Jul 21, 2023 - Food and Drink

How Royal Farms fits into the Sheetz-Wawa war

Photo: Ned Oliver/Axios

👋 Ned here, recovering from three straight days of eating lunch exclusively at gas stations.

What's happening: Royal Farms, a Maryland-based convenience chain best known for its fried chicken, is making a push into Richmond.

Why it matters: These are big convenience stores very much in the vein of Sheetz and Wawa — enterprises that stir passion, loyalty and fierce debate over which is best.

  • So I was curious, how does the food at Royal Farms slot in against the OGs?

To find out, I ate at all three this week.

Royal Farm's spicy chicken sandwich. Photo: Ned Oliver/Axios

Royal Farms already has a store in Colonial Heights, so I made the trek south.

  • I got a spicy chicken tender sandwich on Texas Toast ($6.99). It was pretty much exactly as advertised: quite spicy, fairly tender and huge (like Texas?).
  • Overall, the quality of the chicken is a clear step up from anything I've ever gotten at a grocery store, but maybe not quite as good as chains like Lee's and Popeyes.
  • Sides are a different story. For fries, they do potato wedges, which are a lot of potato and not a lot of crisp. And the mac and cheese had an off flavor I couldn't place.
Wawa's turkey hoagie. Photo: Ned Oliver/Axios

Wawa's my typical go-to.

  • I went for the spicy turkey hoagie ($5.89). It was fine and easily cleared my most basic bar for gas station food: I did not feel gross eating it, and, unlike the fried chicken, left with no worries about falling into a midday food coma.
  • But being so mild has its drawbacks: It was kind of dry, and I could see the spicy sauce but could not taste any spicy flavor.
Sheetz's take on a hamburger. Photo: Ned Oliver/Axios

Sheetz's food has always made me a little uncomfortable. The menu's vibe is like Wawa on meth — doing a lot of things, none of them quite right.

  • My visit this week did not change my view. I let the prompts on the ordering screen sell me on a special that consists of a hamburger topped with three mozzarella sticks and marinara sauce ($6.99).
  • To be honest, it tasted better than it sounds, but was still easily the worst meal of the week.
  • That said, the curly fries were legit and super crispy.

The bottom line: I'd marry Wawa, date Royal Farms and ghost Sheetz.


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