The One True Ranking of Sheetz's Specialty Menu Items
If you've been anywhere near the Rust Belt, you've likely stepped inside of a Sheetz, a gas station/fast food hybrid that's been around since 1952. Starting in Altoona, PA, it's since expanded to six states with 437 locations. Damn, Sheetz. It's safe to say that building a reliable menu has been a top priority since day one. But let's put history aside for a moment and focus on the beast that this 1950s deli has morphed into. You've undoubtedly scrolled through a touch screen to read the gargantuan menu filled with items such as burgerz, fryz, saladz, and shwingz (more commonly known as wings). Don't even get me started on the customizable stuff.
With the help of six friends, I took it upon myself to determine the best and worst of Sheetz. Though we're all people with feelings and rent to pay, it may be easier for you to envision us in the simplest, Breakfast Club terms: the Neutral Party, the Vegetarian, the Food Snob, the Sheetz Loving Duo, the Food Allergy Sufferer, and I, the Sheetz Virgin, determined to break my proverbial cherry with an enviable gas station feast.
We picked only the things from the menu that we believed others may be too afraid to try (probably because of the bad puns for names -- sorry not sorry, Walker Breakfast Ranger). Any signature recipes that contained one too many ingredients and might elicit the need for Pepto-Bismol, we were trying it. And thus, we came back with a ranking of Sheetz most "unique" menu items. Let's dive in:
11. Szechuan Fire Mac & CheeseSpicy Asian sauce, caramelized onions, fire-roasted peppers, & pulled pork
We began our venture with the dish that struck the most fear in our hearts: the Szechuan fire mac & cheese. Sheetz carries a variety of mac & cheese dishes, ranging from a classic three-cheese mac to something called "morning mac" that contains chili, pico de gallo, sour cream, caramelized onions, and a scrambled egg. And then, this: a dish with a combination of ingredients that sounds like the best BBQ mac experience you could ever ask for. But upon its reveal, it became evident that something had gone terribly wrong. Among many colorful descriptors, our group referred to the dish as "a messed up casserole," a plate of "Sriracha mixed with French dressing," a dish "possibly containing canned chicken," and, my personal favorite, "just Kraft mac with some shit on it."
The general consensus, though, was that Szechuan fire mac & cheese is not as bad as it looks, which isn't saying much. It was a bit gloopy but, if you were desperately hungry after a long night of drinking, this would hit the spot.
10. Twisted BrunchPretzel roll, pickles, lettuce, fire-roasted tomato sauce, mayo, nacho cheese, caramelized onions, fried egg, ketchup, and bacon
One of the "moistest" sandwiches of the bunch, the Twisted Brunch has us talking before we even tasted it: what kind of yellow sauce could possibly be oozing out of it? Is it melted cheese? Perhaps a nacho product? Is it mixed with buffalo sauce? I attempted to cut this sandwich into portions using a plastic butter knife and everything fell apart. We had to resort to eating this like messy toddlers. "Is there anything twisted about it?" we asked ourselves. We determined that it tasted like just about any value menu sandwich from a fast-food joint. The pickle and pretzel bun combination was a good move, but the egg, or egg-like rubbery disc, brought it down.
9. Firehouse DogPretzel bun, pico, diced onions, habanero sauce, sour cream, and pepper jack cheese
We had been actively avoiding the lineup of hot dogs on the table. But the time had come to eat them and, much like our approach to sandwiches, we started with the "moistest" of the bunch. The first opinion came from Food Snob: "This is just lipstick on a pig." We agreed; this was simply a low-quality hot dog with a dollop of mediocre pico de gallo. Even the self-proclaimed Sheetz Lovers labeled the dog a "vaguely anti-Mexican concoction." This Southwestern attempt fell short in the end.
8. Boom Boom Pow DogJalapeño dog, original hot dog bun, spicy Asian sauce, and Boom Boom sauce
Before we started eating, Food Snob chimed in with, "'Boom boom sauce' sounds like some disgusting Guy Fieri creation," and he was right. The Boom Boom Pow was lackluster and not very spicy despite its promise to "pack a punch." Beneath all of the badly seasoned goo, though, was a jalapeño cheese-filled hot dog that almost had that lovely snap you'd expect from a good natural-casing dog.
7. Bay Chili and SlawJalapeño dog, original hot dog bun, Old Bay, chili, and coleslaw
The Bay Chili and Slaw ended the reign of the Sheetz hot dogs. This one also had the slightly tastier jalapeño cheese dog, but was topped with a weak chili and tasteless slaw. Although it didn't live up to our expectations, we decided that it was the best of the hot dogs; it vaguely reminded us of a chili cheese dog. This is one of Sheetz's attempts at using bolder flavor profile, and the effort is noted and commended.
6. Walker Breakfast RangerFire-roasted tomato sauce, red onion rings, cream cheese, guacamole, bacon, and fried egg
This menu item, unlike others (looking at you, El Gringo), managed to maintain its structural integrity. But this was only because the bagel housing all the "shmagel's" contents was, in fact, a leathery, dry travesty. Within this bagel abomination was a collection of delicious ingredients that somehow got lost within one another, and was completely overpowered by the fire-roasted tomato sauce. Our Neutral Party proclaimed he would eat it for breakfast had he nowhere else to go. So, overall, not terrible.
5. El GringoDoritos, hot pepper cheese, chili, and BBQ sauce
El Gringo is the patron saint of Sheetz and, as is appropriate with any sandwich with a pile of Doritos on it, we had high expectations for this and saved it for last. A grand finale! This happened to be a mistake. After resting on a picnic table for a good 45 minutes, the Doritos had turned into soggy triangles of despair. Sad Doritos aside, the hamburger patty itself was reminiscent of a school cafeteria lunch, and the barbecue sauce would be better suited for spaghetti & meatballs. It might be because Doritos secretly contain that "can't have just one" addictive ingredient, but we ultimately decided that El Gringo wasn't that bad. Is it a great hamburger? No. Is it a decent sandwich? No. Is it covered in Doritos? Yes.
4. AtomicJalapeño ranch, habanero sauce, pico, jalapeño peppers, and pepper jack cheese on a crispy chicken patty
The Atomic is everything I personally want in a fast-food sandwich: girth and heat. When I first discovered this menu item, I was so excited to try it. And reader, it nearly lived up to my personal hype train. But despite being covered in multiple assumed-spicy food items, the Atomic was somehow incredibly mild. We decided this was a decent enough sandwich, but reminiscent of something you'd order as a special at your favorite drive-thru in an effort to be adventurous, but then regret it on behalf of your digestive tract moments after finishing it.
3. Fried pickles… fried pickles
A much-welcomed palate cleanser, and finally, something The Vegetarian could eat! None of us were blown away, but we all welcomed the simplicity and thought this would be the perfect snack to satisfy a craving for something salty and crunchy. After we all had a chance to taste the fried pickles, we let The Vegetarian eat the rest of the bag. In her intense hunger, she accidentally dipped a fried pickle into dark chocolate sauce, an experience which she described as "surprisingly not terrible."
2. Wisconsin Cheese Bitez… fried cheese
A bit like poutine minus the gravy & fries. These would've been much better had we eaten them when they were still piping-hot as opposed to barely lukewarm. Our seasoned Sheetz Lovers informed us that these cheesy bites are actually delicious when eaten at the right temperature. However, we came to the consensus that they should probably be able to stand up to some wait time considering that most people eating at Sheetz are taking their orders to-go.
1. The Big MozzMozzarella cheese sticks, provolone cheese, and marinara
Although The Big Mozz doesn't look like much, this fried, cheesy pile is pretty damn delicious. This is essentially chicken parm in sandwich form, so messing it up would've been difficult. Food Snob first rebuffed The Big Mozz, but immediately contradicted himself with, "I love it and I'd totally eat the whole thing." During the whole tasting, this was the only item that I saw tasters fighting over. Everyone wanted to "volunteer" to finish eating it. Even Food Allergy Sufferer asked if she could eat the rest of the sandwich despite being lactose-intolerant.
Sign up here for our daily Pittsburgh email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun in the Steel City.