Chai Pani founder to open Boti in Ponce City Market in October

Fast-casual restaurant based on the street grills popular at night in India
Boti rendering

Courtesy of Decarlo - Hawker Architecture & Design

Meherwan Irani
Meherwan Irani

Courtesy of Robert Gunn

Meherwan Irani, founder of Chai Pani in Decatur and Asheville, is opening a food stall in Ponce City Market called Boti, the name for a marinated, grilled, and skewered chunk of meat.

“With Chai Pani, we introduced Indian street food to America, but there are subcultures of it,” he explains. “At Chai Pani, it was about chaat—bright, crispy, multi-textured snacks like samosas or pakoras. Boti is about the street grill at night when the fires start blazing. It’s a style of kebab—lamb, beef, chicken, fish. It’s meat on a stick.”

Irani is previewing a selection of dishes tonight at the Ponce City Market preview dinner at 4th & Swift. Below, he gives us a taste of what to expect from the restaurant.

What are some of the menu items you’re most excited about?

We’ll be deconstructing the real history of street food, its influences, and the non-vegetarian cuisine brought in from the North as far as Turkey. It’s not just tandoori chicken. The street kebab was mostly prepared on an open grill. The tandoori oven was for breads and naan.

We’ll have items you might not expect like charred octopus, marinated beef heart, and tandoori chicken legs. There will be a 5-foot-long grill up front with marinated lamb chops, ground beef kebabs, shrimp paneer, and a quarter chicken. You’ll choose what you want with it—maybe naan or paratha or rice or a green salad. There will be quick pickled vegetables and toppings that you can add. That’s where we can really play, working with what’s seasonal and local.

We want you to be able to order and get your food in five or six minutes or less and feel like you’re ordering from the kebab guy on the streets of India.

Who will be in the kitchen?

The menu was set up by me and my Chai Pani Atlanta chef de cuisine Daniel Peach. You’d never know he’s blond and blue-eyed. He speaks, reads, and writes Hindi and spends up to six months at a time in India. We’ll both be in kitchen for first couple of months and then turn it over to one of our up-and-coming chefs

Who will be behind the bar?

Christian Griffin, our head bartender in Decatur, is taking lead on drink program, working with Kyle Beach and Erin Hawley. There’s no bar in the traditional sense, but we will have a cocktail program with bottled and kegged cocktails served out of a tap. There’s the Spring Forward—our take on a Pimm’s Cup—with Pimms #1, cilantro-infused Bombay Dry gin, lemon juice, sugar, and house-made paan bitters made with real paan leaves. (We have three different house made paan bitters in house). Also the High Tea Ricky with Tito’s infused with white tea, Pai Mu Tan tea, a hint of Assam tea, Demerara sugar, lemon zest and juice, orange blossom water, and angostura bitters. I don’t think we’ll have a robust wine program because of the setting, but we’ll have local craft beers on tap, too.

What will the space look and feel like?

It’s 1,700 square feet and has a patio. You’ll see the grill up front and watch the bread being made. It’s casual, café style, with tables and chairs mixed in with Indian merchandise inside and out. It has vibrant colors: bright blue, turquoise, and reds. That’s what it’s like in India–a mishmash of design cues with modern India intermingled with stuff that goes back hundreds of years—a nod to Bollywood art but also the faded glorious empire.