Gas station Chinese restaurant popular in Fort Collins – Coloradoan

The aromas of Asian spices float past aisles of Slim Jims, candy bars and potato chips inside a south Fort Collins Schrader’s Country Store gas station.
Sally’s Kitchen serves up Chinese food and other Asian dishes in a section of the 4727 S. Timberline Road building, often catching customers off-guard.
“A lot of people are skeptical at first,” admits Anna Yuan, whose family runs the store. “There’s a stigma about gas station food being gross.”
But Sally’s Kitchen rose above gas station food’s reputation of dry hot dogs and stale pizza slices and developed a legion of dedicated fans. There’s a base of regulars for both lunch and dinner service, with every item made to order in giant woks.
The restaurant of few frills spends almost no money on marketing, instead relying primarily on word of mouth. Its location, which is the site of a former fast food sandwich shop, is decorated with a few Asian knickknacks and a fading sign featuring photos of classic Chinese dishes. A white dry erase board showcases the daily specials.
Plain white plastic foam containers are used for every order. There are booths and tables for dine-in service. Delivery service is offered at dinner.
“Chinese food in a gas station isn’t what you usually go for,” said three-year regular Skyler Chambers. “But this is my only Chinese go-to in Fort Collins.”
Though Sally’s Kitchen doesn’t operate a website, it has a strong online presence with several hundred favorable reviews scattered throughout Yelp, TripAdvisor, Facebook and Google.
“Yelp reviews led me here,” said regular patron Kate Sawyer. “I gave it a try and have been hooked since. It’s really fast, cheap and delicious.”
The restaurant was opened by Anna’s parents — Tommy and Sally Yuan — in March 2013. The space was previously occupied by Main Street Subs and Cousin’s Subs.
Tommy and Sally are Chinese natives who immigrated to New York. They moved to Fort Collins to help open a former Old Town Fort Collins Asian restaurant called Taipan in 2001. The couple ran the eatery in the parking garage structure at 144 N. Mason St. for about a decade before selling it off to new owners.
Taipan eventually closed in 2014. A new owner turned the space into Ramen Master.
“My dad, he is a phenomenal chef who loves to cook,” Anna said. “He took a break from the business but he couldn’t keep away from it.”
Tommy and Sally started looking for a new restaurant location and discovered the vacated gas station location.
“It was the right rent and just a mile from where we live,” said Anna, who works with her parents at the restaurant.
Tommy runs the kitchen and Sally the front register. The couple works nearly every day at the restaurant, which is open daily from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. every Monday through Saturday; and 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Sundays. Each year the family closes the restaurant for a one-week vacation.
The menu is listed on pamphlets at the restaurant’s counter. It features standard Chinese favorites like General Tso’s, sesame, orange, and sweet and sour chicken dishes. There are also numerous rice and noodle dishes and different vegetable combinations. Soups and egg rolls are among available appetizers.
Drunken noodles, Pad Thai and Singapore noodles are among other Asian influences offered.
Sally’s Kitchen is also well-known for its ginger avocado fried rice.
Since 2015, the restaurant has received three “good” ratings and one “excellent” rating following inspections from the Larimer County health department.
“It took us a while to earn business,” Anna said. “But it gets pretty slammed most days of the week now.”
“It is a small business that has become such as a special thing,” she added. “We are very proud of it.”
Follow Jacob Laxen on Twitter and Instagram @jacoblaxen.
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