Breakfast. Some people say it’s the most important meal of the day (some handsome fella even ran a political campaign on the idea of all-day breakfast) and those “some people” would in fact be correct. And if you’re a convenience store, it’s expected that you have a decent array of a.m. delicacies available throughout the day and night.
Before we get to the unbreakable fast, let’s recap: I’ve broken down the Wawa/Sheetz experience into four essential categories, and will delve into each in the coming weeks with as much impartiality as I can possibly muster. At the end of the experience, I will crown a winner, just in time for the holidays, whence (or is it Wentz in Philly?) I will celebrate at the victor’s location with a cup of holiday-themed coffee and perhaps a pretzel or donut. Alright, let’s do this.
Round 2 – Breakfast
Round 4 – Customer Service, Intangibles, & Holiday Charm (12/18)
If you’re going to be a store of convenience, especially one with a gas station, catering to the trucking community, your java better be decent. Wawa and Sheetz are at least that…decent. I tried a small coffee with a half and half from each location to try to determine the superior brew. It wasn’t easy.
Wawa coffee. There is definitely something unique about the flavor of the Wawa coffee. I can’t quite pinpoint it, but if you blindfolded me and gave me three or four different coffees to try, I could likely pick out Wawa’s offering (that sounds like a blog for another day). There’s a certain distinct flavor to the Wawa coffee. Is it nutty? Nutmeg? Cardamom? I don’t actually know what cardamom is or tastes like, so probably not.
Wawa coffee has always rubbed me both ways (it is a very erotic coffee!). Sometimes you just have a taste for Wawa coffee and sometimes if you’ve had Wawa coffee too often you just want a “regular” coffee. It can be a nice treat on a cold day, but I also can’t see myself drinking it every day without getting sick of it.
The Wawa coffee area is your typical convenience store offering, with many milks/creamers and add-ins to choose from. Although this can get a bit messy at times, the options are plentiful. Besides, grow up OK? Stop crying over spilled creamer.
Positives: Uniqueness, Many add-ins like Sugar in the Raw, cinnamon, etc.
Negatives: It’s mystery taste can get tiring after a while
So right off the bat, the first thing that struck me about the Sheetz coffee area is its neatness. All of your milk and sugar-type choices are available in pre-filled containers that the customer can dispense at the push of a button. This makes for a very tidy area, however the lack of choices was disappointing. No Sugar In The Raw, no marshmallows or cinnamon to add. The coffee itself was pretty much, umm coffee. If you blindfolded me and gave me those same three or four cups of coffee I alluded to earlier, chances are I’d have no idea which brew belonged to Sheetz.
If you want “a cofffee” then Sheetz is your place. I don’t think anyone gets “hooked” on Sheetz coffee. I’m not driving out of my way just to get a Sheetz coffee. But if you just want a hot, average-to-strong flavored coffee, Sheetz is your hookup.
Positives: It’s a coffee, the coffee station isn’t messy
Negatives: Nothing stands out, the coffee station has limited options
Coffee Winner: Wawa (if for no other reason than the fact that they’ve given the customer a unique flavor experience)
Wawa’s sandwich, like many of their offerings that have been sitting out for a while, tend to get a bit soggy. The egg patty came off a bit ‘wet’ to me (that sounds grosser than it really is, sorry). The cheese is a plus as the white American gives it a distinguished flavor. The croissant was moist (I gotta cut it out with the gross imagery, sorry) with the occasional crunch on the outside. I sensed a hint of applewood-smoked flavor to the bacon. The main draw back was the over-buttering of the croissant. This was greasier than Leonidas fighting Danny Zuko over a pit of McDonald’s deep friers.
Positives: Cheese, crunchy croissant
Sheetz again has the advantage in their fresh-to-order capabilities. Granted you can get a fresh-to-order sandwich at Wawa too, but they leave out the sandwiches to save the customer some time. Sheetz offering was fine. The croissant was warm and a bit flaky, yet not too buttery (I guess their croissant and pretzel people have different butter ideologies). The cheese was standard yellow American cheese. The bacon was a slight negative as it was a bit overpowering in relation to the rest of the sandwich. I guess it depends on how much you like bacon , but I found it had a slight medicine/metallic taste that gave me pause. And it was a bit gummy to boot.
Positives: Croissant, egg patty
Breakfast Sandwich Winner: A close call, but I’m gonna declare this a draw as neither moved the breakfast needle enough to impress me. Ideally, I’d make a hybrid frankensandwich with Wawa’s cheese, croissant and bacon, while letting Sheetz handle the egg and buttering duties.
Hash browns. You can’t have breakfast with ’em. You can’t have breakfast with out ’em. Well that kind of cancels itself out, doesn’t it? Anyway, American retail’s favorite up-sell has been keeping the potato farmers of the world (that’s an oddly specific career path to take, no?) employed since 1888 (Wikipedia also informed me that “hash” comes from the word hacher, to chop). Whether slung in a flat spread on your plate, in a hand-held patty, or in bite size form, the hash brown can make or break a good breakfast (but conversely can not break or make a good makefast).
Positives:Potato & Onion flavor, crispy corners
Hash Browns Winner: Sheetz
The debate hits the all-important lunch/dinner category when we return in two weeks. Subs, salads and more will be up for grabs. Can Wawa pull even, or will Sheetz pull away for good? Check my Twitter @TheNotFakeDC for updates and come back on Monday, 12/4 for round three.