REVIEW: OWL Bakery, Table Asheville, Gan Shan Station


Hello Asheville!

Here are three relatively quick reviews that wrote for my own blog, and thought that the readers of Ashvegas might enjoy them too.


OWL Bakery is an artisan bakery, coffee shop, and cafe in Asheville. We serve naturally leavened breads, european pastries, espresso, tea, and simple fare.

295 Haywood Road, Asheville, NC
(828) 785-1770

Dawn Roe at the OWL Bakery, Yo!

Dawn and I went to the brand new OWL Bakery (OWL is all caps because it stands for “Old World Levain”) and it was awesome!

This place is a little bit hard to notice, because as Joe always points out, they don’t have a sign yet, but it’s easy to find, because it’s right at the corner where Haywood takes a turn, at “The Haywood Elbow,” as I’ve heard it referred to. The building is a tiny little free standing light-colored house, right next to that big rambling building that’s right on the corner? You know the one I’m talking about, right? The spring water place is right there? And that muffler shop that you can’t tell if they’re open or not? No? Well, here’s a frickin’ Google Map and Street View for you. Yeah, they really do need a sign. I also noticed that their online presence was virtually non-existent. They really need to enlist the services of professionals that specialize in local SEO.

There! That’s it! Right there. That tiny house right in between Mountain Valley Spring Water and that weird rambling rainbow fence building that I wish would turn into something awesome, and I heard rumors that it might be about to.

If you can’t find OWL Bakery using these tools, then you might be SOL, even if/when they do get a sign.

Okay, so anyhoo, once you find it… you might be pleasantly surprised, as I was, to find that it is insanely cute inside, and super well designed interms of decor and seating. The color scheme is mostly black and white, with muted hues here and there, the small white tiles on the floor are referenced with tiny white tiles along portions of the walls. The atmosphere is bright, open, cheerful, clean, and comfortable. And the pastry case had some amazing looking stuff in it! Holy moly, and some of it was super fresh and hot out of the oven. Dawn and I split a savory turnover and a sweet turnover, and both were frickin’ amazing. Made with high quality, local, seasonal ingredients, I could tell they were prepared and cooked with love and a clear dedication to providing good food to people. They probably have some great small business software to help them to consistently provide such a great service. Salesforce has some useful tools for other bakeries could benefit from using it. Dawn and I are planning to go back to OWL again and again, to try everything they offer eventually.

Also of note is the coffee, which is very high end, prepared fresh for me with the pour-over method, and delivered in a cute little cup. It was so good, that I drank it black, which is super-rare for me. I don’t take sugar, but I do usually take cream, unless a hard-core coffee-lover goes on-and-on about he flavor and pedigree of a certain bean, and then I drink it black. Co-owner John was very enthused about the coffee he was offering that day, so I drank it black, and it was the bomb.

Also, I want to specifically mention that the outdoor seating was an instant hit with me, because of the dappled sunlight provided by several young, healthy tees back there. Treeeeeeeees! God, I love trees. Tree me, people. I want TREES! Thank you, OWL Bakery, for providing a place to sit outside, and enjoy the weather, without being brutalized by the sun. I’m creating a whole new Stoobie Award category because of these guys: Best Outdoor Seating. There are several contenders right out of the gate, including OWL Bakery.

So, yeah, just a super quick review of OWL Bakery, to let you know that yes, it’s open and yes, it’s awesome! It’s a little tough to spot, but it’s right the fuck there at the Haywood Elbow, so find it, go there, eat there, according to my one experience so far, they have great coffee, great pastries, it’s cute inside, comfortable outside, and that’s my review, and advice about OWL Bakery today.


“Table is a small, seasonal, New American restaurant in the heart of downtown Asheville.”

48 College St, Asheville, NC 28801
Phone: (828) 254-8980

Another super quickie review, but first a confession… I had never been to Table for lunch. WTF? Table is, like, right there in the middle of Downtown, it’s one of the best dang restaurants in Asheville, and I’m always betchin’ about how some other places aren’t open for lunch, so I booked reservations for two at noon on a Thursday and I was joined by my buddy Stephan from Dig Local. This was a bit of a business lunch, though not for me. Stephan wanted to meet Chef Jacob Sessoms, and more importantly Alicia Sessoms, who “writes the checks,” so to speak. My role was facilitator. And eater of things.

“Alicia… chomp chomp nom nom… this is Stephan… chomp slobber gulp… he’s from Dig Local… grrrrrrrr snap bark bark bark chew chew…”

You know how it goes.

Good times.

Great food.

Like, really great food. Ain’t no joke, Yo. I decided to try the shrimp ‘n’ grits, but in my head, as always, was the little voice that says, “Why bother, Chump? Nothing will ever beat the shrimp ‘n’ grits at Sunnypoint,” but whatever, Little Voice. I was sure they’d be good, if not the best.

Oh, but wait a minute now…

Yeah. No. These shrimp ‘n’ grits were super fantastically fucking awesome, aaaannnd, they just might be about to topple Sunnypoint as the A-#1, shrimp ‘n’ grit champs of Asheville. I’m telling you what. Now I gotta go back to Sunnypoint, and do a serious compare and contrast, to determine who’s is better, and therefor best.There’s a fucking Stoobie Award on the line, in a category that Sunnypoint has totally dominated for over 3 years! Gah! Excitement.

Anyhoo, here’s what’s up with these shrimp and grits…

The portion looks small because the bowl was enormous, but in the end, I was just the right amount of full.

Every individual element was cooked perfectly, seasoned just right, and presented with care and artistry. It looked beautiful in the bowl, and each bite was an eye-closer of good flavors, textures, and feelings. The Carolina shrimp were tender and sweet. The grits were creamy, and coarse, and just the right stiffness and texture, especially when combined with the spicy red sauce. The micro greens on top were awesome and packed a powerful punch of fresh, earthy flavor, and probably the most surprising ingredient was the cucumber salsa, which was grilled, and savory, and nothing at all like eating cucumbers. This shit was fuckin’ good all around, Yo, and I wanted to stick my face in the bowl and lick it clean, and I totally would have if not for, y’know… society.

Oh, yeah, before I even ordered my shrimp ‘n’ grits, Stephan and I split an appetizer of “Devils on Horseback,” which consist of an almond, stuffed in a date, wrapped in bacon — like a wee like turducken… or almdacon – and served piping hot. Ho. Lee. Shit. STIIIIICKS! Them little fucks were good. I could have easily eaten a bucket of them all by myself and I burned the fuck out of my tongue wolfing them down like a starving hound. If Stephan wasn’t literally twice as tall as me… and also young and athletic and covered in muscles… I totally would have fought him for the last one.

Here’s a picture…

Are you fucking kidding me?

Stephan got the “Carolina Fish, which he said was outstanding. It looked awesome and he ate every bite.

Yes, those are blueberries, and when I asked Stephan if they went well with the rest of the dish, he knit his brow and nodded his head in a “yes, indeedy” kind of way.

After we finished eating, the Sessomses came over, and Stephan got to talk shop with Alicia, while Jacob and I gabbed about food, and… food. I only ever really want to talk about food.

So, it was a great lunch, and I’m definitely going back to Table for lunch in the future, I don’t know why it took me so long in the first place. Table is usually on my top 5 Restaurants in Asheville list, which does fluctuate a little, and they are always on my top 7 Restaurants in Asheville list. They’re awesome for dinner, and they’ve got great lunch atmosphere: Big, bright, open, with giant windows, and high ceilings. The decor is clean and spare, while remaining cozy and accessible. The staff is excellent, and the service is great. Table is a winner in my book!

But will they win the battle in my belly for Best Shrimp ‘n’ Grits in Asheville?

Stay tuned, Yo.


“Gàn Sh?n Station brings a dining experience unlike any other to Asheville diners. Experience our East Asian inspired cuisine today.”

143 Charlotte St
Asheville, NC
(828) 774-5280

Spicy Beef. It was indeed very spicy! Just the way I like it.

Have you been to Gan Shan Station yet? Or maybe I should ask if you’ve been there recently? Because, if you went in early days and left with meh feelings, you need to go back, because now it’s fucking awesome.

Located up there on North Charlotte Street in what used to be one of the ugliest abandoned gas stations in Asheville (there are several), Gan Shan was long-awaited by the neighborhood and eaters alike, in a part of town that was really lacking in dining choices. Headed-up by Asheville hometowner, Chef Patrick O’Cain, I think we all wanted Gan Shan to be awesome, and I happen to know that there was some sense of disappointment among some of the eaters in town when Patrick finally opened his doors last year. I was even among those who had a spotty experience the first time I went, and the general consensus at the time was that about 75% of the food was great, but there were some major clunkers being served in between the great stuff. One dish I ate was so salty I was a little shocked, but y’know what? I mixed it in with the sticky rice, and ate it in conjunction with a delicious, sweet, tangy mango salad that we had ordered, and the salt was evened out perfectly, so I ended up really enjoying that “too salty” dish after all. There may have been a learning curve for me, as much as for the venue, in those first months.

Anyhoo… that was then and this is now, and the point of this quick review is to say that in my opinion, Gan Shan has ironed-out the wrinkles, smoothed-over any kinks, gotten past the “first time jitters,” or whatever you want to say, and now they are bangin’ out some of my favorite food in Asheville.

Dawn and I go there on the regs, and it’s one of her absolute fave places in town. She suggests it more often that most other places, and when we go, we usually sit at the bar, and watch the haps in the kitchen while we throw down some dumplings, a salad of some kind, and maybe a few small plates or a couple of entrees. The tofu & spinach salad with nettles is a new-ish dish that we’re are particularly fond of, and we look forward to on the drive over from our place. We even talk about it, as in, “I hope that fuckin’ tofu salad is on the menu!” “Yeah! Nom nom nom !” Yes, we do actually talk to each other that way. Absolutely true.

Chef O’Cain assured us that this wonderful dish will remain on the menu for the immediate future.

A humble yet delicious salad.

It may not look like much, but this tofu salad is freakin’ delicious. It’s basically a tight, little, dome-shaped mound of crumbled tofu, spinach, and nettles, with crunchy stuff on top, and a sweet sticky drizzle over the whole thing. Served cooler than room temp, it is both light and filling, refreshing and substantial, and it tastes fantastic. I recommend it highly.

You say you don’t eat tofu? Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that. I guess you’re SOL.

Back in the 1970’s people made a lot fun of tofu and acted like it’s not a “real” food. Some people still feel that way. Idiots. I eat the fuckin’ shit outta some tofu and either love it or hate it, or give it the meh, based entirely on how well it’s prepared. The tofu salad at Gan Shan Station is prepared perfectly. Do yourself a favor and get over any weird anti-tofu feelings you have, and give it a try. If you just genuinely don’t like tofu, as in: you’ve tried it, you’re just not a fan, that’s cool, there’s plenty of other cold, salady type dishes for you to try at Gan Shan, and so far all of the ones we’ve tried have been great.

Dawn got this one, and I don’t even know what-all is in it… peanuts and stuff… cauliflower? Do I see a green bean? No clue. She loved it, I had a bite and it was cool, tasty, earthy, and awesome.

One of Dawn’s complaints about the food scene in Asheville is that it skews very much in the direction of “Dude Food,” deep fried things, and heavy dishes. I joke that even the vegetables in Asheville contain 33% pork products, and that butter seems to be measured by the bucketful rather than the stick here down South. So, one of the things Dawn loves about Gan Shan Station is that she can get some lighter fare. Not only the salads, but also the dumplings are light, the fish dishes are light, and even the spicy beef dish I ate the other night was light. It was beautiful in fact. The beef was tender and cut into very edible strips. It came with fresh, pan fried okra, chili peppers, peanuts, sticky rice, and a fuck-load of spices on top. No thick, goopy sauce. No misplaced bacon. Not one piece of fat or gristle on the beef. I mixed it all together and ate the fuck out that shit, and didn’t feel like a disgusting bag of human lard afterward. Yay.

So, basically, I hereby officially endorse Gan Shan Station as one of my Top Eateries in Asheville, and suggest that if you haven’t been there lately, do that soon. Try a bunch of stuff. Mix it all together. Use chopsticks. Be daring and choose things you normally wouldn’t eat. Have fun at Gan Shan and open your mind and palate to what Patrick and his crew have got going on. The service is great; the atmosphere is bright, open, airy, and attractive; the ceramic dishes are awesome, and made by Warren Wilson students; and the new outdoor seating might be some of the best in town. Oh, and they have new art on the walls.

— END —

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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1 Comment

Scout Boutique July 12, 2016 - 12:58 pm

Stu Helm- your reviews are on point and your writing style cracks me up! “You say you don’t eat tofu…”

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