Small Bites

Chai Pani: Asheville is finally getting more street food, although it's housed indoors.

Photo by Jon Elliston

Chai Pani, which opened to rave reviews and out-the-door lines last week in the Battery Park Avenue storefront vacated by Johnny's, specializes in chaat, or North Indian snacks.

"Street food is fun and vibrant," co-owner Molly Irani says. "It's a craze that's sweeping the nation, and we wanted to bring it to Asheville."

Irani says she and her husband, Meherwan, were inspired to launch the eatery after moving here from San Francisco and missing its iconic chaat houses. While most of those establishments serve first-generation Indians, Irani stresses that they're tailoring the menu to reflect traditional American tastes.

"Ninety percent of those places are geared toward the Indian community, so they're greasy and spicy," she says. "We're trying to make it more accessible to an American palate."

Chai Pani's menu was developed under the guidance of Meherwan's mother, whom Molly Irani describes as "one of the world's best cooks" (not that Molly's mother is any slouch herself, having opened the already-popular Blackbird in Black Mountain.)

"It's mostly vegetarian and gluten-free" Molly says of Chai Pani's offerings. "We're going to try to make as much as possible in-house."

She says they've styled the restaurant, which will soon serve wine and beer, after 12 Bones, where the food is "cooked slow, but served fast."

While Molly acknowledges that many eaters who haven't traveled in India might not be familiar with everything on Chai Pani's menu, she's confident Asheville eaters will embrace the dishes. Compared to the heavy buffets served at most Indian restaurants, she says, Chai Pani's "type of food has even more consumer appeal."

Oktoberfest: The Asheville Downtown Association is continuing to ramp up the food-and-drink focus of its Oktoberfest celebration on Wall Street next month, adding a series of beer tastings to supplement the already-announced schedule.

Reservation-only beer dinners begin on the Thursday preceding the Saturday, Oct. 10, street festival, with Fiore's Ristorante Toscana hosting a dinner in collaboration with Highland Brewing Company; starting time and ticket price were still being worked out at press time. To learn more, call 281-0710. The association is also finalizing details for a Friday-night beer dinner spotlighting German cuisine at Flying Frog Café. For more information, call 254-9411.

Alex Buerckholtz, owner of West Asheville's Hops & Vines, will make the trek east on Saturday to lead an introductory beer-tasting seminar at Palettes of Perfection, 21 Wall St.; call 252-5275 to reserve a spot.

Canyon Kitchen: Chef John Fleer, apparently not quite ready to plow under the pop-up restaurant he helmed at Lonesome Valley in Cashiers this summer, is extending Canyon Kitchen's season through October.

According to an e-mail release, Fleer has invited three leading regional chefs to take their turns at the Jennings Barn stove, creating "evenings focused on making the most of the season, great people, great food and great wine." Louis Osteen, who this year relocated from South Carolina to Rabun, Ga., will kick off the series on Thursday, Oct. 15, followed by Asheville's own Mark Rosenstein on Oct. 22 and Cakes and Ale chef Billy Allin on Oct. 29.

"If you are ready for a little more indulgence, I am too," Fleer writes.

The five-course wine dinners, priced at $125, begin at 6 p.m. For reservations, call 743-7696 or e-mail


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