The best gas station grub in Budgeteerland, Vol. IFearless reporter Matthew R. Perrine answers the most pressing of questions: Which local gas stations have the best food?
By: Matthew R. Perrine, Budgeteer News
Those kids in Hinckley don’t know how lucky they are. They have a White Castle right inside one of their gas stations. How cool/disgusting is that?
Speaking of that Crave Case-sized hole in Duluth’s eating scene, last week I jumped at the chance to find out which local gas stations have the best food.
Yes, you’re right: This is the single most disgusting journalistic “experiment” ever concocted. Only bona fide masochists would actually seek out gas station food, right?
Well, I’m either smarter than the average bear or, probably more likely, I just have the taste buds of one. (Remember: They eat garbage.)
Seriously, though, sometimes you just need a quick bite to eat when you’re heading out of town and don’t really want to waste a lot of time stopping for gas and food. So, with that in mind, hopefully suffering through irreconcilable gut rot wasn’t an exercise in futility. Ladies and gentlemen, I humbly present a handy little guide to where to “dine” when you’re getting from here to there in your automobile — Bob Woodward’s going to cry himself to sleep tonight....
BEST PIZZA :: Gary Milkhouse (1331 Commonwealth Ave.)
One of the only reasons I agreed to participate in this (admittedly) stupid experiment is that ever since I moved back to the Twin Ports three years ago, I have been told ad nauseam that I need to check out the pizzas at the Gary Milkhouse.
My thought was that if someone were willing to go out on a limb and risk forever losing their food-recommendation privileges for slices of the sweet hereafter at a gas station, somebody must be doing something right.
And those little birds weren’t kidding: A $3.69, single-portion box of deliciousness proudly wearing the Shelton Family Pizza insignia deserves to be on your dashboard.
These pies taste homemade in the best possible way. Think back to your childhood, when those friends who were only so-so companions all of a sudden saw their status upgraded to BFF when their parents unleashed hunger-slaying, expectations-defying homemade pizza. (Magical how that works, isn’t it?)
Better still is the Shelton Family Pizza line of standard-size frozen pizzas, which are a better value at $6.99 and almost seem to go down smoother. I kid you not, the pepperoni I snatched up tasted better than all but three or four local pizza joints. (Added bonus: The pizza actually tasted good the next day too. I’ve never been a fan of reheated anything, but this was one impressive morning-after snack.)
Not going to Jay Cooke State Park anytime soon? While the Shelton name is synonymous with the Milkhouse in Gary, you can pick up the family’s pizzas throughout the Northland. Visit www.sheltonfamilypizza.com/duluth.htm for a list of locations.
BEST CHICKEN :: Hermantown BP/Amoco (4803 Miller Trunk Hwy.)
Wow, what a revelation. I was just about to pencil in the go-to Superior contender in this category until a casual suggestion came in at the 11th hour: “There’s this gas station up in Hermantown next to Menards that sells chicken. The sign is pretty huge, so it must not be that bad.”
The oversized signage is directly in line with the taste of the chicken it touts. I hate to resort to such petty hyperbole, but the ad wizards at the BP on the corner of Miller Trunk Highway and Arrowhead Road really outdid themselves when they equipped their filling station with a Broaster Chicken Express.
I had the popcorn chicken. Why? Because A) I’m not much of a “man’s man” and B) I figured that, to make this whole experiment “super-scientifical” with accurate assessments, I would stick only to foods I knew I liked. That way I could ensure it was the cooking at fault if I spat out the food all diva-like onto the lap of any unfortunate highway companions.
BEST DOGS :: Little Store (1831 W. Superior St.)
Granted, it’s especially difficult to screw up anything in the hot dog genus, but I was especially impressed with my $1.69 cheddarwurst at this shiny Lincoln Park beacon.
It immediately brought me back to my all-American youth, which consisted of somewhat-manicured lawns, backyard barbecues with the family, exhilarating games of “kick the can” and … you know what? If you’re the one driving, I don’t recommend you stop at this Little Store. This kind of reminiscing is actually kind of dangerous in a pedestrian business district — best savor your cheese-gushing brat before getting behind the wheel.
BEST LATE-NIGHT TREATS :: SuperAmerica (1704 Woodland Ave.)
Maybe it’s because I spent my freshman year as a Bulldog, but I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for the post-twilight cuisine offered by the Woodland Avenue S.A.
Of particular interest is the fabled Roller Grill, where you’ll find the Tornado Taquitos. Authentic? Not a chance. Tasty? You bet.
I recommended grabbing both a grilled-chicken taquito and a pepper jack cheese one. Double-fist those puppies and you’re in for an unbeatable taste combination — well, “unbeatable taste combination” as far as gas station food goes, of course.
BEST CAFFEINATION :: Holiday Station Store (2605 London Road)
While I’m inclined to hit up this particular Holiday on my way up to Two Harbors (or beyond), I really haven’t had a bad experience when it comes to “hopping up” at any of these places. My weapon of choice? The 24-ounce French vanilla cappuccino, which seems to be on sale for 99 cents a good chunk of the year.
Not only does it blow traditional coffeehouses out of the water taste-wise — yes, I realize I’m a simple man — but spending a buck and change for such an enormous piece of the heart-exploding puzzle is just an unbeatable bargain.
BEST (OF WHAT’S AROUND) BURGERS :: Nemadji Travel Plaza (3027 E. Second St. in Superior)
Now this was a tough category to judge. After choking down what I had been told was a “great burger” at [REDACTED], I was just about to take the easy way out and suggest you save yourself the manic bouts of nausea and just go to the gas station that’s half-Burger King or the ICO in Canal Park that shares a space with a Dairy Queen.
But then I got don’t-sell-our-readers-short daggers from my boss. With that look — which still leaves me trembling until the small hours of the morning, by the way — fresh in my mind, I continued my search.
Thankfully I did, because I found (relative) paradise at Superior’s Nemadji Travel Plaza with a $3.29 bacon cheeseburger. I understand it’s a bit of a drive to get gas station grub, but if you’re heading out Wisconsin Point way, you could do a lot worse.
BEST BREAKFAST :: N/A
Are you kidding me? There are just some things gas stations can’t do, like the most sacred of meals. After one particularly nasty experience (at a C-store that shall remain nameless), I quickly gave up on finding anything that was cheaper or better tasting than my McD’s fallback. If you’re up early and find yourself eyeing anything that’s not a doughnut at a gas station, just quietly walk away. Your gut will thank you later.
*A DISCLAIMER (OF SORTS): Just as everyone is entitled to an opinion about Sliders or those delectable chicken-and-cheese sandwiches — which, if it were up to this author, would forever be known as “the Castle’s ultimate culinary treats” — we know that we’re bound to overlook some of our readers’ favorite gas station fare in the Northland. If there’s a C-store dish you swear by, drop us an e-mail at email@example.com and we’ll consider it for the next installment of “The Best Gas Station Grub in Budgeteerland.” And, for the sake of Matthew R. Perrine’s aching gut, hopefully we’ll have an eager-to-please intern by then….
Tags: gas stations, convenience stores, road trip, expanded editions, holiday station stores, breakfast no-nos, little stores, gary milkhouse, shelton family pizza, nemadji travel plaza, super america, duluth, budgeteer, life, food, roadtrip, community, burgers, ico, taquitos