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Food & Dining: Authentic South Indian Food with a Modern Vibe

By Sucheta Rawal Email By Sucheta Rawal
July 2024
Food & Dining: Authentic South Indian Food with a Modern Vibe

The Mango Grill, a new fast-casual eatery with Andhra, Tamil, and Kerala influences, is not just another South Indian restaurant in town.

[Left] After years of drudging at nine-to-five jobs in IT, Mathi Pothiyappan and Priya Somasundaram got into the restaurant business to do something creative with Priya’s passion for cooking. (Photo: Sucheta Rawal)

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[Right]  The kili (or kizhi) parota is a Kerala-style flaky flat pastry (similar to lachchaa paratha) stuffed with a spicy boneless chicken curry, wrapped in banana leaves, and steamed so that the flavors of the chicken soak into the bread. (Photo: Sucheta Rawal)

Halidom Eatery is an exciting new culinary hotspot featuring 11 regional and locally-owned restaurants in a 14,000-square-foot space with an art deco design. Located off Moreland Avenue in East Atlanta, the buzzing food hall is on a two-acre outdoor space with walking trails, picnic tables, and a pet-friendly area. ​

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The Mango Indian Grill, a fast-casual Indian restaurant with South Indian specialties, occupies a coveted corner location at the Halidom Eatery. To its credit, and to the delight of those seeking authentic South Indian dishes, this is not just another idli-dosa joint. It offers unique regional specialties that are rarely seen on menus in Indian restaurants in the Atlanta area, such as: kili (or kizhi) style parotta, idiyappam, South Indian-styled fried chicken, egg poriyal, and Urulaikizhangu Podima (a potato side-dish).​

 [Left]  Another unique dish is idiyappam (string hopper), which is made of soft, steamed rice noodles, often served with a vegetable stew in mixed vegetable kurma or chicken curry. (Photo: Sucheta Rawal)

 [Right] Fried chicken, a southern American staple, in South Indian flavors. (Photo: Sucheta Rawal)

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The concept is a brainchild of the husband-and-wife duo Mathi Pothiyappan and Priya Somasundaram of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Having grown up in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu respectively, they came to the U.S. to pursue a career in information technology. After years of drudging at nine-to-five jobs while homeschooling their daughters, the couple decided to work for themselves to have more flexibility in their schedule and creativity with their work.​

FD_6_07_24.jpg[Left] Paratha with mixed vegetable kurma. (Photo: Bryan Regan Photography)  

Priya has always had a passion for cooking, and Mathi was a silent partner in a restaurant in Durham. In 2019, they took full ownership of the existing full-service CholaNad Restaurant and Bar (named after the Chola Empire of Tamils) in Chapel Hill. They then recreated a casual version of CholaNad at the cafeteria at the University of North Carolina (UNC) campus. Because the restaurant catered to hundreds of students each day, Priya could test out the recipes she gathered from traveling all over India by offering daily specials and affordable combo meals. ​ 

FD_5_07_24.jpgIn February 2023, Priya and Mathi opened another restaurant, Mango Indian Grill, at the popular Durham Food Hall. The couple wanted to share their native cuisine with those who may not otherwise be exposed to cuisines from distinctive Indian subcultures. Seeing the success of the first location, they decided to expand this modern concept to Atlanta.​

[Right] Mango curry with paneer. (Photo: Sucheta Rawal)

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The bright and airy interior of the Mango Indian Grill, with pops of pink, floral-inspired wallpaper, and retro-style lighting, is modern and inviting. There are cozy couches and tables, a wall of books, games, and a television, making you feel like you are at someone’s in-town loft rather than a public eatery in a food hall. Despite being a small location, the menu is quite extensive. For those who need help deciding, there are suggested steps for picking a base, curry, protein, and sides.

[Left] Gobi manchurian. (Photo: Bryan Regan Photography)

For starters, the samosa chaat is quite tasty, with layers of chana masala, potato-stuffed crispy samosa halves drizzled with lots of sev and sliced green mangoes. There’s also a South Indian version of the classic southern American fried chicken. Boneless chicken nuggets are deep-fried and served with thin naan, spicy tikka mayo, and Indian mashed potatoes tempered with mustard seeds, curry leaves, chopped onions, and chana daal. ​

The Urulaizhilangu Podima (a potato side dish) is a popular recipe from Tamil Nadu and is worth ordering on its own or with some plain rice. The egg poriyal is basically scrambled eggs or an Indian egg bhurjee sauteed with chopped onions, green chili, and masala seasoning. It is listed under “finger foods,” though I recommend ordering a paratha or bullet naan to go along with it.

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The kili (or kizhi) style parotta is truly unique visually and in taste. The Kerala-style flaky, flat pastry (similar to lachchha paratha) is stuffed with a spicy boneless South Indian chicken curry, wrapped in banana leaves, and steamed so that the flavors of the chicken soak into the bread. As a complete dish in itself, it is indulgent and hearty—though messy to eat with hands.

[Right] Chicken tikka masala. (Photo: Bryan Regan Photography)

FD_9_07_24.jpgLiving up to its name, mango pickle and mango chutney are served on the side. Both taste fresh, homemade, and flavorful. If you feel the zest for more mango as an entrée, order the mango curry with a choice of protein—chicken, paneer, or egg. The tropical-flavored curry is made with sweet mango pulp and pineapple juice, slowly simmered with cinnamon, green cardamom, onion, and ginger. It pairs with steamed rice, though it could be a bit too sweet for some.

Another unique dish is idiyappam (string hopper), which is made up of soft, steamed rice noodles, often served with mixed vegetable kurma in coconut milk or chicken curry. The mild vegetable stew, cooked in coconut milk, is often had for breakfast or dinner. Boiled vegetables are cooked simply in a broth of ginger, onion, and coconut milk; and thickened with corn starch. It is a good option if you want something less spicy that is also gluten-free, vegan, and healthy.

[Left] Samosa chaat. (Photo: Sucheta Rawal)  ​

The homemade mango lassi is not too sweet and does not weigh you down before the main meal. The tea, though, lacks the intensity and aroma of a refreshing cup of chai. Everything is served on disposable paper plates with plastic cutlery as per the requirement of the food hall.

There are no mango trees at Halidom Eatery’s free parking lot, but there is a sprawling two-acre green space, kid’s corner Saturdays, live music Mondays, tequila Tuesdays, and wine down Wednesdays so that families can bond over good food and entertainment. ​


Sucheta Rawal is an award-winning food and travel writer who has traveled to over 100 countries across seven continents, experiencing the world through her palate. She has been named one of the most influential cultural bloggers in the world for her blog Go Eat Give. Find her on social @SuchetaRawal.

 


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