May 09, 2019
Wawa is famously convenience store-as-religion in Philadelphia and South Jersey, but its hoagie-scented tendrils have long since slipped the surly bonds of the Northeast Corridor. The franchise’s newest expansion puts three locations in Miami, the first appearances of the red-and-yellow goose in South Beach.
How’s Miami reacting to the news? Here’s one headline, to give you a taste:
Ah, got it.
Connie Ogle’s column in Thursday’s Miami Herald is part outraged hot-takery, part tongue-in-cheek sandwich consumption. Ogle mentions outrage and cultural exploitation in the first two paragraphs, making it seem like a genuine takedown is right around the corner. But Ogle follows it up by extolling the chain’s “beloved items”, like hangover-curing macaroni and cheese, and hoagies.
(Ogle haggles over the word “hoagie”, comparing it to a “turkey sub”. A what now?)
In an attempt to ingratiate its brand to Miami consumers, Wawa is apparently selling pastelitos (traditional Cuban filled pastries) and empanadas (you know what empanadas are), and even opening a ventanita (a walk-up style coffee shop for coffees and pastries) located outside its Coral Gables location.
It’s a shrewd bit of targeted marketing from Wawa, but Ogle begs the question: “Is nothing sacred?”
Well, not really. This is what Wawa does! It sells burritos and barbecue when it probably shouldn’t, and rotates menu items as frequently as the fashion world changes styles. Wawa’s weird, but it lives by a “I’ll try anything once” ethos, which you kind of have to learn to respect if you’re welcoming the chain into your area.
Plus, if you don't want to eat a Wawa empanada, no one is making you. Philly residents know they can find substantially better hoagies by avoiding Wawa's touch screens. That's how it works.
To Ogle’s credit, she goes on to admit a Wawa empanada was “the best thing” she ate during a taste test event, calling it better than a hoagie. (Considering the current beleaguered state of the Wawa hoagie, she might be on to something.)
She also calls the people of Philly and New Jersey “fine but fanatical”, which is probably the most on-point part of the column.
The real story here, if you ask me, is whether or not Miami’s Wawa shops will experiment with a Gobbler empanada this fall.