Meherwan and Molly Irani, the owners of Chai Pani, will appeal to Asheville’s instincts with their new venture, MG Road, “a place where, instinctively, you want to come to be because it feels so good to be here,” as Meherwan puts it.
Located below Chai Pani and opening onto Wall Street, MG Road officially opens on Thursday, Oct. 4. The lounge spreads out from the entryway in a wash of colorful, cushioned loungers. A long community table runs down the center of the space, designed with conversation in mind. (It's the perfect width to talk across.)
“This space just kind of fell into our laps, and when we thought about what would be the most natural thing for us to do, that's when the idea for a bar and lounge came about,” Meherwan says.
The MG Road team includes staff recruited from other Asheville restaurants: Mike Burnette of Cucina 24 will take up the role of general manager; Ashley Capps of Farm and Sparrow will create desserts; and Jonathan Ammons of Burgermeister’s will tend bar.
Scratch-made components will fill out the cocktails; the bartenders will make juices, purees, bitters and even almond milk, or orgeat. But MG Road also delves into the context of the drinks, tracing their origins through history.
“We're looking at the classic cocktails that were inspired by the British being in India and how they influenced both Indian cocktails and how those influenced American cocktails,” Meherwan says. “Punch actually comes from India originally, and it's an Indian word, ‘punch.’”
Meherwan and his staff agree that background knowledge helps them provide a context for their craft that guests can sense. “We're not here to go over the top with this amazing cocktail experience, and you need to be educated about it,” says Michael Files, partner and designer. “If that drink is delicious, it's delicious, and that's the ultimate goal.”
If any one concept underlies the bar and lounge, Meherwan says it's fun. He's not limiting the menu. Instead, Polynesian Mai Tais share space with classic cocktails and Indian-inspired specialty drinks, such as the Kewda Fizz, a tangy mash-up of gin, lemon juice, ginger syrup, sweet basil and Kewda Water, an aromatic, floral extract made from the flower of the screw pine tree of Oceania.
While the lounge will focus primarily on drinks, MG Road will offer food as well. “The primary focus is going to be the Indian equivalent of bar snacks that I hope will take the bar snack to a whole new level, like actually make it something other than a bowl of peanuts,” Meherwan says. The menu will also include a few slightly larger, savory plates.
Light and airy puffed tapioca crisps and bite-sized flour crisps decked in savories and sweet yogurt dressing appeal to late-night cravings. Desserts include a powdered-sugar-dusted, fried pastry with a cardamom custard center and a chocolate, pistachio, chickpea-flour sweet bar.
“We want this to be first and foremost a gathering spot, a bar and a lounge where people walk in and say, 'Man, this is the best drink I've ever had, and this place is beautiful, and it feels great to be here,'” Meherwan says.
MG Road officially opens on Thursday, Oct 4. It will open at 4:30 p.m., daily.