Indian ‘street food’ eatery Chai Pani in N Carolina voted America’s best restaurant

Apart from Chai Pani, known for its spicy, sweet and tangy flavours of Indian street snack chaat, Chintan Pandya of NY restaurant ‘Dhamaka’ won the award for Best Chef in New York

A reviewer called Chai Pani “a blast of colour, street art and music that resembles a dizzying ride down one of Mumbai's crowded streets" | Pic: instagram.com/chaipani/

Chai Pani, an eatery serving delicious Indian street food in North Carolina, has been voted the best restaurant in America. The Asheville eatery was named America’s most Outstanding Restaurant at the James Beard Foundation Awards in Chicago on Monday, topping nominees such as Brennan’s in New Orleans, according to a Bloomberg report.

In another accolade for Indian cuisine, Chintan Pandya of the popular restaurant ‘Dhamaka’ in New York City won the award for ‘Best Chef: New York State’. Pandya is considered among the leading and most celebrated Indian chefs in the US and has several successful restaurants and eateries under his belt.

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The ‘Chai Pani’ website states that the restaurant serves Indian street food from five-time James James Beard nominated chef Meherwan Irani.

The Conde Nast Traveler, in its review called Chai Pani “a blast of colour, street art and music that resembles a dizzying ride down one of Mumbai’s crowded streets. Its specialty is chaat — street food — and so it’s vibe is lively, and fun.”

Affordable prices

The menu at Chai Pani, whose name literally translates to tea and water, features delicious and famous Indian street snack like chaat, known for a mix of spicy, sweet and tangy flavours.

The Indian restaurant serves different varieties of tangy, crunchy chaat starting at $8.49, thalis starting at $16.99, vada pav, pav bhaji at $10.99 each, chicken tikka roll at $11.99 and more.

“Some of the best food of any country is its street food, and Chai Pani features chaat – crunchy, spicy, sweet, tangy, brightly flavoured Indian street snacks… Chai Pani also brings you thalis — traditional family meals highlighting India’s amazing culinary diversity,” mentions the details on restaurant’s official website.

The first outlet of the restaurant – which advertises itself as a restaurant that serves “innovative, fun, affordable and delicious Indian cuisine” — was opened in 2009 in Asheville.

Other winners

Other winning restaurants included the Native American restaurant Owamni in Minneapolis, where the staff is 75 per cent indigenous, as Best New Restaurant.

Following a two-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the honours were awarded after being cancelled in 2020 and 2021. Additionally, the awards came amid reports suggesting that Americans are paying the highest prices for food in four decades due to surging inflation that is threatening the broader economy.

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Outstanding Baker was Don Guerra at Barrio Bread in Tucson, Arizona, where he uses ancient grains that have seeds adapted to grow in the desert. Mashama Bailey of The Grey in Savannah, Georgia, was named Outstanding Chef.

Dawn Padmore, vice president of awards, said the foundation did a “deep dive” on itself during its hiatus. “Looking at the audience and seeing so many different people, it feels different,” she said. “It’s about reflecting the true diversity of the industry.”

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