Lunch: Cheesesteak hoagie (mayo, caramelized onions, pickles), mac and cheese,, meatball, hot dog, water
Wawa has a legendary reputation with a fiercely loyal fan base who consider them the greatest convenience store chain in the world. I’ve been to one once, and I was inside just long enough to get a receipt for my gas that the pump didn’t provide. Now, I’m sampling the menu for lunch to see what makes their fans so feverish.
Convenience store chains have been upping their fresh food game in the wake of declining tobacco sales and the decreasing profitability of gas on the retail end. Full kitchens producing made to order foods are becoming more common. Wawa and fellow Pennsylvania competitor Sheetz were pioneers here and debates on which chain is better are as common in their core markets as Coke vs Pepsi or even Soda vs Pop are everywhere. I’ve been to Sheetz a lot. This is my first time eating something at Wawa, and trips to Wawa markets being extremely rare for me, I took advantage to sample a few things.
Ordering is done from a touch screen, much like Sheetz. Offerings focus on hoagies and sides...the selection is much more limited from the ridiculous number of offerings at Sheetz. The hoagies are all anyone ever talks about anyway. So I order my cheesesteak, a small side of mac and cheese, and small meatballs (you get two in a cup).
I also wander the store. There’s an area with Wawa-branded snacks and the usual convenience store fare. The soda fountain is a Coke Freestyle, no Peosi. There’s a mini staffed coffee station that makes custom coffee drinks. And there’s a heated glass display case full of hot dogs in plastic containers pre-bunned. No roller grill. No way to add chili or cheese. Condiments are limited to tiny packets. You’d probably need like ten mustard packets for the bigger hot dogs. I grab a hot dog anyway.
I pay for everything, my order number is called, and I head to the car to eat in the parking lot. The first thing I discover is they don’t automatically place any cutlery in the bag when you order things that require it. Nice. I have a spare plastic spoon from some other fast food visit on hand anyway.
So how was it?
The cheesesteak was lousy. The meat and onions were pretty flavorless. The mayo overwhelmed the thing and tasted odd. It was also supposed to have cheese on it, but I could find no evidence of it existing. Thumbs down.
The meatballs were lousy. Just bland. I ate one of them. Thumbs down.
The mac and cheese was the highlight. Better than you’d expect from a convenience store. Thumbs up.
The hot dog was a bold flavored all-meat plumper that required all the mustard packets I grabbed and maybe then some. Too strong without the mustard, fine with it. Thumbs...up.
Bottom line...I walked into Wawa wondering why they had such a cult following. I walked out still wondering why they had a cult following, but for all the wrong reasons.
In the debate of which is better, Sheetz wins by a landslide.
But QuikTrip still beats them both.