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Editorial By Susan O'Connor, Illustration by Brittney Guest

A love of good food goes way back in my family.

I remember a particular conversation from childhood between my uncle’s new bride from Michigan and my grandmother Ponder, who was a southern lady if there ever was one. Mary from the north commented, “This family seems obsessed with food.” She was astounded that we discuss menu items from beloved restaurants and labor over elaborate family meals, hinting that this must be a cultural phenomenon. Even at the young age of seven, I detected a slight bit of condescension in Mary’s tone, and I was aware that my proud grandmother was not amused. Over the years, Mary came to appreciate the intricacies of our traditions.

Luckily, my husband is also a foodie—maybe even more so than me! He definitely is a better cook. When we travel, dining is a large part of our entertainment. So, in conjunction with this issue’s Food Lover’s Guide, here’s a quick description of some of our favorite restaurants in the vicinity.

• Felicia Suzanne’s, corner of Main and Monroe, downtown Memphis. For both atmosphere and food, we love Jonesboro native Felicia Willett’s restaurant. The dishes are distinctly southern and as good as any fine dining in New Orleans. I can’t visit without having either the crispy oysters in New Orleans barbecue sauce, or the shrimp and andouille sausage sautéed in Creole sauce served over a pretty little cake of grits. Also, Felicia has a great New Year’s Eve party. A former protégé of Emeril Lagasse, check out Felicia Suzanne’s website to learn more about her interesting career.

• Tsunami, 928 South Cooper, Memphis. This little jewel in the Cooper-Young neighborhood in Mid-town is an intimate purveyor of very good Pacific-Rim cuisine. The dinner menu offers selections such as: roasted sea bass on black Thai rice with soy beurre blanc; and sea scallops with spinach-goat cheese wontons in a tomato curry sauce. There are also nightly small plates that range in price from $14 to $18. Dining al fresco is available, and Tsunami’s is also open for lunch. Get a table near the fireplace for a romantic date.

• Belmont Grill, Poplar at Mendenhall, Memphis. Just like Cheers, Belmont Grill is an old-fashioned bar and grill where everyone is treated like a regular. It is truly a haunt for East Memphians. This place has been around since the Great Depression and has the best fried shrimp and fries in Memphis. The steaks are pretty hard to beat, too. For late night dining after a concert or play, this is a great spot.

• Spindini, 383 S. Main, Memphis. For cool elegance and great people watching, Judd Grisanti’s new restaurant is a favorite. The bar is a happening meeting place and reservations are necessary. Try pollo parmigiana, a pan seared chicken dish with fresh buffalo mozzarella and a sweet pomodoro sauce over angel hair pasta.

• Meachams Restaurant, 191 Highway 62 West, Ash Flat. On the way to Lake Norfork, schedule time for a meal at this consistently good American restaurant. For breakfast, the pancakes laced with citrus zest, real butter and hot maple syrup are perfect, and one biscuit with homemade sausage gravy is a full meal. The lunch and dinner menu are identical and consistently delicious. The whole catfish is enough for two, and one order of homemade onion rings will feed four. Meachams is so good that people regularly have to wait 15 or 20 minutes for a table.

• The Green Tomato, on the square in Pocahontas. Another really good stop for Americana is this quaint, new restaurant adjacent to the historic courthouse in Pocahontas. You can’t beat the breakfast here, especially the homemade biscuits and Black River coffee cake served warm, and the lunch and dinner menus are pretty ambitious. The Green Tomato is open for dinner on Friday and Saturday evenings.