Get ready, America. There’s a lot of rando gas station wiener in Florida – not to mention the other 49 states and 5 territories – and I plan to review it all – E. coli be damned!
Today’s wiener: Circle K in Port Charlotte just off I-75.
For those who don’t already get it, there’s a very specific order of operations for visiting a gas station in America, especially if you intend to acquire wieners. You drive in, you park at a pump. You gas up using a card. (Things get a bit different workflow wise if you need to go in and prepay cash for gas). Anyway, after you fill up, you drive to one of the parking spots near the convenience store, and you go in. You use the bathroom, if you need to (and you probably need to). Then, you buy your food, snacks and drinks, and finally you get back on the road.
This particular night (Nov 19th, 2018) I was restless, and I wanted to put some miles on the Beetle, so I drove south to Port Charlotte and followed the above protocol – to discover that this particular gas station has legendary bathrooms. I only photographed the one thing that stood out to me, which was a Canadian-market U-Haul newsletter, but trust me that the bathrooms here were way, way above and beyond. They have furniture in them! Armoires! Mirrors! Apparently this particular gas station is somewhat Internet famous for its bathrooms, and deservedly so.
But I digress. What you – and I – really care about here is the quality of wiener on display. This Circle K was a lot smaller than the Racetrac where I reviewed wiener round 1; it had only a single roller grill vs. the four or so at the larger gas station. Unfortunately they were also out of the staple beef hot dog, but they did have one last, somewhat wrinkled Cheddarwurst™ smoked sausage gyrating forlornly on the greasy rollers. The Last Cheddarwurst on the Roller seems like either a country song in the making, or the title of a philosophical discourse; potentially, both. I definitely saw a reflection of my own life course in this despondent, rumpled tube of mechanically separated meat products and synthetic cheese food fragments forever rolling and yet never moving, with its highest goal in life being for some famished yokel to pluck it from the enclosure and rend it with meth-rotted teeth. (Sidebar: I wonder how long these sausages are allowed to sit on the roller before they must be discarded for health reasons. I also wonder how assiduously any such rule is observed. Hmmm).
So much for the meat part of the equation. The buns at this gas station were not in clamshell packaging, but rather in individual plastic bags in the steam drawer. They are served by removing the bun from the bag and placing it in a cardboard nacho tray; rather a more traditional approach than Racetrac. So far so good. The condiment selection, however, was EXTREMELY disappointing, as you can see. No fresh sauerkraut again! Though, I believe they might have had some individual serving shelf-stable plastic sachets of it. The mustard was Heinz yellow and the ketchup was Heinz also – both in squeezable bottles. Individual single serve sachets of each condiment (and others of more relevance to non-hot-dog foods) were also available.
One observation I made, and found quite striking, was how a condiment rack like this looks bland and unthreatening in daylight, but come nightfall it takes on a more sinister aspect. By day, the bacteria seem less evident, or perhaps less deleterious. By night, the risks apparent in eating this sort of food seem to spring into sharper focus. Perhaps it’s because humans still carry a race memory of being stalked by large carnivores and other dangerous beasts; we think of night as a time to find sanctuary, and when we’re forced to be up and about, we’re hyper-aware of threats.
And there we have the final product, though I forgot to take a post-bite picture. The bun had good spring back and a very slightly tougher, but less crispy crust than the Racetrac – overall a good gas station bun well served. The sausage was … basically fine, I guess. Honestly, the cheese doesn’t really seem to contribute to the flavor very much – it just contributes to the grease. I’m also surmising this is one of the reasons why the sausage was extra wrinkled; the cheese’s oils had been seeping out in the eternal tepid rotary hell of the grill and deflating the exterior of the wiener. In any case, the flavor was pretty much just that of a slightly spiced (but not spicy) sausage with extra grease in it. The sausage was also borderline cold – just warm enough not to be objectionable, which is to say it was barely warm enough that the grease was still liquid.
Time to grade the wiener.
Buns: 4/5. Remember, this is on a scale of gas station buns. For a cheap mass-produced bun
Condiments (excluding sauces): 1/5; sparse and scary. A daytime review might have earned another half point.
Sauces: 1/5. Only yellow mustard; no other options. Squeeze bottles and individual serve packets only.
Wieners: 2/5. The one I had was not terribly warm, and the one I had was also not the one I wanted – because they had none of the normal beef wieners. They didn’t even have any sitting on the “not cooked yet, please wait” zone of the roller grill.
Overall: 2/5. Realistically, if they’d had a hot beef frankfurter on offer, this would have been closer to 2.5/5 and roughly where I expect a middle of the road gas station to fall.