“Brightly-flavoured nibbles and snacks served by street vendors all over India. At $8.49.” The flavour burst that a bite-sized morsel gets you at a modest price is the reason why Chai Pani, which serves affordable Indian street food in North Carolina, has been named the best restaurant in America.
India is known for its diverse food recipes that are served at famous Indian restaurants worldwide. Traditional Indian curries and loaves of bread are popular for their use of flavourful herbs and spices in different countries. This love for Indian cuisine has further extended to street-style specialties like bhel puri, Tikki, chaat, vada pav and more.
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An Indian restaurant, ‘Chai Pani’, serving street-style food, has been voted as the best restaurant in the US. Situated in Downtown Asheville in North Carolina, this eatery has been named America’s most Outstanding Restaurant at the James Beard Foundation Awards in Chicago. The street food restaurant in Asheville is run by five-time James Beard-nominated chef Meherwan Irani.
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The snack corner beat Brennan’s in New Orleans to bag the top title. ‘Chai Pani’ is famous for serving street food items like Aloo Tikki Chaat, Sweet Potato Chaat, Bhel Puri, Pav Bhaji, Chicken Pakoras, and more at nominal prices. Apart from snacks, the restaurant also serves fusion wraps, burgers, a variety of North Indian and South Indian thalis, bowls, and desserts on their menu.
The first outlet of the restaurant was opened in 2009 in Asheville and is run by five-time James Beard-nominated chef Meherwan Irani. It has now spread across seven locations, including Charlotte in North Carolina, Decatur in Georgia, and Atlanta in Georgia.
The awards were organized by the James Beard Foundation, which is a New York City-based national non-profit culinary arts organization. It is named in honor of James Beard, an American chef and cookbook author who was nicknamed the “Dean of American Cookery.”
While accepting the award on stage, Irani said that “restaurants are so much greater than the sum of what’s inside the four walls. A restaurant has the power to transform – transform the people that work there, transform the people that come in, transform the communities we’re in, transform society.
Restaurants can transform the world.” The restaurant is famous for its chaats – potato chaat, corn bhel, green mango chaat, and bhelpuri, among others. The awards come in the backdrop of surging inflation, with Americans paying the highest prices for food in 40 years. A Native American restaurant called ‘Owamni’ in Minneapolis, where the staff is 75 percent Indigenous won the ‘Best New Restaurant’ award.
Its bestsellers happen to be simple and no-nonsense — Bhelpuri, Sev Dahi Puri, Corn Bhel, Green Mango Chaat, Potato Chaat, Aloo Tikki, Kale Pakoras, and, of course, given the acceptability of crepes in the US, the uttapam. They have even made a virtue out of our good old desi salad, topping it up with a cumin-lime vinaigrette. There’s also the Julienned Okra Fries. Tossed with salt and seasoning and served with a lime wedge, this one has been touted as the chef’s signature dish.
There are the non-vegetarian hits too, but they tread the path of familiarity. There are Chicken Pakoras with Kashmiri spices, Keema Pav, Lamb Burgers, the Chicken Tikka Roll and curry bowls.