Asheville Sandwich Report: Döner, Shawarma, Pav, Pork Triple Threat & Fried Chicken on a Bun!


Ert’s Pernernced “Derner Kerberb…”

Yeah, Americans and ümlauts.  We don’t quite know what to do with them. Who here pronounces the ümlauts in Mötörhead? Anyone? Anyone? Büeller? I didn’t think so. What about the word “döner?” As in: The Döner – Kebabs & Falafels, which is a brand new food vendor out there at The Asheville Mall on Tunnel Road that’s getting a lot of attention. Is döner pronounced like “goner,” and “honor,” or like “loner,” and “boner?” According to everything I looked up… it kinda doesn’t matter, most people leaning towards “boner.” If that’s the way it’s gonna be, I’m saying Donger! No I’m not. But I did go there to eat with my friend Stephan Pruitt from Dig Local Asheville.

Just in case you didn’t know — hey, I didn’t know —  döner is a type of Turkish meat, cooked on a vertical rotisserie, like a gyro. It was introduced into Europe in the 1970’s, where it was popularized and became a ubiquitous take-away pita / pocket bread sandwich simply called “a döner.”  They are gaining in popularity, and can be found all over England, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, and now Asheville! There’s a lot more info about the history and creation of the döner on Wikipedia [ LINK ]

Here’s a picture of the döner that I got at The Döner…

Chicken döner. photo by Stu Helm

Okay… so… first of all, I met Mitchell, one of the owners and he was really nice, and really proud of his döners and the meat they use, and the freshness of the produce, and he even showed-off some high-tech meat shavers that he and his crew use to… shave the meat… off of the vertical meat cone. I was impressed with Mitchell, and his operation, and dedication to quality.

How was the döner? It was good. I ate it, and enjoyed it. I’m not gonna lie, and say that I would take a special trip to the Asheville Mall just to eat another one of these döners, but if I was already at the Mall? And I was hungry? Then fuck yeah, I’d eat another one of these döners in a heartbeat! The bread was particularly good to me. It was warm, and nicely toasted, and slightly crispy on the outside, while remaining soft and bready on the inside. The chicken was good, but I got some really dry pieces, that I could have done without. The toppings were great, and they were actually the highlight of the sandwich to me. When you order your döner, you get to look at a bunch of toppings, and sort of ask, point, & indicate to the person making it whichever ones you want, including sauces. It’s a good system, which allowed me to take control of my life, and my sandwich. No raw onions, please. The lettuce, cabbage, cucumbers, tomato, etc were all really fresh and snappy and delicious. I give this sandwich solid grades in the produce department. The yogurt based sauce was also good, but because of the dry chicken pieces, I wished there was a tad more of it.

Fresh ingredients, tasty bread, and no plastic in the plating! photo by Stu Helm

So, if you’re at the Mall, or near the Mall, I do recommend The Döner. It’s fresh and tasty, as well as affordable, and it’s independently owned by nice people. It’s not a chain, it’s not a franchise, and it’s not only the best food at the Mall by far, but it’s actually pretty dang good, and if it was a little closer to my house, I might go there more often.

One place I would definitely go more frequently if I lived closer by, is Gypsy Queen Cuisine out on Patton Rd, so when I had a chance to go there recently with my good friend Rebekah, I pounced!

Also independently owned (Yay, Suzy!) and serving some super-delicious food, including the somewhat famous Brussels sprouts w/ lamb, killer sweets, and of course shawarma! I love me some good shawarma, and in my opinion, Gypsy Queen crushes it with their preparation of this traditional Middle Eastern / European wrap-style sandwich. Again, in case you didn’t know, shawarma is a meat preparation, that involves a vertical spit, and many of the same or similar toppings and flavors as the döner mentioned above. Döner and shawarma are kinda like cousins.

You can also learn more about shawarma on Wikipedia. [ LINK ]

Suzy’s shawarma comes wrapped in a warm pita, rolled into a tube-like shape, with fresh, cooked, and pickled ingredients inside. The contents of the shawarma are predetermined at Gypsy Queen — as opposed to the point-and-choose method at The Döner — so I just accepted whatever Suzy and her crew wanted to put in there unquestioningly. Fuck it. I trust them entirely, because they have a very good track record of serving me excellent food, and this chicken shawarma did not blemish that record. YUM!!! Here’s a picture…

Not the most photogenic sandwich, by still very delicious! photo by Stu helm

The chicken was very moist and tender, and cooked perfectly in every way. The flavors in Suzy’s shawarma are always perfect, and the other contents of the wrap were also great. Fresh parsley made for a nice little touch, and the pickles where the bomb. This sandwich was awesome, and I recommend it very highly. It’s 100 percent fucking good. Suzy makes what I sometimes call “big city food,” by which I mean that it is of the same quality, and on par with the shawarma and other Middle Eastern food that I ate with frequency when I lived in Boston and Chicago, or still do when I visit DC or NYC. I personally think we’re very fortunate to have individuals like Suzy and others, who bring high quality, big city food from other parts of the world to our little town in Appalachia.

Get you some of that.

This idiot. photo by Rebekah Jorjorian

You know who else is making big city food? Meherwan Irani and Chai Pani, of course! Holy shit. At Chai Pani they make this amazing bread called “pav,” that I’ve written about before [ LINK ], so I won’t go into it in too much detail here, except to say that it comes buttered, grilled, and open faced, for you to add delicious stuff to, then eat like a wee little sandwich. It’s soft, and buttery, and salty, and effing incredible. Here’s a picture, I’ll leave it at that…

The only thing left on this plate was a squeezed-out lime & a little pile of raw onions. Fuck yes, I ate that jalapeño spear. photo by Stu Helm

So, yeah, read my other review if you want more deets on the pav sandwiches at Chai Pani, or just take my word for it that it’s really effing good and go try one! If you like Indian food, you’ll love it! If you don’t like Indian food, that’s ok, maybe you’ll like this next sandwich. It’s fried chicken… with an egg… and pimento cheese… and… gah…

Are you effing kidding me with this sandwich?!? photo by Stu Helm

Gah” is really the only appropriate word to describe this sandwich.

So… True story… My good friend Paddy from Asheville Food Tours texted me excitedly one day, to let me know that he had just eaten a sandwich a The Rankin Vault that was so amazing, he was compelled to buy one for me before he left, so in no uncertain terms he told me to get my ass to The Vault, and tell them that I’m the guy that the other guy paid for the sandwich for… Ohhhkayyyy… that got my attention. Not just because, yay, free sandwich, but because when a person like Paddy — who is a food tour guide and eats a lot of fucking food — is that stoked about a sandwich, it’s gotta be a pretty fucking special sandwich. And it was. If the picture above didn’t make your eyes pop out of your head, here’s another… and I repeat… gah

That big ol’ knife was a crucial implement. Even cut in half, this beast was a handful. photo by Stu Helm

That’s a battered and deep-friend chicken breast, with pimento cheese and pickles underneath, and kim chee, ginger BBQ sauce, and a sunny-side up egg on top. Ho. Lee. Effing. WHAAAT?!? Incredible. Yeah yeah, there were a few raw onions involved that I had to deal with, but y’know what? This fuckin’ freak-show had so much going on, that the raw onions didn’t compete with or overpower any other part of the sandwich at all. Not even close. Oh, and the whole thing came on a killer, soft white bun, that I squished down on top of the egg, breaking the yolk and then soaking some of it up. The rest of the egg yolk ran all down on to the chicken, and the plate, and my hands, and my face. This is not a sandwich for neat-nicks. Or children. Or anyone who has a problem with bathing a chicken in an egg… which is kind of weird to think about… but not too weird… I ate the shit out of that thing. It was every fucking bit as good and special and mind-blowing as Paddy had indicated! In fact, I’m announcing right here and now that this sandwich is an early nominee for a Stoobie Award come December.  It was that frickin’… gah.

Finally, in this month’s Asheville Sandwich Report, I want to be sure to mention Appalachian Chic food truck, who served a really awesome sample of a sandwich to me and the other judges at The Asheville Food Truck Rally that happened a few weeks ago out at the Ag Center. It was called the “Pork Triple Threat” sandwich, and it was fucking great! It apparently has three kinds of pork on it, and it was just as tasty as fuck. The judges were all really impressed, and it was our top contender for a long time! Only after trying 15 other samples, and having to judge them all in categories that included “presentation,” and “best looking food truck,” did the Pork Triple Threat sandwich get bumped from the top spot, by a just a few points. Here’s a picture from the competition…

That other brown thing is a tater tot, and it was equally awesome. photo by Stu helm

The Pork Triple Threat is available on the Appalachian Chic menu regularly, where it is described as “Local Country Ham, Bacon Jam, OB Root Beer Braised Pork Butt, Goat Lady Smoked Goat Cheese, Gastrique Onions, Sun Dried Tomato Aioli, Local Artisan Bun.” As you can see from the picture above, ours was served on sliced bread, not a bun, and I think that may have made this thing even more appealing to me. Chris from Appalachian Chic crisped-up that bread on the outside which contributed to the nice combination of textures inside this sandwich. If you order off the truck, maybe they’ll do it on bread for you too. If this sandwich sounds too porky to you, as it did to me when Chris first described it us, have no fear, it was not too porky at all, and the various forms of pork were all just divergent enough from each other to stand out on their own as individual ingredients, that contrasted and enhanced each other, rather than just being one big porky lump. This was a very awesome sandwich and I would urge you to look for Appalachian Chic somewhere near you!

Aaaand that’s that the Asheville Sandwich report for Friday, April 14th, 2017. Stay tuned for more sandwiches, more reports, and SPOILER ALERT, more Middle Eastern stuff inside of a pita pocket! Until then, thanks for reading… keep on eating!

~ END ~

Döner – Kebab & Falafel
“The Döner Kebab, Europe’s most popular fast food, comes to the Asheville Mall. We happily serve Turkish inspired fresh and local food.”
Address: Asheville Mall, 3 S Tunnel Rd, Asheville, NC 28805
Sunday 12–6PM
Monday 10AM–9PM
Tuesday 10AM–9PM
Wednesday 10AM–9PM
Thursday 10AM–9PM
Friday 10AM–9PM
Saturday 10AM–9PM
Phone:(828) 301-4072

Gypsy Queen Cuisine
“Eastern delights, served in WEST ASHEVILLE, with Southern hospitality.”
Address: 807 Patton Ave, Asheville, NC 28806
Sunday 11AM–3PM
Monday 11AM–9PM
Tuesday 11AM–9PM
Wednesday 11AM–9PM
Thursday 11AM–9PM
Friday 11AM–9PM
Saturday 11AM–9PM
Phone: (828) 575-2758

Chai Pani
“Indian chaat (street snacks) plus homestyle platters (thalis) in a funky, laid-back space.”
Address: 22 Battery Park Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
Sunday 12–3:30PM, 5–9PM
Monday 11:30AM–3:30PM, 5–9PM
Tuesday 11:30AM–3:30PM, 5–9PM
Wednesday 11:30AM–3:30PM, 5–9PM
Thursday 11:30AM–3:30PM, 5–9PM
Friday 11:30AM–3:30PM, 5:30–9:30PM
Saturday 11:30AM–3:30PM, 5:30–9:30PM
Phone: (828) 254-4003

The Vault
“Relaxed bar known for craft cocktails & burgers, with a patio & seating in a renovated vault.”
Address: 7 Rankin Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
Sunday 12PM–2AM
Monday 12PM–2AM
Tuesday 12PM–2AM
Wednesday 12PM–2AM
Thursday 12PM–2AM
Friday 12PM–2AM
Saturday 12PM–2AM
Phone: (828) 254-4993

Appalachian Chic
“Locally grown in Asheville NC. Proudly serving gourmet southern fusion cuisine”
Phone: (828) 782-8484


From left: Chef Jacob Sessoms of Table; Chef William Dissen, The Market Place; Chef Steven Goff, Standard Foods; Chef Katie Button, Curate; Chef Joe Scully, Chestnut and Corner Kitchen; Stu Helm; Chef John Fleer, Rhubarb; Chef Karen Donatelli, Donatelli Bakery; Chef Peter Pollay, Posana Cafe; and Chef Matt Dawes, Bull & Beggar./ Photo by STEWART O’SHIELDS for ASHVEGAS.COM

Stu Helm is an artist, writer, and podcaster living in Asheville, NC, and a frequent diner at local restaurants, cafes, food trucks, and the like. His tastes run from hot dogs and mac ‘n’ cheese, to haute cuisine, and his opinions are based on a lifetime of eating out. He began writing about food strictly to amuse his friends on Facebook.


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lisa April 16, 2017 - 6:27 pm

If you are headed to Chicago anytime soon, try my friend’s food truck or brick-and-mortar called Doner Men! You will love!

Carey Harnash April 15, 2017 - 8:16 am

Hi Stu,

It was the Asheville Food Truck Showdown at the Ag. Center, not the Food Truck Rally.

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