Chai Pani, which serves affordable Indian street food in North Carolina, is the best restaurant in America.
The Asheville restaurant 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 had been given in two years, after being canceled in 2020 and 2021 so the foundation could remove systemic biases and lockdowns to slow the spread of the Covid-19 virus forced the temporary closure many American restaurants.
The prices also come as Americans pay the highest prices for food in four decades amid runaway inflation that threatens the broader economy.
This year’s winners and the list of nominees were more diverse to better reflect the makeup of the United States. There was also more geographic variety, rather than years past where many winners were from New York or Chicago.
The menu of Chai Pani, whose name literally translates to tea and water, features Indian snacks called “chaat” which are known for a blend of spicy, sweet and tangy flavors. Other winners include Owamni Native American Restaurant in Minneapolis, where the staff is 75% indigenous, as Best New Restaurant.
The best baker was Don Guerra of Barrio Bread in Tucson, Arizona, where he uses ancient grains whose seeds are adapted to grow in the desert.
Mashama Bailey of The Gray 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 took a “deep dive” into itself during her hiatus.
“Watching the audience and seeing so many different people, it’s 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 Barre Program: Julep, Houston
Exceptional Hospitality: Cúrate, Asheville, North Carolina
Best Chef: California
Brandon’s Jew, Mister Jiu’s, San Francisco
Best Chef: Southwest
Fernando Olea, Sazon, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Best Chef: Midwest
Dave Baldwin, Diplomat, Milwaukee
Best Chef: Mountain
Caroline Glover, Annette, Aurora, Colorado
Best Chef: Northwest and Pacific
Robynne Maii, Party, Honolulu
Best cook: Texas
Iliana de la Vega, El Naranjo, Austin, TX
Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic
Cristina Martinez, South Philly Barbacoa, Philadelphia
Best Chef: New York State
Chintan Pandya, Dhamaka, NY
Best Chef: South
Adam Evans, Automatic Seafood and Oysters, Birmingham, Alabama
Best Chef: Southeast
Ricky Moore, SALTBOX Seafood Joint, Durham, NC
Best Chef: Northeast
Nisachon Morgan, Saap, Randolph, Vermont
Best Chef: Great Lakes
Erick Williams, Virtue Restaurant & Bar, Chicago