Catherine & Mary's (Memphis)

I typically reminisce a restaurant on Caramelized right after my first meal; but like a rich serving of Chef Andy Ticer and Chef Michael Hudman's famed Maw Maw's gravy, I knew it was best to let this one simmer.

I've visited Catherine & Mary's ten times by now, admittedly, partially due to its less-than-a-mile proximity from my home and my office, and partially because the food and cocktails are phenomenal.

The space is unlike its local sister restaurants, each of which is housed in an East Memphis refurbished home. Catherine & Mary's creates the restaurant group's familiar warmth within a sprawling concrete hall in Downtown Memphis on the bottom floor of the historic Hotel Chisca (now an apartment community).

A stunning bar spawns the entire west wall, welcoming diners and drinkers and conversationalists. Floor-to-ceiling windows detract the need for excessive indoor lighting. Votives flood the tabletops after dark, creating a curious romance that South Main's dining scene has craved for years.

Named after Andy and Michael's grandmothers, Catherine and Mary's carries a tasteful balance of tradition and trend. Its informed and innovative menu, which adjusts monthly, offers either a hearty rigatoni or a fresh pistachio pesto radiatore on the Pasta section, for example.

On a late Saturday night with red wine in hand, the chitarra -- squid ink noodles with lobster and arabiatta -- instantly warms my winter. On the other hand, Tuesdays at 5 p.m. welcome a fresh cocktail with colleagues and bar bites from crispy chick peas to Porcellino's cured meats. Don't miss the ramache, a corn fritter-type popper stuffed with cheese and meat.

Unique non-traditional appetizer offerings have included a chick pea pancake (think hummus as batter) with ricotta and roasted pumpkin, entited the Socca di Ceci, along with a smooth-as-butter tuna crudo with hazelnut. I'm in awe with both.

The servings are irresistible no matter the level of appetite.

I'm grateful the AM Eats team has made its Downtown entrance. The neighborhood and its Grizzlies fan-filled streets welcome the establishment with pride and gusto. If you're looking for me, you'll most likely find me perched on a bar stool in the sun-kissed window light.