Gàn Shān Station

Fill up on scrumptious Asian fare in Asheville, North Carolina.

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Gàn Shān Station

By Hope S. Philbrick

One dinner at Gàn Shān Station in Asheville, North Carolina, and I feel like I met the whole family.

It was no surprise to meet Chef Patrick O’Cain, an Asheville native who returned to his hometown to open his own restaurant, since he was my host.

But one of the many times he stopped by my seat at the bar to chat—he’d come and go as he was able to step away from the kitchen—I whispered that he clearly had fans: I’d overhead the folks a couple of seats away from me telling their server that they already had reservations for the next week.

“Well, those are my parents,” he laughed.

Okay, so maybe those were two easy reservations. But the dining room was busy enough to suspect that he wasn’t related to everyone in the place.

Later, I ordered a local beer. He suggested a different selection: Starr Hill Reviver Red IPA, which just so happens to be made by his brother, Masterbrewer Robbie O’Cain, in Charlottesville, Virginia. It was a well-balanced brew, a perfect match to the spicy drunken noodles, and Chef O’Cain mentioned that his restaurant is the only place in Asheville to get that beer. “You do have an in,” I said. “True,” he agreed.

Chef O’Cain attended the AB Tech culinary program and got his start at Curate in Asheville. He moved to Charleston, S.C., to work at McCrady’s restaurant until he left to help open Xiao Bao Biscuit as sous chef. Eighteen months later, he returned home to open Gàn Shān Station; the name loosely translates to “Sunset Mountain,” the Asheville location where he grew up. (Sunset Mountain is also home to the Omni Grove Park Inn.)

Gàn Shān StationGàn Shān Station is located in a former gas station. It has a casual, come-and-go vibe, but feel free to linger. The flavors here are good enough to warrant your time and attention.

The menu offers a mix of dishes representing the East Asian cuisines of Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, China, Japan, Singapore, and others. Locally sourced ingredients are utilized as much as possible. To reflect the season and the chef’s current inspirations, the menu changes frequently, but order whatever sounds most tempting, it’s not like you can go wrong.

The kale, squash and apple salad ($10) tops leafy kale with butternut squash, pink lady apples, shredded carrots, crunchy pecans and spicy vinaigrette. For a light meal, pair it alongside the coconut squash soup ($6), which features kabocha squash, coconut, green onions and black sesame seeds—a rich and creamy personal favorite.

Gàn Shān StationGàn Shān StationThe drunken noodles ($12) are spicy. The server warned me when I ordered it, and he did not lie. “Could a person order it ‘mild’?” I asked. “No,” he explained that the spice level does vary daily, since the heat level of the fresh peppers used does naturally vary, but it cannot be tailored to each diner’s preference. If you can handle heat, go for it. The housemade thick egg noodles are mixed with a combination of eggplant, mushrooms, long beans, leeks, pineapple segments, root vegetables, Asian greens and peanuts then topped with the spicy Thai sauce.

If your mouth feels on fire, order ice cream for dessert—dairy helps cool spicy heat. The ice cream options are made in collaboration with Ultimate Ice Cream. Szechuan peppercorn ($4) has just enough heat to make the chocolate interesting, but not too much to prevent its ability to calm any tingle lingering on your gums.

Gàn Shān Station can win you over as a fan in one visit. Its friendly atmosphere may even leave you feeling like you’re part of the family.

More Information…

Gàn Shān StationGàn Shān Station
143 Charlotte St.
Asheville NC 28801
828.774.5280

  • Open Monday through Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturday 5 to 10 p.m. Closed Sunday.
  • Odds of Encountering Children: Varies, but relatively low since many American youngsters can’t palate intense spice. There are no chicken fingers on this menu.

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– Photos © HSP Media LLC

Featured products, services and/or travel arrangements may have been complimentary in part or in full; this affords the research opportunity but does not sway opinion.

HopeP_144Hope S. Philbrick is founder and editor-in-chief of Getaways for Grownups. Her work has appeared in dozens of publications nationwide. She’s reviewed restaurants for several Atlanta-based newspapers and magazines for more than 12 years. When not writing, she can usually be found on the road or savoring something tasty.

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