Chai Pani Decatur Reopens With Updated Menu, Interior

Meherwan Irani’s re-energized Indian street food restaurant celebrates seven years in business with a Holi event and regular dinner service resuming March 10.

Chai Pani Decatur is reopening Tuesday, March 10 after a week-long hiatus with a refreshed menu and interior.

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Owners Meherwan and Molly Irani, who first founded Chai Pani in Asheville in 2009 and opened the Decatur outpost in 2013, have been planning the relaunch for months.

Chai Pani will reopen at 5:30 p.m. 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. 

“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,” Meherwan Irani said Tuesday in a prepared statement.

“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 with chaats, small plates, and wraps as well as rotating weekly features.

The traditional thalis have been removed and 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 sibling of Bhel Puri, Gobi Manchurian, a Desi-Chinese classic invented by Chinese immigrants to Kolkata, and the crave-worthy 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.

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.

Up next for the Chai Pani Restaurant Group, the team is exploring opportunities to open “mini-concepts” at food halls like Ponce City Market. 

Kamille D. Whittaker

Kamille D. Whittaker

Kamille D. Whittaker is an Atlanta-based journalist, editor and researcher.
Kamille D. Whittaker

Kamille D. Whittaker

Kamille D. Whittaker is an Atlanta-based journalist, editor and researcher.