#3 Cardamom Hill, Atlanta, GA
Because first-generation Southerners are changing our notions of "Southern" food
The first time I ate at Asha Gomez's Kerala-style Indian restaurant, I didn't know what to expect. My experience with cuisine from the subcontinent comes from a slew of middling buffets, swank pan-national spots in New York and London, and late-night curry take-out. Cardamom Hill is none of that. Asha has taken the flavors she found in her mother's southern Indian kitchen as a child (okra, green beans, pork, curry leaves) and applied it to her current home in the American South. Ironically, she's found a natural synergy. Take her pork vindaloo, a traditional Keralan dish dating back a couple hundred years. When she began exploring recipes for her menu, it was barbecue that made her think of the vindaloo: tangy, sweet, bitter, with a hint of spice.