Asheville, North Carolina
At Chai Pani, chef Meherwan Irani honors the fried street foods of India known as chaat. Chai Pani, meaning “tea and water,” is slang in India for a small bite or drink. With flavorful dishes like aloo tiki chaat, potato pieces covered in tamarind and green chutney, and uttapam, crepes made of rice and lentil batter alongside curry, Irani’s redefining what Indian food in America looks like. He no doubt delivers on the comfort of home cooked food, especially with thalis, traditional family feasts sure to bring everyone together. Opened in Asheville in 2009, Irani and his wife, Molly, knew they had a challenging road ahead as the country hit the bottom of the recession. Chai Pani, however, soared, thanks to the combination of delicious street food relatively unbeknownst in the States along with notable hospitality that Irani learned from his parents at their bed & breakfast. Try any of the savory rolls on the menu, which join savory meat or crispy fish with fresh greens and naan for a hearty meal to remember.
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Off-the-beaten-path coffee shops, taquerias, BBQ joints, and more, from an Asheville local.