#87 of 23 Asheville Restaurants

Chai Pani

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Chai Pani: Eclectic Indian Street Food With a Funky Flair
Local Expert's Rating:
4.5 / 5
The Bottom Line:

When a restaurant refers to its own food as "mindblasting," the bar is set pretty darn high. Chai Pani clears that bar with ease by serving innovative versions of Indian street foods rarely found in Asheville.

- The SmokyMountains.com Local Expert Team

At Chai Pani, you’ll find classic Indian dishes with an enticing twist. Chef Meherwan Irani delivers an eclectic take on chaat (street snacks) and platters (thalis). Deservedly nominated for a James Beard Award, this culinary virtuoso keeps customers guessing (and coming back) with an eclectic variety of Indian street foods that are sure to satisfy.

Hungry patrons with dietary restrictions will be happy to know that Chai Pani offers a “Super Duper Mega Secret Awesome Special Diets Menu” featuring a variety of gluten-free and vegan options. Locally-sourced ingredients such as chicken from Joyce Farms ensure a fresh and flavorful experience.

Step outside your culinary comfort zone and explore the tastes of India by trying a chaat — essentially an appetizer. Don’t forget to sample an uttapam, which could be described as an Indian version of a crepe. You’ll also find a variety of wraps and sandwiches on the Chai Pani menu.

Chai Pani’s drink menu offers all of the staples you might expect from a modern restaurant, but with a few unique twists. You’ll definitely want to try the Jal Jeera — a unique combination of tequila, spices, and mint. Another great option? The Bold Fashioned, featuring house masala bourbon, orange syrup and bitters.

Relax with your drink and meal, and take in the colorful environment at Chai Pani. The decor can best be described as ‘funky.’ Reviewers sometimes refer to the waitstaff as ‘hipstery,’ but they appreciate the prompt and attentive service for which the restaurant is known.

A few of our favorite menu items include:

Sev Potato Dahi Puri
Locals swoon over the combination of flavors packed within these traditional Indian puris. Each bite contains the perfect blend of potatoes, onions, cilantro, and chickpea noodles. Unfamiliar with puris? Think of them as Indian pierogies smothered in sweet yogurt and tamarind.

Green Mango Chaat
Indian comfort food at its finest, the green mango chaat packs so many unique flavors into one combination that it’s truly remarkable how well they blend together. Featuring fresh green mangos, corn poha, raisins, peanuts, onions, cilantro, and chutney, this dish serves as a tour of tastes and flavors that truly captures the essence of Indian street food.

Lamb Burgers
The perfect option for picky eaters willing to experiment just a bit, the lamb burgers at Chai Pani offer an Indian spin on an American classic. Seasoned with a zesty blend of spices and served with house-made desi slaw and chutney, these burgers are best enjoyed on a hot summer day with a Shiva IPA from Asheville Brewing Company.

Sloppy Jai
Chef Meherwan Irani created the Sloppy Jai to give American diners something a little closer to home while allowing them the chance to sample flavors from his own. Smothered in tomatoes and spices — and garnished with cilantro, onions, chutney, and yogurt — this spiced lamb hash dish is sloppy, satisfying, and sure to satiate adventurous eaters.

Don’t be afraid to order something slightly outside of your comfort zone. Fresh ingredients and careful plating will ensure a feast for all of the senses.

Insider Tip:
Social justice advocates will appreciate Chai Pani’s efforts to support causes such as the Campaign for Southern Equality. Keep an eye on the restaurant’s Facebook page to get a feel for its charitable initiatives and to learn how you can get involved.