A few months ago, there was a sense of excitement and a lot of chatter about Chai Pani opening their restaurant in Decatur. Indian Street Food in the heart of Decatur’s Food Scene? It sounded very interesting… Since then, I’ve been anxious to visit and try the menu out for myself.
“Street food” is basically ready-to-eat food that is sold out of food trucks or food markets such as a portable stall. Atlanta has seen a rise in popularity of street food in the form of Food Trucks, which have been appearing all over town and at various events in the city. The dishes are usually smaller servings, like tapas, though can be filling on their own or with sides.
Chai Pani is the brainchild of husband and wife, Meherwan and Molly Irani. Meherwan grew up in Ahmadnagar, India (near Mumbai) and learned to cook at his mother’s side. He came to the U.S. in 1990, living in the San Francisco Bay Area. While being exposed to some of the best restaurants on the West Coast he fell in love with the culinary arts and began to develop his cooking skills at every opportunity.
Chai Pani opened their first restaurant in Asheville, North Carolina about three years and recently brought the same culinary vision to downtown Decatur in March 2013. Located at the old Watershed location, the restaurant is colorful and inviting. Old Bollywood posters and Indian paintings adorn the walls in a large, open space used for a dining area.
Guests order off the menu near the front entrance and have it served to them at one of the adjoining large dining rooms. The restaurant has a casual, modern look and feel with concrete block walls, exposed ducts and concrete flooring. The ambience is enhanced with modern Indian music and there is a full bar area to one side.
For lunch, I had Thali, which is a traditional family meal enjoyed all over India from North to South. Served on a shiny, metal round plate, it featured chicken in a small bowl, along with basmati rice, daal, raita, roti and kachumber. They also offer a vegetarian version. The aroma as they set the dishes down was delicious enough and the food tasted absolutely wonderful. Not too spicy, it was just right.
We also ordered some Sloppy Jai (Kheema Pav), which is an Indian type of “Sloppy Joe” complete with spiced lamb hash and garnished with onions & cilantro, green chutney, sweet yogurt and served on two toasted buns. Mighty tasty as well and surprisingly filling.
Other menu options include Kathi Kabab Roll, Parsi Chicken Burgers, Vada Pav (spicy potato dumplings), Masala Fries. Tandoori Fish Wrap and of course, Samosas, to name a few. They also have a number of traditional Indian drinks like Chai, Mango Lassi and Fimbu Pani for an authentic Street Food experience.
They buy fresh produce daily and source from local farms when practical and never use any artificial flavors or ingredients. The restaurant is located just a few blocks past Decatur’s downtown Square. I’ve heard that Chai Pani is very popular over the weekends and there can be some wait time for a table, which proves its popularity. A great and welcomed addition to the Food Scene in Decatur!
Chai Pani is located at 406 West Ponce de Leon Avenue, Decatur, Georgia. For more info, visit ChaiPaniDecatur.com or call 404-378-4030.