From clay pot ice cream and hot jalebis frying in giant woks, to paneer-filled sandwiches and giant dosas, cities across India and South Asia feature food vendors lining bustling streets selling a variety of chaat from market stalls and food carts.
Chaat (ch-aahh-t) is an Indian street food typically made with a medley of spiced potatoes and chickpeas that come layered on crispy crackers or over puffed rice, or even stuffed in fried dough. These savory snacks are then topped with sweet, spicy, and tangy chutney or cool yogurt and fresh garnishes of pomegranate seeds, onions, tomatoes, and cilantro. It’s a symphony of flavors and textures, blending crisp and crunch with saucy creaminess and spice all in one bite.
There are dozens of variations on chaat, with regionality playing a key role in the types of roadside snacks served all over India and South Asia. And as the popularity of this category of street food continues to rise in America, chaat is now becoming easier to find at restaurants around Atlanta.
“Americans are discovering that Indian food is far more diverse and complex than just spicy curries, thanks to the efforts of a number of innovative and talented Indian chefs around the country who are showcasing a different side of Indian cuisine,” says Meherwan Irani, the James Beard award-winning chef and owner of Chai Pani restaurant group. “Chaat is the most democratic, egalitarian, approachable, affordable, and pan-Indian cuisine of India. Once you discover these delicious flavors, you’re hooked.”
Below are six spots for trying an assortment of chaat, with a few suggestions on what to order, from buzzy food hall stalls emulating the busy streets of cities in India to restaurants where hearty street snacks are center stage on the menu.
Do you have suggestions on where to find great chaat in Atlanta and metro Atlanta? Send suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration on the next update.
This grilled Indian street food stall at Ponce City Market from Meherwan Irani also serves chaat, including the chef’s popular “SPDP” (sev potato dahi puri). It’s been a menu staple for years now at Botiwalla. Originating in Mumbai, the savory puffed flour crisps are filled with sweet yogurt, green and tamarind chutneys, potatoes, onions, and cilantro and topped with crunchy chickpea noodle bits. The SPDP paired with a cup of chai is a must at Botiwalla, as is the sweet potato chaat (pictured in the lead photo for the guide.)
Masti - Indian Street Eats in Toco Hills and Duluth
With two restaurant locations in Toco Hills and Duluth, and two express counters at a Chevron on Moores Mill and an Exxon in Marietta, Masti is a great option for people who are unfamiliar with chaat to get their first taste of these savory snacks. The menu features several chaat choices, including classic samosa chaat, palak chaat, golgappa, papdi chaat, and kurkuri bhindi fries (fried okra dusted in spices.) But the must-order at Masti is the vegetable or chicken momo Manchurian. These Indo-Chinese dumplings are a street food staple in Delhi and pack a punch.
Gokul Sweets at Patel Plaza in North Decatur
Gokul Sweets is nestled within the Patel Plaza in North Decatur, a shopping complex anchored by the Patel Brothers grocery store and brimming with Indian clothing shops and restaurants. This humble restaurant may be unrivaled for its extensive and affordable menu of chaat options, including for raj kachori, dahi puri, bhel puri, and samosa chaat. Order chaat at the window and find a table. Make sure to pair this chaat adventure with Indian soda — “Thums Up” (IYKYK). Lunch tends to be very busy at Gokul Sweets, so prepare for a wait. Also worth visiting for chaat in Patel Plaza is Chat Patti next door. Gokul Sweets includes a location in Duluth.
Chai Pani in Decatur
“Our menu standbys are bhel puri, pakoras, sev potato dahi puri (SPDP), and vada pav,” Irani says of his Decatur restaurant Chai Pani. “But our special pani puri nights are a hit with our community.”
Every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night, the Decatur location of Chai Pani hosts its popular pani puri nights. That’s when people can order rounds of savory pani puri from a street food cart, just like those found all over India. While the full menu is available, begin dinner with savory puff filled with a masala ragda-potato mix dunked in a choice of sweet and spicy waters. It’s messy, but oh so good.
Global Mall Food Court in Norcross
This food court located inside Global Mall in Norcross is chaat central. And there are plenty of Indian and South Asian shops to check out before and after a meal, too. Mumbai Masala, Chennai Cafe, Amul Veg. Restaurant, and Chinese Dhaba are among the best options for chaat at the food court, including for dahi puri, kachori chaat, pani puri, aloo tikki chaat, and samosa chaat. Most restaurant stalls feature photos of dishes served on the menu, making it even easier to order.
Henna Bakshi (@hennabakshi on Instagram) is a food and wine writer, TV producer, and on-air talent who carries a WSET (Wine and Spirits Education Trust) level 2 certification. She was born and raised in New Delhi, India. Bakshi previously worked for HLN/CNN as a writer, producer, and on-air talent focused on food and wine. She has also written for Chowhound and Indian-American community magazine Khabar, based in Duluth, Georgia.