At the grand opening, a performer sang the national anthem and a string quartet provided a soundtrack. By lunchtime, fans had come out in droves (many of them wearing Phillies garb), and lines for hoagies snaked around the store. When a Wawa employee announced there was no wait at the build-your-own-salad station, the line didn't budge. It took a Washington Post reporter 34 minutes to get his chicken parm sandwich.
At more than 9,000 square feet, the new 24-hour location is the company’s largest one yet. (You mad, Philly?) It features indoor and outdoor seating, a free air pump for bicyclists and complimentary WiFi, plus a few modern updates, such as nitro cold-brew coffee and selfie screens that snap photos of guests.
Fans of the chain get why this opening's such a big deal. Everyone else may need some help understanding.
The convenience store first opened in Pennsylvania in 1964 and now has more than 780 locations throughout six states, primarily concentrated in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. Fans of Wawa — whose logo and mascot Wally the Goose serves as a beacon in the night for famished road trippers and hoagie fans alike — love it for its convenience, variety, food and, likely, the tug of nostalgia. This Jersey girl can’t look at a Wawa chocolate-glazed doughnut without remembering how, as a child, she would beg her father to buy her one any time they stopped in.
Compared to its closest competitors, such as Sheetz and 7-11, Wawa simply has fresher food. The made-to-order hoagies have garnered a cult following for their just-sliced cold cuts, ripe vegetables and cushy bread, which is made by Philadelphia-based Amoroso's Bakery and baked fresh at each store.
Sandwiches, ordered via touch screens, are completely customizable. Ingredients include options you don't typically find at gas stations and corner stores, such as Applewood smoked bacon, turkey sausage, spinach and cucumber slices. Sliced apple is available as a side. Despite those fresh touches, a 10-inch Wawa sandwich starts at only $5.99.
Wawa isn't trying too hard to be more than what it is — which, at its heart, is a convenience store. The chain sticks to the classics, but dials them up slightly. You'd never see Wawa jump on a culinary bandwagon just to get attention and follow a trend. (In other words, it's a poke bowl-free zone.)
For the uninitiated, however, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. May we suggest a few of our favorite things?
A chicken salad shortie with a bag of salt and pepper chips, crammed between the loaves of bread. (Always opt for extra meat. Always.)
Wawa's signature “Sizzli” breakfast sandwich made fresh to your liking. You can’t go wrong with classic egg and cheese.
A piping cup of coffee doctored with one of the bountiful flavored creamers, including hazelnut, Irish cream and French vanilla. Seriously, there are so many flavored creamers.
One of Wawa’s thoughtfully arranged and appropriately rationed snack packs, including an apple, pear and cheese plate or the brilliant cannoli chips and dip dessert.
If you’re thirsty, a raspberry Wawa-brand iced tea can be a transformative experience.
The no-surcharge policy on all of Wawa’s ATMs.
Even if you don't have to go, use one of the bathrooms. They're always spotless.
At check-out, grab an everything pretzel. Just do it.
Fritz Hahn contributed to this report.
1111 19th St. NW.