Late Night Grills and Irani Cafes
Botiwalla is chef Meherwan Irani’s homage to his life long love of kababs and Irani Cafes. In his hometown of Ahmednagar, India, his grandfather owned Sarosh Canteen, the only Irani Cafe in town. Irani Cafes were originally tea and kabab houses run by Parsis - Zoroastrians that emigrated from Persia to India in the late 19th and early 20th century. Meherwan’s great-grandfather Sheriar was one of those eponymous immigrants. With a strange and wonderful mash-up of Victorian decor and Indian sensibilities, they catered to the English colonialists’ love of high tea and afternoon snacks. Even after the British left India, Irani Cafes survived, adapting their menus to Indian tastes, serving a unique style of Indo-Persian (Parsi) cuisine and becoming some of the most iconic and revered dining institutions along the way.
The other inspiration behind the menu of Botiwalla is the late night street food scene of India. With Chai Pani, Meherwan captured an aspect of street food in India often referred to as "chaat" - savory, multi-textured snacks like bhel puri, sev potato dahi puri, and vada pav. But the street food scene is vast in India and with Botiwalla, Meherwan is diving into another of his big loves - grilled meats, flat breads, fresh herbs, and wraps. This is the scene that springs up at night in India, when the grills come out, the fires get lit, and late night revelers and commuters get fed.
The Botiwalla Space
The look and design of Botiwalla was inspired by the endearingly idiosyncratic Irani cafes of India, with their particular characteristics of great affection for England and all things Victorian meeting up with an unavoidably Indian way of filling the space with knick knacks and color. Like Chai Pani, with Botiwalla we hope people can see that India can in fact be quite "cool".
Meherwan Irani - Executive Chef
In 2009, Meherwan quit his day job in sales and along with his wife Molly opened their first restaurant, Chai Pani, an Indian street food joint in downtown Asheville. Whether it was a midlife crisis or a stroke of genius is debatable. In any case, with Botiwalla, the self-taught chef is now onto his fifth restaurant. With four James Beard Award nominations for Best Chef in the Southeast under his belt, he's finally confident this whole restaurateur thing might be working out.