- Wawa, a gas-station chain with a devoted fan base, was voted America’s favourite sandwich shop in a recent consumer survey.
- It beat out several nationwide sandwich chains to take the title.
- We visited Wawa recently, and the high quality and low cost surprised us.
Wawa, the Pennsylvania-based gas-station chain, has a loyal fan base.
Those in the know – usually those who have grown up in the Mid-Atlantic states where Wawa is most highly concentrated – worship Wawa. With over 790 locations, the chain is no small-time regional player, and its reputation of high-quality sandwiches and food precedes it.
In Market Force Information’s annual consumer survey, Wawa beat out several major sandwich chains – including last year’s winner, Firehouse Subs – to be crowned America’s best sandwich shop. Nearly 11,500 people voted in the survey.
We recently visited the chain to see what all the fuss was about, and we were duly impressed – impressed enough to declare that it’s officially better than its main regional rival, Sheetz.
But to be voted the No. 1 sandwich chain in America? That’s a heavy mantle. But as the saying goes, the customer is always right – here’s why consumers think Wawa is the No. 1 sandwich shop in the country:
Wawa is a Pennsylvania and New Jersey institution — one could say even more revered than its popular competitor, Sheetz.
We visited this Wawa in Phillipsburg, New Jersey, after hearing countless tales of the chain’s superior sandwiches.
To call Wawa a gas station really sells it short; it’s more of a deli with a convenience store that also happens to sell gas.
There’s plenty of pre-prepared food as well, ranging from salads to wraps to full-fledged meals.
But forget the pre-prepared stuff — the freshly made sandwiches are what you want.
Most Wawas follow the same relaxing, non-distinct vibe of yellow and beige walls, as though you’re being eased into a calming sandwich oasis.
Most locations should have touchscreen menus that streamline the whole ordering process. The variety of sandwiches offered is fairly broad — hovering around 15 sandwiches or so.
You can also order your own custom sandwich, as with any normal deli.
The chain bakes the bread for its famous hoagies daily — so, hopefully, no stale loaves here. Wawa’s quality of ingredients is pretty impressive for a convenience-store chain.
Because each sandwich is made fresh, the wait time is longer than your average fast-food sandwich chain. Not much longer, though – our order took about five to seven minutes.
The iconic Wawa box — simplicity in deliciousness.
It’s impossible for us to try all the sandwiches at once, so we tried to go for something of a cross section: an avocado bacon club sandwich, a meatball hoagie, and a cheese panini.
The avocado bacon club sandwich is a tad underwhelming — it means well, but the execution is about par the course for a gas station sandwich.
There’s an abundance of shredded iceberg lettuce, and the toasted bread is only half-toasted – if you’re going to make the grand (and appreciated) gesture of toasting, go all the way with it. But credit where credit is due: the bacon is plentiful.
The $US4.59 meatball hoagie is a classic Wawa option: the golden fleece of sandwiches.
It’s served warm and well-toasted, with stringy, melty mozzarella and a crusty yet soft bread that’s perfectly satisfying. The sauce and meatballs are great, especially considering gas station expectations. The meatball hoagie is easily on the same level of quality as your favourite local deli.
But even the deliciousness of the meatball hoagie can’t compare to the suspiciously sublime levels of the cheese panini. This one has tomato, baby spinach greens, and a creamy sun-dried tomato pesto sauce squeezed within its crusty grilled slices.
It’s really good for a convenience store – like Panera Bread on a good day kind of good. Not gourmet or mind-numbingly wild, but so much higher than the expectation that it can sweep you away. And at $US5.29, it’s a fantastically cheap meal.
The sandwich selection at Wawa is formidable — perhaps someday we can truly test every single sandwich. But for now, what we did manage to try convinces us: Wawa makes a mean sandwich.
So while it’s surprising that a regional East Coast chain can be named best sandwich shop in America by a national survey of more than 11,500 consumers, the sandwiches are impressive enough to earn that title.
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