the food of dozens of nations. We want to eat through them all! Follow us on Facebook and share your favorite food stories.

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