Swirl some syrah, nibble a little locally sourced cuisine, then top off your gas tank before you leave? Enter: the gourmet gas station. It’s a scenario that a decade ago (and several regrettable gas station tacos ago) would’ve seemed outlandish. But bolstered by food truck popularity and decreasing gasoline profits, several gas stations across the country are reinventing themselves into gathering places for waitlisted wine tastings and gourmet eateries.
Here are eight coveted hot spots that serve up tasty treats for you and your car.
1. High Country Market, Round Rock, Texas.
Gas pumps might be literally the last thing you notice at this Texas outpost. Instead you’ll see a bar near the register where patrons enjoy local beers on showcase during monthly tap takeovers, an impressively stocked wine area that hosts regularly sold-out tastings, plus organic chicken sandwiches, burgers with seriously good truffle ketchup, and a locally loved Frito Pie.
2. Jake’s Pickup, Bainbridge Island, Washington.
A 35-minute ferry ride from Seattle takes you to Puget Sound’s Bainbridge Island, where among other things you’ll find Jake’s Pickup. Located inside the Chevron gas station, Jake’s boasts “mostly organic comfort food made from scratch.” Not to be missed: Chef Jacob Angel’s sconenuts (donut/scone hybrid) and pulled pork sandwiches.
3. Europa Car Wash, Miami, Florida
As it turns out, Miami is home of several beloved gourmet gas stations. Europa’s chic environs, including dramatic chain-link curtains and modern furnishings, upends your idea of what a typical gas station looks like inside—a local paper calls it “an adorable quirky secret Starbucks.” The made-to-order sandwiches and coffees draw in people who don’t even need to gas up.
4. Liberty Gas Station, Miami, Florida
Nine miles southwest of Europa, Liberty has a legion of fans of its Cuban delights, including medianoche, pan con bistec, pastelitos, cafe con leche and some of the best Cuban bread around, according to several Yelp reviewers.
5. Kelly’s Filling Station and Wine Shop, Yountville, California.
On your way to Napa Valley, check out the impressive selection of local wines and pick up a few bottles for your next picnic at this fancy filling spot. If you’ve had enough vino, order up a latte instead—you’ll be enchanted by the aroma once you step in the shop, perfectly paired with a fresh-from-the-oven scone.
6. The Thumb, Scottsdale, Arizona.
Smokehouse, wine cellar and service station combine to create this perfect storm of convenience and deliciousness that won over Food Network star Guy Fieri. Try the Pigs and Grits, which features pulled pork atop cheesy, bacon-and-jalapeño-infused grits. The mac and cheese, served up in a skillet, also gets props.
7. Kech Cafe, Fountain Valley, California.
Gas stations used to be known for Styrofoam that could contain an eye-popping quantity of fountain drinks. At Kech Cafe in the O.C., drinks are of the cherry blossom green tea and lavender lemonade variety. And there are no questionable hot dogs getting suntans under warmers here. You order a fresh garlic pesto chicken sandwich or tuna with house-made green olive tapenade and it’s freshly prepared to order, wrapped up in lavash or ciabatta goodness.
8. Fast Gourmet, Washington, D.C.
This place consistently earns top marks from critics and patrons alike, and it’s one of the original eateries that elevated convenient gas station food to something to be sought out rather than endured. Empanadas, chivitos (a Uruguayan sandwich made with layers of tenderloin, mozzarella, ham, green olives, hard-boiled eggs, tomato and more), and lemongrass cole slaw are among the many standouts here.