Just like death and taxes, Wawa is one of life’s few certainties.
I moved back to Pennsylvania in 2009, and while I enjoyed Georgia cuisine, you just couldn’t find a good sandwich anywhere. You couldn’t find one at Waffle House and you definitely couldn’t find one at a convenience store that was also a gas station with no-surcharge ATMs.
Wawa is life, which we all agree on, unless you’re one of those people who prefers Sheetz for whatever reason.
The only real disagreement among devotees seems to revolve around the current offerings, which are more eclectic and wide ranging in 2017. It’s not just about the sandwiches, hoagies, and sides – now you can buy all kinds of frozen drinks, “Mexican” food, and breakfast items. As we all know Wawa doesn’t have the best hoagies, but they’re pretty good, especially if you’ve been deprived of a good sandwich for a long time.
But Wawa has moved past hoagies and into some different food territory. Some of these new selections work, some don’t, and others are somewhere in between.
Here’s my totally unscientific look at the best food at Wawa you might be missing and what you’re overvaluing completely.
Most underrated Wawa items
5. Pepperoni calzone/Hot Pocket thing
They don’t make these anymore, but I ate a lot of them back in 2009 at the Wawa on the Baltimore Pike in Secane. Consider this the nostalgic pick. I’m sure every Wawa devotee has one.
I’m not sure why they were discontinued. They had two or three different versions, one of which was pepperoni while the others were ham and cheese and buffalo something or other.
Imagine buying a Hot Pocket, but a really good version, not a crappy microwaveable one.
This isn’t the same as the “Wawa Boli”, which was around in the late 90’s and eventually stopped being made. These went away sometime in 2011 I believe but I cannot, for the life of me, remember what they were called.
4. Fruit smoothies
With or without yogurt? I don’t have a preference but I like ’em all.
You can buy six different varieties — Peach, Strawberry, Peach Mango, Strawberry Banana, Peach Banana, and Mango Banana.
These do have a lot of sugar, which you’d expect from this kind of item, but you do get a good kick of Vitamin C and Potassium. You can add an energy, protein, or immunity boost, which basically comes in a powder form that they throw in the blender.
You can also add whipped cream if you want to pile on the sugar. The Peach, Mango, and Strawberry are a puree base.
It’s a good option if you’re looking for something reasonably healthy while also avoiding the Dunkin’ Donuts or Starbucks iced coffee route. There also aren’t a lot of dedicated frozen drink places around here, so offering a half-dozen varieties goes a long way.
3. Iced Chai Teas
Continuing with the above theme, I think a lot of the drinks are underrated. Most of these offerings are dessert-style frozen concoctions with chocolate and whipped cream and whatnot, but the chai teas fly under the radar.
The thing with the iced chai is that the flavor is well balanced. In the vanilla version, you get a good mix of spice and flavor without either one being too overpowering. A 16 ounce regular chai only has 25 grams of sugar, which really isn’t unreasonable when you consider other drink options like soda and non-black coffee.
My only issue with the Wawa chai teas is that they tend to “ice up” at the bottom.
Think about buying a Slurpee as a kid. You suck all of the flavor through the straw, leaving just plain ice inside the cup. Then you take the straw and try to mush it all together to make it drinkable again without taking the lid off.
Anybody who played youth baseball can relate.
2. Anything in a Bowl
Macaroni, hoagie bowls, chicken strips over whatever — all of this is good.
The thing about the bowls is that they allow you to sub out bread calories for something else, and there’s a lot of variety to boot.
My personal favorite is the buffalo chicken macaroni bowl, which I destroyed on Wednesday.
1. Chicken Parm Sandwich
People fought me on this one and I understand why.
This is basically chicken strips inside a roll with sauce and parmesan cheese. People talk about the chicken not really fitting the bill, which is to say that they think it should be some kind of sandwich-specific cutlet instead of the finger-style chicken that they use in other Wawa recipes.
For me, that doesn’t really matter. I think it’s fantastic. I think it’s on par with the meatball sub and any kind of traditional hoagie, which have been Wawa menu staples for a long time now.
Look at this beautiful thing.
It didn’t last long either. Let’s move onto the next section.
Most Overrated and Worst:
5. Wawa pizza
These were discontinued, so obviously it’s a no-brainer to add them to the list.
Pizza just never made sense for Wawa. The design looked like a Chicago deep-dish jawn, but it was 90 percent bread instead of all the good stuff.
The five varieties were Pepperoni, Cheese, Veggie, Buffalo Chicken, and I think a bacon and jalapeño pie. The price wasn’t bad, something around six dollars, but they just didn’t sell.
They didn’t need to go this route. God knows we have enough mom and pop pizza places in the city. I’m not saying that’s bad thing. I’m saying the market is oversaturated.
4. Wawa Cheesesteak
Tony Lukes, Geno’s, Steve’s, Pat’s, Jim’s, Joe’s Dalessandro’s, and … Wawa?
Who goes to Wawa for a cheesesteak?
A friend of mine said this:
“The chicken cheesesteak can go straight to gas station hell”
I wouldn’t go that far, but he’s not entirely wrong.
3. Wawa Burritos
I’m not talking about the breakfast varieties, which are great, I’m talking about the regular burritos.
You can order these pre-built or customized, but there’s something about it that just doesn’t come off. The beef doesn’t seem to work for a burrito and the rice isn’t cooked the same way you would get it at a typical Mexican place.
In a lot of ways, you wonder if burritos are even necessary for Wawa. It feels like a departure from the sandwich-centric model that has worked for years.
In the area of Northern Liberties/Fishtown/Port Richmond, I could go to Loco Pez, Cantina Dos Segundos, Sancho Pistola’s, El Camino Real, or even Taco Bell if I wanted something more authentic. I’m not sure why Wawa needs to dabble here, since it’s not something that would normally be in their wheelhouse.
2. Wawa Quesadillas
See above. The quesadillas aren’t necessarily that bad, but they aren’t good either.
Quesadilla from wawa might be the hardest thing to eat
— Christian Bukowski (@C_Bukowski11) April 12, 2017
I think you’ll probably see the quesadillas and burritos both come off the Wawa menu at some point in 2017.
1. The Wawa Gobbler
No item was debated more than Wawa’s Gobbler. It’s turkey with gravy and stuffing and cranberry sauce on a hoagie roll. Think of Thanksgiving as a sandwich, which you can get hot or cold or even in a bowl if you prefer.
I think it basically depends on whether or not you’re a Thanksgiving fan, which I’m not. The cranberry adds a unique flavor to the sandwich, and I think most people probably order the hot version, which I view as the evolution to the open-faced turkey and gravy that people would eat back in the day.
A Wawa Gobbler shorti has 15 grams of fat and 1820 milligrams of sodium, which sounds like a lot, but it’s really comparable nutrition-wise to other Wawa sandwiches.
My main issue with the sandwich, beyond not being a huge Thanksgiving person, is that it’s messy. It’s messy as hell. You might as well just get the bowl and skip the roll because it gets really soggy anyway. Just eat it with a fork.
People might point out that the chicken parm is also messy, which is probably true, but it’s not even close to being as sloppy as the Gobbler.
I expressed doubt about the sandwich on Facebook and here are some of the responses I received:
“Gobblers are a gift from the gods”
“What’s wrong with the Gobbler?”
“Shut your dirty whore mouth”
“Gobblers are wonderful”
“Gobblers are fantastic!”
“Gobblers are a big slimy mess “
Here’s what folks on Twitter had to say –
Need an official vote here –
Wawa Gobbler, yay or nay?
— Kevin Kinkead (@Kevin_Kinkead) April 12, 2017
I’m not surprised that it’s split down the middle.
Anyway, I commend Wawa for always trying new things and constantly adding to the menu. Some items work and some don’t, which are usually removed rather quickly. Sometimes less is more, and in this case I think branching out into Mexican food and pizza didn’t really make a ton of sense.
One thing I think we can agree on, however, is that Florida doesn’t deserve Wawa.