Snacks, Beer, and Restrooms: The Best Convenience Stores in the U.S.February 21, 2014
You’re on the run and you need a snack. Or gas. Or a restroom. Oh, you also need to pick up a six pack of beer for the party tonight and it would be really awesome if they had something to eat that wasn’t chips, candy, or beef jerky.
Where do you go?
We don’t often stop to think about it, but most people have a preference for one convenience store over another. When you get down to discussing it, you begin to see that there’s no shortage of convenience stores in the U.S. that can meet just about any need you might have. With that in mind, nothing is more disappointing than wanting one of these monolithic meccas of junk food and walking into a place that’s best offering are bags of peanuts that expired a year ago, Captain’s Wafers, and off-brand sodas.
Don’t settle for less, whether it be auto insurance, or gas station snacks. Check out our top picks for the best convenience stores in the nation, and while you’re at it, make sure you’re not paying too much for auto insurance by comparing quotes.
The Best Convenience Stores in the U.S.
We don’t have a death-wish. These convenience stores are listed in no particular order. They’re all winners in our book. These are the cream of the crop among U.S. convenience stores. Ready your guts for a fantastic voyage into snacking Nirvana that will leave you in a self-induced food coma, quaking from the sheer volume of options.
Who are we kidding? When it comes to monster convenience stores with a plethora of available options for food, snacks, drinks, booze, reading material, and whatever else you might have a need for—7-11 is typically the first convenience store to come to mind. In the last decade we’ve seen the quality drop (and a lot of stores close) but most of what remains of their vast snacky empire is worthy of being included in this list. That, and you have to be crazy to not include the home of the Slurpee in a list that charts the best convenience stores based on the variety and novelty of their snack offerings.
This Media, PA based convenience store is well-loved in the Mid-Atlantic States. An affordable gas station that also happens to sell a wide-reaching array of beverages and a pretty serious selection of hoagies (made to order, no less) is a beautiful thing in the world of convenience stores. Maybe the best thing about them, in our opinion, is their fearless foray into the convenience store culinary world with such bold and forward-thinking offerings as the Wawa “Gobbler”—a hoagie that is essentially the core components of Thanksgiving dinner (turkey, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce) on a sandwich roll. One of those and a cup of coffee taken from any one of (what seems like) a million different flavored carafes and you are ready for anything the road has in store for you.
Despite being confined to a relatively small geographic area, Sheetz convenience stores are massively popular. The Altoona, PA based company has stores in VA, MD, WV, NC, OH, and PA. Despite the relatively small coverage, Sheetz is one of the most commonly recommended convenience stores in these states. One of the major reasons why is their Sheetz MTO restaurants that are open 24/7 and offer a wide selection of hot food items you’d expect to see in a convenience store. Hamburgers, fries, stuffed pretzels, and more are all on the menu at all hours of the day. Many locations also have a large walk-in “beer cave”, which only adds to the value of an all-hours convenience store. Hot snacks and beer all in one spot makes for a pretty strong offering. If that’s not enough, they also offer more affordable alternative to the pricey drinks you’ll find at places like Starbucks. Throw in low-cost gasoline and plenty of completely covered fuel stations and it’s hard to make an argument in favor of your average gas and snack stop.
4. Turkey Hill Mini Mart
Another regionally restricted convenience store chain, Turkey Hill Mini Marts can only be found in PA, the Columbus, OH area, and Indiana. We wish they were more widespread. They take the delicious features mentioned in our previous two convenience stores and build on top of them, adding an ice cream bar that uses their very own brand of ice cream (Turkey Hill Ice Cream is more widely available in grocery stores—particularly Kroger stores, which own the Turkey Hill brand). This isn’t cheap gas-station ice cream either. The company owns its own dairy farms and makes real, fresh ice cream. That’s a step up in our book.
5. Cumberland Farms
Affectionately referred to as “Cumby’s”, this convenience store chain isn’t truly different from our previous picks. What sets it apart is what will set most of these companies apart—and that is location. You could say that Cumberland Farms is the Wawa or Sheetz or Turkey Hill Minit Mart of the Northeast. It provides the usual extreme convenience store fare: prepared foods, an overwhelming coffee selection, gasoline, and beer. This Massachusetts-based chain pretty much owns the Northeast, with stores in CT, DE, FL, MA, ME, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RI, and VT. Interestingly enough, much like Turkey Hill, Cumberland Farms also started out as a dairy farm. Who knew that dairy farms were how you broke into the mega-chain convenience store industry?
The Real Winner
We almost didn’t believe it when we saw it. It was huge. Yeah, sure, it had all the standard convenience store fare plus a ton of its own branded swag for sale featuring its cartoon mascot—it met all the standard criteria to make this list. But then it went well beyond, adding to the list of conveniences a salon (for when you show up for snacks and beer but realize that a haircut wouldn’t hurt either).
This Texas based chain knows what you want and what you need: everything.
These convenience stores are massive and contain everything you could possible want for road trip sustenance. Oddly enough, that’s not their biggest selling point. Buc-ee’s highway billboards advertise their biggest draw: shockingly clean restrooms. Yes. Plentiful and accommodating, spotless and glistening restrooms—the exact thing you need when you’re on the road. Is it enough for them to take the top spot on our list? We’re not sure, but it certainly doesn’t hurt.
Other Road Trip Tips
Got a car full of kids and a long drive ahead? Fear not. Read our Eight Tips for Traveling with Kids.
While you’re stopped for gas, you should get a quote from compare.com to make sure you’re getting the best possible coverage for the best possible price. You could use your savings to take a road trip and test these convenience stores out yourself. What are you waiting for? Get a quote!
Car Owner’s Guide
What to do in a hit and run? What steps can you take to prevent auto theft? What can I do to lower my auto insurance payments? Car owners get faced with a lot of questions. Read our Car Owners Guide to make sure you’re getting the most out of your car.