Chai Pani Decatur Reopens
CHAI PANI DECATUR REOPENS TODAY INTRODUCING UPDATED MENU AND INTERIOR
Meherwan Irani’s re-energized Indian street food restaurant celebrates seven years in business with a Holi celebration and regular dinner service tonight
Decatur, Ga., March 10, 2020 — Chai Pani Decatur reopens today after a week-long hiatus with an updated menu and interior. Owners Meherwan and Molly Irani, who first founded Chai Pani Asheville in 2009 and opened the Decatur outpost in 2013, have been planning the relaunch for months. Spurred by their personal desire to constantly evolve and reinvent their businesses (now five restaurants strong), the Iranis are eager to introduce the community to this re-energized version of Chai Pani Decatur. The redux comes on the heels of the James Beard Foundation’s announcement of Best Chef Southeast nominees, including Irani for a fifth consecutive year. Chai Pani will reopen at 5:30pm tonight with regular dinner service and a Holi celebration — a Chai Pani tradition — including free pani puri, a Bollywood music DJ, and the colorful chalks for guests to “play Holi” in celebration of the coming of spring.
From the start, Irani has been on a mission to change the perception of Indian cooking in America with Chai Pani. He cooks the most delicious versions of the food that best represents the vast cultural diversity of India — its street food — often made with the Southern ingredients around him. He was one of the first chefs to do this in such a fun and deeply personal way and has had a hand, along with many other South Asian chefs, journalists, and purveyors, in revolutionizing what Indian cuisine in America can be.
“As my team and I continued to travel to and explore the vast cuisine of India, we started to realize that to be true to the essence of Indian street food we had to learn how to grow, evolve, and reinvent ourselves, just as the vendors and street hawkers that inspired us were continuously doing,” says Irani. “So we took a deep breath, and then took the restaurant and the menu apart and put it back together.”
Daniel Peach, who has been with the company since 2009 and opened Chai Pani Decatur as chef de cuisine, recently returned from a year-long sabbatical in India to take the helm as Culinary Director in Decatur. He and Irani were collaborating on the new menu while he was still in India, an experience that will influence many new dishes.
Today, Chai Pani relaunches with seperate lunch and dinner menus and table service for both; order-at-the-counter lunch service has been discontinued. The Lunch Menu includes smaller, more affordable options like single signature sandwiches, including the crowd favorite Sloppy Jai, that guests can mix-and-match with other sandwich options. The new Dinner Menu is structured primarily for sharing (the way street food is) with chaats, small plates, and wraps as well as rotating weekly features. The traditional thalis have been removed and beloved dishes like Butter Chicken are served a la carte along with new additions such as Mutton Pepper Fry, a spicy South Indian dry curry made with Georgia-raised goat. New small plates include Disco Bhel, the more fun and flavorful party animal sibling of Bhel Puri, Gobi Manchurian, a Desi-Chinese classic invented by Chinese immigrants to Kolkata, and the craveworthy Desi Pizza, inspired by an Indian school canteen favorite. Rotating weekly features highlight the breadth of street food and home cooking in India.
Under the direction of long time Brand Director Michael Files, the interior of Chai Pani has transformed from earthy reds and browns to bright opalescent white walls accented with gold and vibrant colors often seen on the streets of India: electric sky blue, orange, and pink. Lighting and furniture have been updated from the former tables and fixtures that were repurposed from previous tenant Watershed. The new tabletops are custom-made by a carpenter in Asheville. While some original art remains, including photographs of people in Irani’s hometown of Ahmednagar, new pieces like a lobby mural with a tiger motif and eccentric tchotchkes gathered by Files and Irani during a recent trip to India adorn the walls.
Patrons can expect to see even more community events and collaborative dinners at Chai Pani highlighting India’s culinary diversity — state by state, village by village — a goal of Irani, Peach, and the culinary team, many of whom have travelled to India. Inspired by the influence of his Brown in the South dinner series on the South’s understanding of Indian culture, which started at Chai Pani Decatur in 2018, Irani is eager to see what other important conversations the restaurant can host. The sixth Brown in the South is slated to take place in Oxford, Mississippi, this spring.
Up next for the Chai Pani Restaurant Group, the team will open their third location of Atlanta original Botiwalla at Optimist Hall in Charlotte early this summer. Additionally, they’re exploring opportunities to open “mini-concepts” at food halls like Ponce City Market, Optimist Hall, and Asheville’s Grove Arcade.
Chai Pani Decatur
406 W. Ponce de Leon Ave., Decatur, GA 30030
t. (404) 378-4030
www.chaipanidecatur.com | @chaipanidecatur
We do not accept reservations.
Monday - Thursday - 11:30am - 3:00pm / 5:30pm - 9:30pm
Friday - Saturday - 11:30am - 3:00pm / 5:30pm- 10:00pm
Sunday - 11:30am - 3:00pm / 5:30pm - 9:00pm
ABOUT CHAI PANI
In 2009, Meherwan and Molly Irani introduced the North Carolina mountain town of Asheville to the colors, flavors, and faces of India at Chai Pani. They served snacks you could get on the streets of Indian cities and meals you’d be served in someone’s home — the most underrepresented Indian foods in American culture. They built a team of the most incredible people they could find and asked them to believe they really could make the world a better place with mindblasting food, hospitality, and chai, of course. Then, in 2013, they did it again in the heart of downtown Decatur. At its core, Chai Pani is a chaat house, serving crunchy, spicy, sweet, tangy, brightly flavored Indian street snacks.
ABOUT MEHERWAN IRANI
Meherwan Irani is a chef and restaurateur changing the perception of Indian food in America through his growing restaurant and spice empire in two of the South’s most essential culinary cities. He is a leading voice in the industry’s conversation around diversity and cultural exchange. In August 2018, Meherwan was named by TIME Magazine as one of the “31 People Changing The South” and is a five-time James Beard Award semifinalist for Best Chef: Southeast. Meherwan leads a team of more than 200 as CEO, Executive Chef and Founder of Chai Pani Restaurant Group that includes Chai Pani Asheville, Chai Pani Decatur, Botiwalla Ponce City Market, Botiwalla Alpharetta, Buxton Hall Barbecue, and Spicewalla. His seventh business, Botiwalla Optimist Hall (Charlotte), is slated to open early summer 2020.