Thorntons is a regional gas station chain, started in 1971 in Louisville; they have about 200 locations in six states, and about 20 % of them have expanded hot food offerings.
They have a few stations around me, in suburban Chicago, and a brand new one opened just up the road last September. When they opened, their food offerings were typical mini mart / gas station stuff; wrapped sandwiches, roller grill treats, pastries. A buncha coffees and soft drinks.
I am not sure why they waited to install the “kitchen,” perhaps just part of a chain-wide roll out, or maybe the equipment/contractor wasn’t available until now. In any case, a few weeks ago, in a matter of days, they put together an open food prep area, a monster exhaust hood, and a couple of very expensive convection ovens.
I could be wrong, but I don’t think anything is actually prepared on site; it seems more like a heat and eat operation. I think if they were preparing from scratch, they’d have real quality control and timing problems. Their tagline to cover the subject is “Made Fresh.” I’m going to write an entire piece on that phrase in a day or so.
Being in the first few weeks of kitchen operation, the company made sure the neighborhood has a supply of coupons, each of which provided a free food item with the purchase of a fountain drink or coffee. Among the items I have seen at this outlet are single serving pepperoni pizzas, cheese bread, chicken tenders, breakfast and lunch sandwiches, soft pretzels, fruit, and a few other items. Full menu. (Not sure if all items are available at every location).
The company decided to go with a “Detroit-Style” pizza, and if you are not familiar with the term, think Little Caesars deep dish, or square pies from Jet’s (both Detroit based companies).
It’s a thick bready crust, crispy on the exterior, chewably soft on the interior. The Thorton’s recipe calls for lots of cheese, with a great melt, and they offer cheese or pepperoni models. They are fairly generous with the pepperoni, and it’s good quality. There is no charring or cupping, which indicates a lower fat content.
The tomato sauce is nondescript, as it probably should be to appeal to the masses.
If I have an objection to Thornton’s offerings, I think they are pretty expensive, compared to competitors. The pizza is $3.99, the tenders are 2 for $2.59. In all fairness, the pizza would probably satisfy two ‘normal’ appetites.
I got my pie free with a coupon and the purchase of a small drink. Would I buy it again? Yep. It’s hot and tasty. 7-Eleven is big in the pizza business, but not around here. The largest supplier of pizzas for gas station type operations is Hunt Brothers, with over 7000 locations; I tried it in Montana, but again, haven’t seen it locally. Might be available at one of the truck stops down the road. Kwik Trip, a Wisconsin based convenience chain, and Casey’s General Store, an Iowa based chain, have a ton of outlets in the Upper Midwest, and both offer whole pies or by the slice. I’ve written about both Casey’s and Kwik Trip’s pizzas. Other gas station/c-store suppliers include Noble Roman’s, Picadilly, Hot Stuff, and Bellaricos. Of all these, Casey’s is my favorite, but Thornton’s moves up to # 2. If they have specials or sales, it will periodically slide into the number 1 position. Thortons Locator
Thorntons Pizza Review