As “Be Our Guest” from Beauty and the Beast pumped through the speakers in the parking lot patio at the Wawa in Media on Thursday, a line of masked staffers exited from the rear of the store with covered plates, ready to formally present our dinner.
Was this France or Delco, I wondered, until I looked up and saw Wally Goose, Wawa’s 6-foot-winged (and now masked) mascot, swaying in time in a convenience store parking lot to a song sung by a cartoon candelabra.
Definitely Delco. And definitely 2020.
At a media tasting at the Wawa on Baltimore Avenue, Wawa officially unveiled its new “dinner vision” for the future, which includes burgers, fries, pasta, pot roast, rotisserie chicken, and kids’ meals.
“We assured Wally there is no goose on the menu,” said Michael Sherlock, Wawa senior vice president and chief marketing officer.
I don’t pretend to have a refined palette — French fries are my favorite food — and I’m unabashedly biased when it comes to Wawa, which is probably why I got the invite over some of my other colleagues.
But as The Inquirer’s Philly Culture reporter, I write about what makes Philadelphia, Philly, and whether you love it or hate it, Wawa is one of those things. And perhaps, more than at any other time, I’ve taken great comfort in Wawa this year. It’s remained constant and consistent when little else has.
And I’m not the only one. According to Sherlock, Wawa’s delivery has tripled during the pandemic, with a Wawa delivery now being ordered every four seconds via the mobile app or a third-party delivery provider.
The Delaware County-based chain is expanding its curbside pickup and beginning to offer curbside ordering at some of its Lehigh Valley stores. It’s also building a drive-through only store in Falls Township, Bucks County, (watch your back Swiss Farms) and adding a drive-through addition to a store in Westampton.
While many people question why the convenience store doesn’t just stick to what it knows — hoagies, coffee, and breakfast Sizzlis — one reader put it perfectly: “Wawa never stays in their lane.”
And in that way, it is very Philly.
While Wawa officials couldn’t specify which stores the new items are being tested at, they said 15 local stores have the burgers, fries, and pasta dishes and 100 have the rotisserie chicken. The new items are available only after 4 p.m. All Wawas will have the kids’ meals.
The pot roast, braised chicken (both of which are $7.99 with two sides), and 1/3-pound Angus burger ($4.99) were all highlights of the tasting, each proving more flavorful and tender than I was expecting (though I did go in with low expectations after my colleague panned the burger earlier this year). On a scale of one to five Wally Gooses (or is it geese?), I give all these items a solid 3.5 (that’s three full Wallys and a Wally rump).
While the fettuccine Alfredo pasta ($6.99) was better than it had a right to be (2.5 Wallys), the penne marina ($6.99) was not up to snuff (1.5 Wallys) and the accompanying meatball was pale, puny, and tasteless (half a Wally). This was especially perplexing, given that Wawa’s meatball hoagies are beloved among the convenience store’s connoisseurs.
And the French fries — I so wanted Wawa to get the fries right, but they were too fried and overdone. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be eating those things at 1 a.m. someday, but probably not while sober (2 Wallys when sober, 3.5 Wallys when drunk).
The kids’ meals (which range from $3.99 to $5.99) are cute and come in a colorful box (3 Wallys) but Wawa is going to need to step up its prize game if they want to keep kids coming back. The Wally Goose trading cards included with the meals are nice, but they aren’t going to cut it.