COMMENTS

Cheap Eats: Wawa

/

Wawa

Wawa
701 First St. E., Bradenton
745-1509 or wawa.com
Open 24 hours daily
This is the umpteenth entry in a weekly column dedicated to eats that are cheap. If you have an idea for a place to feature in Cheap Eats, comment below, email me at cheapeatssrq@gmail.com or hit me up on Twitter:@LeveyBaker.

I've eaten at a ton of local gas stations. Wawa might be the cleanest; it's almost certainly the busiest.

A Wawa bagel sandwich / COOPER LEVEY-BAKER

Wawa's tomato and cucumber bagel sandwich / COOPER LEVEY-BAKER

The combination filling station/fast food joint first made landfall in Southwest Florida amid a Category 5 "Flurricane" of hype last fall. Bradenton's already got one, with two more in the works—one on 14th Street and one on State Road 64, both scheduled to open this summer. Three more Wawas are reportedly planned for Sarasota County.

If the up-and-running Bradenton location is any indication, those new spots should do just fine. A steady stream of customers flits inside the gas station's tall yellow hub. The hungry ones flock to touchscreens that ring a central food prep area, where Wawa workers slap together the bagel sandwiches, salads and hoagies that form the backbone of the Wawa menu.

Wawa / COOPER LEVEY-BAKER

Wawa / COOPER LEVEY-BAKER

Off to the left, a long line of coffee dispensers stand at the ready next to a separate counter where Wawanians craft their milkshakes, lattes and more. The rest of the space is devoted to the stuff you'd typically find in a gas station: coolers stocked with Straw-Ber-Ritas, racks of dip and soda dispensers. The pop-rock pumping over the stereo includes equal parts gems ("You Can Call Me Al") and garbage ("Pink Houses").

Flatscreens poised above the food prep area brightly advertise Wawa's treats, a trick that absolutely seduces me into starting off my lunch with a mint chocolate chip Flurricane ($3.19-$4.09). It's nothing special, just a blend of chilly ice cream and chewy hunks of chocolate, but this thing makes my day. The consistency is spot-on—thick enough to scoop with a spoon, thin enough that you can consume it shake-style without turning blue. The AC in my car went out a few months ago and I've been reluctant to shell out the cash to get it fixed, which makes me particularly susceptible to icy sweet treats. I could easily see myself coming back for this one.

I'm less impressed by Wawa's iced lattes ($2.99-$3.19). Even with an extra jolt of espresso added in, they mostly just taste like milk. Not terrible by any means, but not caffeine-fortified enough to warrant a repeat buy.

Wawa's mint chocolate chip Flurricane / COOPER LEVEY-BAKER

Wawa's mint chocolate chip Flurricane / COOPER LEVEY-BAKER

Most Wawa customers today are taking their food to go, but the Bradenton location does have a few shaded metal tables that make for a decent enough lunch spot. Young guys in the fluorescent green vests common to road construction crews take a quick respite from the sun, while an older couple one table over debates the best way to get where they're going.

Like every other bagel in the region, the one in Wawa's bagel sandwich ($2.19) doesn't deserve the name. Rather than the crackling shell and gnaw-necessitating interior of the best bagels, Wawa's are soft and mushy. Luckily mine is saved by the simple clean freshness of the thinly sliced tomatoes and cucumbers stuffed inside, along with that generous dollop of cream cheese. Overall, Wawa's is a nice, relatively healthy breakfast sandwich, sold at a more-than-fair price.

For something more substantial, grab a Wawa hoagie ($4.39-$5.99), varieties of which include of your hot and cold basics. A six-inch "Shorti" roll stocked with ham, lettuce, tomato and honey mustard scratches that sandwich itch.

Wawa hasn't blown my mind, but I'm OK with it getting bigger. (As long as its growth doesn't threaten my beloved Popeyes.) I finish my meal by slurping down more of that Flurricane, which transports me to a place of joy and light. It's enough to make me forget, for the moment, that my AC remains busted. D'oh!

Last modified: May 18, 2015
All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be published without permissions. Links are encouraged.
COMMENTS