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After being awarded the Outstanding Restaurant James Beard Award 2022, Chai Pani has been filled to bursting. They don’t take reservations so the line is down the sidewalk every evening. I haven’t been in months because… tourists. Its great food, but we have so many other great food options in Asheville that waiting two hours for dinner seems silly. HOWEVER. I had friends from NY visiting this weekend and we decided Chai Pani was the place for us.

They start taking phone numbers at 5pm. So you get in a “virtual line” once you register your party. This is very convenient because you then can walk around downtown and they will text you when you are next in line. We put in our name, went to DSSLVR for some beer, walked a bit around downtown Asheville and then our table was ready!

The atmosphere at Chai Pani is lively and colorful. The energy reflects the eclectic menu of mindblasting Indian street foods. Chef Meherwan Irani artfully combines spices that tease your taste buds and warm your soul. I immediately ordered Kale Pecoras and Bhel Puri for the table. The crispy kale, lightly battered and fried has long been one of my favorite dishes from Chai Pani. The dipping sauces that accompany the dish, a green chutney and sweet yogurt, are creamy and fresh, perfectly complementing the salty, crunchy kale. The Bhel Puri is like a dish of savory rice krispies. Puffed rice and crispy chick pea noodles spicy chutneys… its delicious. Every bite is a burst of crunchy, fresh, and bright flavors in your mouth.

For the main dish I ordered the Butter Chicken Thali. This dish is so satisfying. A warm tomato cream sauce smothers the perfectly cooked and tender chicken accompanied by basmati rice, garlic naan, masala slaw, and a sweet yogurt sauce to oppose the spice of the tomato cream sauce on the chicken. It truly is a feast for all your senses.

The James Beard Award is well deserved. In it’s 17 years, Chai Pani has proven to be one of the best restaurants Asheville has, and now it is recognized as one of the best in the United States. If you ever get to visit our little mountain town, be sure to put Chai Pani on your list!