until you're asked to narrow down—and rank!—your top five favorites. I spent the last few months obsessing over the restaurants listed on these pages. The modern landscape of Southern food is varied and wildly diverse like never before. And in this inaugural celebration of restaurants across the region, I've chosen to salute a crop of newcomers that collectively reflects what Southern food is today and where it's going. From seafood palaces that champion the bounty of our waters (mark my word: fishermen will be the culinary rock stars of 2014) to simple neighborhood joints and kitchens run by first-generation Southerners who are introducing kimchi to our collards and curry leaves to our fried chicken, these picks reveal the patchwork quilt of modern Southern food. And they demonstrate why now is the best time to dine out down South.