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America Loves Gas Station Snacks. Here Are Some of the Finest by Region

From Buc-ee’s Beaver Nuggets to 7-Eleven Spam musubi.


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gas station snacks

Whether we’re hitting them up during a marathon road trip or just a pit-stop during the weekly commute, gas stations are where America gets what it needs. For your car, that’s a few gallons of unleaded. For the rest of us, it’s something salty, sweet, crunchy, or highly caffeinated. But aside from a few constants (show us a fuel stop without jerky and Red Bull), the snacks, drinks, and often full meals available at gas stations vary greatly depending on where you are in the country; they’re dictated by local tastes, demographics, and plain old corn-fed culinary ingenuity. Here, then, Eater has compiled some of America’s favorite regional gas station indulgences, from gobs in Pennsylvania to breakfast pizza in Iowa to deep-fried burritos in Texas to Spam musubi in Hawai’i. Regardless of what your gas meter says, these are some of the bites worth pulling off the interstate for.

The Northeast

Stewart’s Shops Ice Cream, New York

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There are few rituals more peak upstate New York than ending a hot summer day with a cold scoop at Stewart’s. The Saratoga County-based convenience store, with shops throughout upstate New York and Vermont, makes and sells its own superrich ice cream in upstate-y flavors like Adirondack Bear Paw, Crumbs Along the Mohawk, and Kaydeross Kreme. Milkshakes, build-your-own sundaes, and splits are offered too, but a simple scoop in the signature red cup is perfect for a quick fill-up. — Kayla Stewart

Gobs (Whoopie Pies), Pennsylvania

Gobs are a quintessential Pennsylvania snack. Made by the Amish, the riff on a classic Whoopie Pie usually features vanilla icing or marshmallow fluff sandwiched between two cakey chocolate cookies. Look for them wrapped in plastic beside the register at independent gas stations throughout the state. — KS

Wawa Hoagies, Philadelphia

Wawa is so much more than a regional convenience store chain and sometimes-gas station throughout the Northeast. It’s an obsession, a rabid cult of regional pride, the stuff of rap lyrics and heartstring-tugging personal odes, but most notably, a slinger of stuffed-to-the-gills hoagies that are so popular they have their own festival. Fully customizable, Wawa offers classic hoagies like breakfast and deli sandwiches, as well as holiday-specific hoagies. No mere slogan, “gotta have a Wawa” is, for much of the country, a way of life. — KS

The South

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Chimichanga (aka the Fried Burrito), Texas

Anyone who has ever driven hours and hours through the vast, desolate expanses of west Texas likely has a strong appreciation for the deep-fried burritos from Allsup’s. The gas station chain’s signs, decked out in a Southwestern motif, are frequently the only thing that break up the monotonous (if occasionally stunning) landscapes of the high plains, serving as a pit stop and fueling station for weary travelers. Deep-fried and served in little paper sleeves, there is nothing fancy about Allsup’s burritos, which are likely mass-produced in a factory somewhere. But somehow, after 10 hours of driving, this combination of basic flour tortillas, lightly spiced beans, and meat that you’ve showered in several packets of hot sauce is pure magic. Pair with a fizzy fountain Coke and a bag of pork rinds, and you’re stuffed enough to make the rest of the drive to Marfa, where legitimately good burritos await. — Amy McCarthy

Klobásník / Klobasniky / Kolaches, Texas

In Texas, there is perhaps no road trip snack more coveted than the fluffy, yeasty kolaches and klobasniky. Sold at roadside bakeries and gas stations like the famed Czech Stop and Little Czech Bakery in West, and Hruska’s in Ellinger, these pastries have roots in Texas dating back to the 1840s, when Czech settlers found themselves in Texas following years of cultural upheaval in Central Europe. With those settlers came sweet kolaches, which look sort of like a yeast roll with a dollop of sweet filling, like cherry preserve or cream cheese, baked right into the center, and savory klobasniky, which involve meats like jalapeno-cheddar sausage wrapped in kolache dough. They’re usually baked in advance and warmed to order — often in a microwave, naturally — and are a prized souvenir for family members and friends waiting at home. Don’t be surprised to see tourists toting home giant boxes of kolaches and klobasniky, and don’t get confused and call a klobasnik a kolache — Texans are exceedingly particular about how these two beloved pastries are defined. — AM

Beaver Nuggets, Texas

Puffcorn pops are good. Puffcorn pops covered in caramel and named for everyone’s favorite amphibious rodent? Even better. The most popular snack at Buc-ee’s — one of the most iconic gas stations in the U.S. — are known here as beaver nuggets. Described by Buc-ee’s fans as “the best damned thing in Texas,” beaver nuggets have a devoted cult following, are sold online, and even used as an ingredient in Texas craft beer. They’re that dam good. — KS

Natchitoches Meat Pies, Louisiana

These Cajun-style meat pies can be found at gas stations throughout Louisiana, but they’re native to the northwest city of Natchitoches (pronounced Nack-a-tish), about 250 miles from New Orleans. Made famous by Steel Magnolias and a 2002 ode to Lasyone’s Meat Pie Restaurant in the New York Times, Natchitoches’s identity has become inseparable from the staple, which were supposedly first sold by 19th-century street vendors. They resemble the Latin American empanada, of course, with their crimped, half-moon shape, but are a bit more buttery. They’re traditionally stuffed with a savory mixture of beef and pork cooked with lots of spices (though they’re not spicy), and deep-fried until golden and crispy. Though the ones from Lasyone’s are the most sought after by non-natives, they can also be found at gas stations in town like the French Market Express on University Parkway. — Clair Lorell

Fried Shrimp Po’ Boy, Louisiana

Gulf seafood is easily within the top 10 reasons to visit the state of Louisiana (unless, of course, you’re a shrimp). Across the state, in gas-station cafes like the Danny & Clydes in Metairie, Buc Stop in Haughton, and the Chevron in Shreveport, hungry drivers can dig into piping hot hoagie rolls bulging with fried fish and shrimp, along with non-seafood meals like chicken and dumplings, and even burgers and fries. — KS

Boudin, Louisiana

The sometimes-smoky sausage with Cajun and Creole roots is generally made with a mix of rice, meat — usually hog — and Southern seasonings, but in Louisiana gas stations you can find it bulging with seafood like crawfish, shrimp, and even alligator, in flavors ranging from mild to hot. The most common style sold is boudin blanc, a “white” variety; throw a little blood into the mix and it’s boudin rouge. Grab some to go, munch it on-site, or snack on a link or two with crackers in the car as you cruise down the Louisiana coast. — KS

Dodge’s Fried Chicken, the Carolinas

Driving south out of Charleston, the red and yellow sign reading “Dodge’s Chicken” tells any driver what they need to know — pull over for some of the best fried poultry in the Lowcountry. Inside, it looks like every other convenience store, except for the four industrial fryers behind the counter and a mountain of crispy chicken and “jojos,” their version of fried potatoes, on display. Travelers and locals line up to go through 400 pieces of chicken on a normal day. The leg-breast-thigh combo for $8.99 can keep anyone satisfied on the drive from Charleston to Savannah. The chicken’s skin has just enough crackle and bite to keep it crisp over the course of the journey, and the meat stays moist, so napkins come in handy. Sure, Dodge’s sells pizza sticks and corn dogs too, but it’s the chicken that keeps customers coming back for more. — Erin Perkins

Boiled Peanuts, the Carolinas

Groundnuts, goober peas, boiled peanuts — call them what you will, these squishy legumes have a rich history in South Carolina dating back to the culinary traditions enslaved Africans brought to the United States. More bean-y than nutty, boiled peanuts remain a favorite at Southern gatherings of any kind, and are a clutch local purchase at gas stations, where their combo of protein, nutrients, and salty goodness make them the ideal roadside snack. Refuel and Whaley’s are perennial options, but you’ll also find boiled peanuts in most chain gas stations throughout the state. — KS

The Midwest

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Breakfast Pizza, Iowa

Casey’s General Stores, based in Ankeny, Iowa, operates more than 2,000 convenience stores in 16 Midwestern states, with 23 percent of those stores in Iowa alone. The gas station chain started selling pizza in 1984, dropping an oven into small Iowa towns where bigger pizza chains don’t exist. On September 14, 2001, it started selling breakfast pizzas: a light, airy crust with a choice of cheese sauce or sausage gravy in place of the classic tomato sauce, topped with bacon or sausage, scrambled eggs, and mozzarella and cheddar cheese. — Susan Stapleton

Pasties, Minnesota

When winding a car up the craggy shoreline of Lake Superior’s North Shore, it’s vital to stop for a gas fill-up in the rustic village of Lutsen. Inside Lockport Marketplace, travelers will find everything necessary for a trip in this northern part of the country. Groceries, camp supplies, fresh baked goods, and the best roadside hot-from-the-oven pasties in the state. The savory hand pies are popular around Minnesota’s Iron Range region, as an easily transported and hearty lunch for area miners. Lockport’s include a flaky crust, beef, carrots, potatoes, and the all-important, pungent rutabaga. — Joy Summers

New Glarus Beer, Wisconsin

Midwesterners take “drinking local” seriously, as liquor stores routinely see unwanted beers from other states end up as “shelf turds,” collecting dust. There are exceptions, especially thanks to the wonderful world of government regulation that controls beer distribution. Big Brother’s meddling makes certain beers scarce and coveted, depending on where you live. Beyond that, some folks just aren’t interested in sharing. Case in point: New Glarus Brewing, located about 130 miles northwest of Chicago, which only sells its excellent beer in Wisconsin. That makes their beers, like New Glarus Spotted Cow, popular purchases at local gas stations near the Illinois or Minnesota borders. Beer fans from out of state frequently load up their trunks with beer while filling their tanks — sometimes clandestinely. There’s a well-traveled myth that it’s illegal to import the beer over state lines. — Ashok Selvam

Twin Bings, Iowa

A product of the Palmer Candy Company in Sioux City, Iowa, Twin Bings is a staple of gas station candy shelves throughout Iowa and Nebraska. The treat consists of two round, chewy, cherry-flavored nougats that are bathed in chocolate and chopped peanuts to balance the sweet, cherry center. — KS

Mama Mary’s Hummus, Ohio

When does gas station hummus earn its own Instagram account? When it’s Mama Mary’s, the spreadable sensation at the Sunoco station in Olmsted Falls, Ohio, a suburb just outside Cleveland. Gorgeous trays of sesame-topped hummus in flavors like garlic, jalapeno, and “pickles’’ are indeed worthy of documentation, as evidenced by the thousands of followers who swear by the dips. Owner Khalil Dari opened the station-adjacent Sunoco Cafe a few years back, where his mom, also the chef, began serving gyros and other sandwiches, but it was the hummus that took off. Today you can buy full hummus gift baskets and catering trays from the Sunoco, no top-off required. — Lesley Suter

Shawarma and More, Detroit

Many stations in the metro Detroit area, particularly in Dearborn, are owned by Arab American families, resulting in delightful destinations like Dearborn’s always-packed halal burger stand Taystee’s Burgers — the perfect stop for a beef bacon and cheeseburger before a drive-in movie at the iconic Ford-Wyoming Theater — or Berkley’s Mr. Kabob, a shop known for its shawarma as much as its platters of kafta and kabobs, located inside a Sunoco. At Detroit 75 Kitchen, an Arab American-owned food trailer located beside a busy US Fuel in an industrial area off I-75 makes some of the most miraculous sandwiches, smoked chicken, and, yes, chicken tenders (hot, crisp, moist perfection) with sides of garlic-cilantro fries; it’s become a magnet for hungry Detroiters grabbing a meal on their lunch break. — Brenna Houck

Dot’s Pretzel Sticks, North Dakota

While Dot’s twisted, salt-speckled, thick-to-the-point-of-being-thicc pretzel sticks are not purely a Dakotas phenomenon, they are the defining snack and seemingly major employer of the small and adorable town of Velva, North Dakota. The family-owned company founded by an actual Dot touts its “top-secret coating” as the key to its success, that’s earned it a place on gas station snack shelves throughout the country. — LS

The West

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Tri-Tip Sandwiches, Central California

Located off I-5 halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco is Harris Ranch, a massive cattle farm with a famed restaurant, hotel, and quick-serve lunch spot, all serving its namesake beef. The latter, the Harris Ranch Express BBQ, is part Shell station, part carnivore haven, where the gas station checkout counter doubles as a butcher’s display case, and a takeout window puts out excellent Central California-style barbecue, specializing in a regional favorite cut, the tri-tip. There are ribs and pulled pork, but the sliced tri-tip served on a long hoagie roll is what you’re here for. — LS

Ice Cream Sandwiches, Northern California

It’s-It ice cream sandwiches remain one of the Bay Area’s most beloved freezer-case desserts, manufactured in the city of Burlingame and found at gas stations throughout the state. Ice cream flavors like vanilla, strawberry, cappuccino, and Nuggets — vanilla ice cream dipped in chocolate and bits of waffle cone — come sandwiched between two oatmeal cookies, and are sturdy enough not to drip on the upholstery. — KS

Fried Catfish, Seattle

For years, the startlingly excellent hot bar at a 24/7 Shell gas station in Seattle’s Beacon Hill neighborhood was one of the best-kept dining secrets in the city. Word has since gotten out, with local critics and TikTok influencers extolling the many virtues of its fried catfish: delicately breaded with just the right amount of seasoning. The garlic chicken wings and gizzards are good bets, too, best fresh from the fryer, if you can time a fill-up not long after they swap out the trays (the friendly cashiers are usually honest about it). — Gabe Guarente

Spam Musubi, Hawai’i

With a nub of seasoned rice stacked with Spam and wrapped with nori, Spam musubi is a Hawaiian hybrid delicacy. It’s found throughout the islands alongside some of the best gas station fare in the nation, at local chains like Aloha Island Mart, Kuntz Shoppette & Gas Station, and even 7-Eleven. — KS

Kayla Stewart is a freelance food and travel writer based in Harlem with roots in Houston, Texas. Naya-Cheyenne is a Miami-raised, Brooklyn-based multimedia illustrator and designer.

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This post originally appeared on Eater and was published May 26, 2021. This article is republished here with permission.

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