I’m no critic. You don’t even need to be a critic to assess a hamburger, a breaded chicken sandwich, and the waffle fries that Wawa is field-testing in six locations. It’s simple. Take a bite and ask yourself the question: Would you want to eat it again?
To get my answer, I set the bar fairly low. I don’t expect much from fast food, much less a convenience chain.
Wawa managed to slide under it.
Sandwich fanciers will tell you that a good product begins and ends with the bread. Wawa’s competitors in the burger and chicken space would have never served the “toasted brioche buns” that Wawa #271 in Horsham packed into clamshell boxes and sent over the counter this afternoon.
The brioche sandwich buns out there are pillowy, a little moist, and sweet — a point, incidentally, that some purists detest. The brioche buns on the Wawa sandwiches I sampled were hard, chewy, and dry. Each sandwich’s top bun had burn marks, almost as if they were deliberately branded.
The burger itself — I opted for one topped with spicy cherry relish pepper, American cheese, and applewood smoked bacon ($5.99) — was mushy and gray all the way through, and as perfectly formed as a lab specimen.
The chicken breast on the “classic breaded chicken” ($5.49) itself was fine, but the yellow breading was gummy, moist, flavorless, and devoid of crunch. The pickles were a good idea. The garlic aioli, meanwhile, got lost in the bun, which in its desiccated state was sucking up juices and mayo like a sponge even a few minutes after I got it.
The waffle fries ($1.99 for a 6-ounce paper bag that got greasy in minutes) were tasty enough but not too crispy. They were only mildly seasoned, though. I could not account for their faint orange tinge.
Too many businesses falter when they stray from their core competencies. Long ago, Wawa was a dairy store with a deli. Then it added coffee, followed by cold sandwiches and hoagies, took away the sliced-to-order service deli, added Crockpot-type items like meatballs, and started expanding up and down the East Coast. Gas stations. I get it.
But delving into a prominent fast-food category without even nailing a seemingly basic concept as bread? Wawa is going to get eaten alive.