North Carolina-based Indian eatery Chai Pani voted best restaurant in US

Chai Pani, which serves affordable Indian street food in North Carolina, is the best restaurant in America.

The Asheville eatery was named America’s most Outstanding Restaurant at the James Beard Foundation Awards in Chicago on Monday, topping nominees such as Brennan’s in New Orleans.

It was the first time the honors were awarded in two years, after being canceled in 2020 and 2021 so the foundation could remove systemic bias and as lockdowns to slow the spread of the Covid-19 virus forced the temporary closure of many US .

The awards also come as Americans are paying the highest prices for food in four decades amid surging inflation that is threatening the broader economy.

This year’s award recipients and the nominee slate were more diverse to better reflect the makeup of the US. There was also more geographic variety, rather than years past when many winners came out of New York or Chicago.

The menu at Chai Pani, whose name literally translates to tea and water, features Indian snacks called “chaat” that are known for a mix of spicy, sweet and tangy flavors. Other winners included the Native American restaurant Owamni in Minneapolis, where the staff is 75% indigenous, as Best New Restaurant.

Outstanding Baker was Don Guerra at Barrio Bread in Tucson, Arizona, where he uses ancient grains that have seeds adapted to grow in the desert.

Mashama Bailey of The Grey in Savannah, Georgia, was named Outstanding Chef. Chris Bianco of Tratto, Pane Bianco and Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix was named Outstanding Restaurateur.

Dawn Padmore, vice president of awards, said the foundation did a “deep dive” on itself during its hiatus.

“Looking at the audience and seeing so many different people, it feels different,” she said. “It’s about reflecting the true diversity of the industry.”

See the full list of winners below.

Outstanding Restaurant: Chai Pani, Asheville, North Carolina

Outstanding Chef: Mashama Bailey, The Grey, Savannah, Georgia

Best New Restaurant: Owamni, Minneapolis

Outstanding Restaurateur: Chris Bianco, Tratto, Pane Bianco and Pizzeria Bianco, Phoenix

Emerging Chef: Edgar Rico, Nixta Taqueria, Austin, Texas

Outstanding Baker: Don Guerra, Barrio Bread, Tucson, Arizona

Outstanding Pastry Chef: Warda Bouguettaya, Warda Pâtisserie in Detroit

Outstanding Wine Program: The Four Horsemen, New York

Outstanding Bar Program: Julep, Houston

Outstanding Hospitality: Cúrate, Asheville, North Carolina

Best Chefs

Best Chef: California

Brandon Jew, Mister Jiu’s, San Francisco

Best Chef: Southwest

Fernando Olea, Sazón, Santa Fe, New Mexico

Best Chef: Midwest

Dave Baldwin, The Diplomat, Milwaukee

Best Chef: Mountain

Caroline Glover, Annette, Aurora, Colorado

Best Chef: Northwest and Pacific

Robynne Maii, Fête, Honolulu

Best Chef: Texas

Iliana de la Vega, El Naranjo, Austin, Texas

Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic

Cristina Martinez, South Philly Barbacoa, Philadelphia

Best Chef: New York State

Chintan Pandya, Dhamaka, New York

Best Chef: South

Adam Evans, Automatic Seafood and Oysters, Birmingham, Alabama

Best Chef: Southeast

Ricky Moore, SALTBOX Seafood Joint, Durham, North Carolina

Best Chef: Northeast

Nisachon Morgan, Saap, Randolph, Vermont

Best Chef: Great Lakes

Erick Williams, Virtue Restaurant & Bar, Chicago