Posts Tagged ‘Gas Station Sandwiches’
I’ve written a lot about ‘gas station sandwiches,” a term I use to describe the cello wrapped sandwiches, fresh or heat and eat, one finds at c-stores, gas stations, and in vending machines.
The earliest ones I remember were from a Virginia company called “Stewart Sandwiches” who sold mostly to bars, concession stands, and schools and companies.
Their “heat and eat” versions used a patented device the company provided called an “In-Fra-Red” oven (pictured), which was kind of a predecessor of microwaves being widely used. The sandwiches were placed in the ovens, still in their cello, and they took 3-5 minutes to heat.
In addition to “subs” and burgers, their version of “chuck wagon” (breaded, fried hamburger) was very popular, as was their “pizza burger.” My college roommate and I used to buy quantities of these puppies and sell them in the dorm, til the school shut us down.
Stewart operated via a franchise model, with about a couple dozen distributors around the country that established their own customers/routes. At some point (which I can’t really seem to sort out through research), Stewart faded and some of their franchisees took up the mantel – the largest being the (now known as) “Deli Express” label, a suburban Minneapolis company, which cranks out a million sandwiches a week at their Minnesota factory.
Other than “Deli Express,” “Landshire,” and Ohio’s “AdvancePierre” (who recently acquired Landshire), the segment seems to be fairly regional, with a lot of smaller manufacturers like “Mom’s” in OK and Texas.
7-Eleven contracts some of their sandwiches out to a division of Lufthansa airlines.
Although many of these sandwiches are assembled by hand in the smaller companies, automation has created mass production efficiency as seen in this video.
In my opinion, for the most part, these sandwiches are largely “OK” but usually a little spendy. If you want something quick to go and relatively “fresh” they are a handy alternative to fast food. Some are considerably healthier than say, a Quarter Pounder and fries.
I’ve written a number of pieces lately on a gas station that recently moved into my neighborhood, a smallish chain in the Midwest called “Thorntons” and I’ve sampled a number of their heat and eat products, including a burger, Pizza, chicken sandwich, breakfast sandwich and tenders.
Today I tried their “fresh” sandwiches, an Italian Footlong sandwich (sic), at $4.99, on a long roll with ham, salami, pepperoni and provolone. It comes completely condiment free, but the gas station has an amply stocked condiment ‘bar.’ I’m ok with cello wrapped sandwiches being sold ‘naked,’ too often in these products if lettuce/tomato are included, they’ve seen better days, as of course the deli meats are full of preservatives and maintain their appearance much longer than the vegetables. As far as the spreadable condiments, every person has their individual tastes, some sandwiches come with packets of mustard/mayo included in the cello wrapping.
What did I think?
It’s ok, no better or worse than any other brand. The expiration date on this one is weeks in the future, but the bread is already pretty dry, and the only flavor that really ‘pops’ is the pepperoni, and that ingredient is the least in volume on the sandwich, with of course, the least expensive meat, the processed ham, being in attendance in the largest quantity.
I added mustard and dill pickles at home, but it didn’t really enhance or detract from the experience.
Since Thorntons has extensive roller grill offerings (hot dogs, sausages, those cylinder “Mexican” things, and a fresh condiment bar along side that, I probably would have been better off to open the sandwich at the gas station and load it up with junk there.
Live and learn.
Gas Station Sandwich Primer
Fourth in a series of four. Thornton’s is a medium size gas station chain based out of Louisville. They’ve been rolling out hot snack foods at some of their stations, and I’ve tried their pizza, burgers, and breakfast sandwiches so far.
Today I picked up the “Southern Style Crispy Chicken Sandwich,” which is two of the tenders they sell as a snack offering, on a bakery bun. Half way through my chewing, I also discovered 3 pickle chips under the chicken!
The flavor of the chicken is OK, the breading is light, but not all that crispy. For some reason, despite playing with it for over 50 years, the food industry hasn’t been able to figure out how to have a crispy coating on food without it coming directly from a deep fryer (which this does not).
Like I thought on the other snacks, the chicken sandwich is a little spendy. On the upside for any of their offerings including an extensive seclection of roller grill choices, Thornton’s has an amazing array of add your own condiments, both fresh and packaged, and that’s a real plus over the competitors.
As an afterthought, I grabbed one of their “cheese bread” snacks. The packaging makes it look more substantial than it actually is (see pix below), and it rings up at $1.99. Like many of their competitors, Thornton’s cuts a slice of pizza into “cheese bread.” So the prices is 1/2 the price of their 2 slice pizza serving. While most of the condiments available for use on your sandwiches and dogs are recognizable brand names, the company’s choice for the included marinara dipping sauce is from Diamond Crystal, a diversified manufacturer in Savannah, GA, known primarily for being a supplier of ingredients and dry and liquid condiments. The sauce is heavy on high fructose corn syrup and modified food starches, if you pay attention to those types of things.
The chain also offers a free membership points system that has some pretty good incentives, both inside the stores and at the pumps. Worth a stop. Locator
Thorntons Chicken Sandwich Review
My “beef” with all this food is primarily its value proposition, as well as the manner in which its preparation is marketed (previously discussed). Last night I tried their cheeseburger, hot and ready to go after 11AM at $3.49 a pop. I wish there were Federal regulations about posting contents and nutritional agreements on fast food containers, but unfortunately there are not. So I have no idea what this burger patty is made out of, or its calorie, carb, and fat content.
I’ve looked at an awful lot of heat and eat burgers over the years, including Steak n Shake (awful), White Castle (pretty faithful to the restaurant product), AM/PM Gas Stations, Big A Cheeseburgers, RaceTrac gas stations, Walgreens, Dollar Tree, Ball Park brand in the grocery, others.
I’m not going to bother to rank them, if you like this kind of food, they all have some redeeming qualities. For taste, texture, I like the Ball Park, for value, anything that’s a buck.
Thornton’s cheeseburger comes on a “bakery roll,” (one of those bakery marketing phrases that has lost all meaning, like “hard rolls,” or “kaiser rolls).” No standardization. Anyway, to me, the bun has a darker color and a little bit of a sweeter taste, like a brioche. The beef patty’s texture is ok, it’s made to look like it’s a hand formed patty (there are factory machines that make patties with this type of appearance), and it has been given a squirt or dash of liquid smoke or its equivalent to give the impression of a grill taste.
Verdict? It’s Ok. As I have opined on their other offerings, their food products are not a very good value compared to other available choices. And for some unknown reason, these guys put the cheese on the bottom. Some “celebrity” chefs have been crowing about this method lately, to maximize the separate tastes on your buds, in a particular order. Yawn. Don’t even get me started on Umami joke.
Thorntons Gas Station Food Review
One of my mother’s hobbies was grocery shopping I think. Started around the Cuban missile crisis and built from there – eventually there was enough canned, boxed and frozen goods in our basement to last through a zombie apocalypse. I guess I picked at least part of the habit up, but I’m more fascinated by “looking” rather than shopping. I read a lot of labels. Not sure why.
I am prone to picking up things I haven’t seen before if they are of mild interest. Impulse grocery shopping, I guess. Particularly at WalMart, which I have to do on my own, because Mrs. Burgerdogboy refuses to cross their doorstep. Not sure why. Don’t think it’s a political protest. She may feel it’s “beneath her”, which would be hilarious as she has no problem stocking her wardrobe at Goodwill. Now that creeps ME out for sure.
Today’s score was a pepperoni melt in a pretzel roll. $2.48. According to the USDA label, it was made in Valencia, CA, by a company called “Better Bakery” and apparently ‘pretzel sandwiches” are their specialty.
The packaging describes the “sandwich” as “sliced pepperoni, mozzarella cheese, and pizza sauce, hand rolled into a soft pretzel bread sandwich.”
Nuke or conventional oven at 350 for 20 minutes. If you’re a regular reader, you know I always opt for a conventional oven heat, it’s just my thing.
It’s a nice roll, tho I wish it somehow could have a crispier exterior. As for the innards? Really don’t taste like anything. I can’t say if it’s comparable or better than say, a hot pocket, cause I’ve never been brave enough to try one of those.
It’s 10 oz of sandwich, so it’s a better value than most pre-prepared store sandwiches. Would I buy it again? I was drunk, and there wasn’t a nearby White Castle.
Pepperoni Pizza Melt Review
I guess Walgreens decided they needed to compete with the Dollar Store’s $1 cheeseburger. Or the McDouble? Walgreen’s is the world’s largest drug store chain, with over 8,000 locations in all 50 states, PR and Guam. It started in Chicago in 1901. I’m sure the founders wouldn’t recognize today’s version, which, to me, in most states, are really liquor stores with a prescription counter.
In the 1980s, they started a chain of diner/pancake houses, along the lines of Ihop and Dennys. At the peak, there were over one hundred of them, but somebody got a bug up their butt and sold the chain to Marriott Corporation in 1990.
I’m thinking the older stores had lunch counters, tho, maybe 40 years ago or so. Many drug stores were combo soda fountains, instead of liquor stores. Hmmm, maybe they should put in bars?
In 2010, Walgreen’s started an initiative to stock a wider selection of healthier fresh foods and produce, particularly since some quantity of their stores were located in “food deserts” (areas without a major grocery in a convenient radius).
I haven’t seen one of those stores, they are mostly in inner cities, I understand, and the Walgreens I frequent is in an area that is the antithesis of “inner city.”
“Nice” is their store brand for snack foods, candy, cookies, chips, ice cream and the like, and they have started to add frozen heat and eat convenience foods under this line – pizzas, eggrolls, and the $1 cheeseburger. (I call this kind of product “gas station food’…it’s not derogatory).
It’s 4.6 ounces, and has a pile of carbs, and is ready to go after 60 seconds in the microwave. It compares favorably to other similar products I have sampled. The patty has an OK texture, ‘grill flavoring’, and the sesame bun is quite substantial (tho you can see the effects of my thumbs in the foto).
A toss up with other gas station sandwiches, but better than the McDouble. You’ll find plenty of reviews of frozen burgers on this website by entering “frozen burgers” or “gas station” in the search box to the upper left.
You know me, I love gas station sammiches. They remind me of Las Vegas – the best and worst of America in one place at the same time. Gas station sandwiches are great because they are cheap, and relatively palatable. They are not so great because of their nutritional aspects.
Today’s specimen is the “Fresh to Go” “All American Foot Long Sub” from 7-Eleven in Chicagoland. “Fresh to Go” is the label 7-Eleven is slapping on their ‘fresh foods” as they transition their store content to have less of an emphasis on entirely being focused on the “junk” lines.
The sandwich is on a (longer than foot long) fresh French roll, and is packed with ham. turke.y cheddar. genoa salami, pickles, mayonnaise, and mustard, and thankfully not a hint of lettuce. Lettuce seems to spoil these types of culinary delights, IMHO.
7-Eleven relies on regional suppliers for their fresh foods, in the Pacific NW, where I lived for awhile due to temporary insanity, the sandwiches are made by Lufthansa’s catering arm, somewhere around Seattle. In Chicago, the sandwiches are made by a third generation family company, HC Schau, which was purchased by an Irish purveyor called Greencore, a major supplier of prepared foods to groceries and convenience marts. Greencore has over 20 plants in the EU and US, and 11,000 employees. Greencore was established in 1991 as a spin off of the nationally owned Irish Sugar Corporation. It is now publicly held.
They could be kept really busy if they managed to grab a large share of 7-Eleven’s business, there are over 50,000 stores; over 15,000 in Japan alone, nearly twice as many as in the US. (If you aren’t aware of it, 7-Eleven became owned by a Japanese company in the early 1990’s).
This sammich was pretty OK. Fresh enough, and at five bucks, a pretty good deal. The downsides? 870 calories and 79 carbs. Both figures are substantially more than a Big Mac. Surprised? I was.
7-eleven fresh to go sandwiches
Winco is a local grocery chain spread across the West; I’ve written about it’s history and it’s fresh pizza previously. Today, we’re continuing to explore one of my favorite topics, what I call “gas station sandwiches.”
Winco’s Turkey and Havarti Ciabatta comes with turkey, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and nothing else. At $2.06, it’s a helluva bargain compared to other similar products or the sandwich chains.
It weighs in at about 9-10 ounces (it’s not shown on the package), and purchase today 10/23, i has an expiration date of tomorrow. (“Use by”).
The turkey is standard pressed chopped and formed lunch meat, “honey roasted” with a 2% brine injection. The ciabatta was relatively fresh-baked, and note that the sandwich comes without any dressing, more than likely to keep the bread from being soggy. (A small failure in that regard, one portion of the bun was a bit soggy).
The sandwich tastes “fresh”, and as I previously stated, is a good value.
Winco is a terrific store, if you’re willing to SHOP it. Go with any of the store brands and you’re bound to save a dollar or two off the brand names.
I like the meat and seafood counters as well. They have a very deep variety of cuts and types. We’re fond of their pre-prepared carne asada meat, as well as their sausages. They have a large selection of bulk foods, as well.
Click on the “gas station sandwich” tag to see other foods of this ilk.
“Sliced Natural Turkey Breast” (minimally processed says the labeling) with no artificial ingredients. From the label, it’s not clear if “no artificial ingredients” refers to the “minimally processed” turkey, or the entire sandwich, but when one counts the number of ingredients in this turkey, Swiss, lettuce on wheat sandwich, with ‘sides’ of light mayo and mustard …. the total number of participant ingredients totals over 50.
I’m not a scientist or a chef. And it may well be that some or all of these ingredients “come” from natural products. But I object, Starbucks. And it’s time for labeling to be more specific, in this writer’s opinion.
This nearly six dollar sandwich, at 6.4 oz, comes out to $14.37 per pound, for those 50+ ingredients. Lots of sugars and salts in that list.
The packaging states that the product is made exclusively for Starbucks, but it does not say by whom. Just as processed or fresh meat must have a USDA plant number on each package, I’d like to see some origin indicator on every food product sold in the US.
Perhaps one can find out by the SKU or bar codes?
If you’re a frequent reader you know I often “track down” the source of manufacturers; merely a personal curiosity, I often learn about an operation I’ve never heard of, and find that interesting, hopefully you do too.
I have opined on my take on AM/PM Mini Mart ready to eat foods in the past, my opinion hasn’t changed – adequate hot food, great value proposition.
There are few dollar menus that can beat the proposition AM/FM has to offer – two hot dogs for $1.50, two larger dogs or burgers for $2.50. It’s a “dress your own” affair with a condiment bar that offers pickle chips, relish, mayo, mustard, ketchup, jalapenos, cheese, and chili. Some stores have diced onions as well.
My affair with this food started in Los Angeles in the mid-80s, occasionally I would grab two burgers for breakfast (seems like they were 2/ $1 at the time, IIRC, and while the price has edged up a little, the quality has improved by light years. (Not that they were bad then, just that heat and eat technology has improved.
I had a dog and a burger yesterday, $2.50. The ultimate of “dining
in on the hood’.
I like ’em. So sue me. “Hey kids, wanna go out to dinner?”