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February 27, 2018

Wawa hot take in Washington Post calls urban stores 'a mistake'

Wawa Opinion
Wawa Broad and Walnut streets Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Wawa's flagship Philadelphia location at Broad and Walnut streets in Center City.

This will not be a knee-jerk hit piece against a writer who simply came to the educated viewpoint that Wawa isn't such a great option for eating in the city. 

People in Philadelphia and South Jersey, and to a lesser extent in Wawa's other territories, generally consider it blasphemous to say mean things about Wawa. Those who criticize the place often misunderstand that Wawa's greatness lies in its perfection of the convenience store model. 

If you ask that Wawa be something more, you're setting yourself up for disappointment and confusing the real reason why people grew to love it: It's easy without being junky, unless you want it to be junky, and then you're in luck, too. 

On Tuesday, Washington Post food writer Tim Carman laid out a case that Wawa is fantastic when you're out in the suburbs on the highway, but it kind of sucks if you're in the city grabbing lunch. 

"A Wawa sub makes sense on the highway," says the headline. "In the city, it tastes like a mistake."

To illustrate his point, Carman ate a Wawa Italian hoagie in two locations: first at D.C.'s brand new flagship Wawa and later after a pit stop in Bowie, Md. 

My reaction to each sandwich was wholly dependent on its location: In the parking lot off a remote highway, the hoagie was a handmade comfort, warm, toasty and satisfying. In downtown Washington, it was a confession: I was too lazy to go somewhere better. Context is a prime ingredient in the Wawa experience.

This is, to be honest, a bit of a breakthrough in the sentimental accounting of Wawa's value to society. If you are too lazy to go somewhere else, the choice to go to Wawa shouldn't be Wawa's fault when you're not blown away by your lunch. Haven't you heard the complaints about Wawa's hoagie game losing some of its punch? 

Apart from describing Wawa's meatball sub as "lifeless," and another claim that it takes digging to find anything that's "more than just fuel for the body," it's hard to get too riled up by Carman's assessment. It will have no effect on the proliferation of Wawas in Center City even as the expanding chain ironically meets staunch resistance in the Philadelphia suburbs. 

Give Carman credit for knowing he's taken an unpopular position. 

"Wawa devotees will, no doubt, disagree with every word I write. They will point out the value of the chain’s offerings. They will emphasize its speed and convenience. They will defend those hoagies until their last breath. I get it," Carman concluded. 

"Nostalgia, like love, is blind."