Since I love subs more than anything else (especially Italian subs), I was excited that the Pennsylvania convenience store chain Wawa finally opened in the Orlando area. I've always heard good things about their hoagies, and now I can recommend them, after sampling two different Wawa locations this week.
I visited my first Wawa earlier this week, and was happy to find it open late at night, clean and well-lit and staffed by extremely friendly and competent employees. You order all your food from touch-screens at Wawa, so the process for ordering hoagies requires you to pick the size (6" or 10"), bread (white or wheat), toasted or untoasted, meat (lots of options, but I got an Italian, of course), cheese (I got provolone), condiments (LOTS of options, including sweet peppers and roasted red peppers to go with the banana peppers and jalapenos that everyone else offers around here). The machine then spits you out a receipt with a number, the good folks at Wawa swing into action, and they call your number and hand you a tightly-wrapped hoagie before you know it.
My first Italian hoagie was kind of messy because I opted for lettuce, tomatoes, onions, sweet, banana, and roasted peppers, spicy brown mustard, light oil, extra vinegar, salt, pepper, oregano, and parmesan cheese. I felt they put on a little too much mustard, but it was delicious otherwise. The 10" sub is a great value for $4.79 (far better than Publix), they were generous with the meats and toppings, and the bread was the best of all. I hate it when sub rolls are too crusty and crumbly, but this one had a good amount of chew. I enjoyed it very much.
I also ordered a frozen lemonade via the touch-screen, which came out almost immediately. It was the perfect consistency, and stayed liquidy the entire time, unlike 7-11 Slurpees and Sonic slushes, where you're left with half a cup full of ice after drinking up all the flavor. It was surprisingly tart, yet still pleasantly sweet, and extremely refreshing. My wife asked me how it compared to Burger King's recent frozen lemonade, and I told her the BK version was like peeing in a cup and putting it in the freezer to drink later, compared to the delicious Wawa drink. Blunt, but true.
Anyway, the two of us went to a different Wawa today, and both got Italian subs. This time I left off the mustard and banana peppers, but added jalapenos to the mix. It still slipped and slid with all the different peppers and tomatoes on it, and it felt like it was missing something without the mustard. But once again, it had a good amount of salami and ham, and the bread was excellent. My wife, who got hers with lettuce only, agreed, especially about the bread.
Today I tried a pineapple-guava smoothie, which was a little sour and not as good as the frozen lemonade. I love anything pineapple and/or guava flavored, so I had to try it, but I probably wouldn't get it again. My wife got an iced mocha cappuccino with skim milk that she liked, but I think she would have preferred the frosty frozen "Wawaccino."
Instead of a bag of chips, I decided to try Wawa's macaroni and cheese as my side item, which you also order via touch-screen. They have a variety of hot dishes you can get, including mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, chili, and Italian meatballs (which you can also get in a meatball hoagie). Though they all sounded intriguing, I just wanted a small mac and cheese today, since I'm usually a fan. This mac and cheese wasn't the best, I'm afraid. It was very similar to the kind you get at KFC, if that helps at all. I honestly prefer Kraft "blue box" mac and cheese, or the cheap store-brand versions that I'm even more used to.
Finally, we got suckered at the cash register. Wawa is also well-known for its soft, hot, fresh-baked pretzels sold near the register, but apparently they don't have these in Florida. (Maybe they need to find a local bakery who can follow their recipe and handle bulk orders for all the locations.) But they did have two stuffed pretzel varieties in little bags under the heat lamps: pretzels stuffed with either cheddar cheese or sweet cream cheese. We both thought a hot pretzel stuffed with sweet cream cheese might be an awesome dessert to split, so we got one. Unfortunately, when we got home, we found one of the cheddar cheese pretzels in the bag, mislabeled. My wife didn't want anything to do with it, and I was disappointed to find a gooey, EZ-Cheese-like interior. (Yes, the cheese from a spray can.) I don't know what I expected, though. For now, we're going to stick with soft, buttery Auntie Anne's at the mall when we're having pretzel cravings.
So that's my Wawa report. Huge variety of snacks, great hoagies and frosty frozen drinks, and the hot foods are hit or miss (with two misses so far). As far as hoagies go, I definitely think it's a better sandwich than Subway's Spicy Italian (despite only being 10" to Subway's 12"), and a far better value than Publix's Italian. Jimmy John's Italian is served on really good French bread and they have excellent hot peppers, but they don't have the variety of toppings and are usually quite stingy with them, plus their sub is only 8", and more expensive than Wawa. I still prefer Jersey Mike's, which makes the best Italian sub I've had in Florida. It's more expensive, but the regular size is bigger than Wawa's 10" (and Jersey Mike's giant size sub is ridiculously huge, well worth the $12 if you're starving or you intend to get two meals out of it). However, I honestly think Wawa's bread is better than all of them, including Jersey Mike's.