Don’t write off gas station food just yet! Sometimes the most delicious dishes you’ll ever savor are in the place you’d least expect. From BBQ to Cajun to traditional Mexican cuisine, some of Gwinnett’s most acclaimed and beloved restaurants sit right next to gas stations!
So, pop in your earbuds and listen to today’s Gwinnett Podcast, where we trek around the county discovering finger-lickin’ good gas station eats and getting to know the foodies behind them!
All these restaurants are inside of gas stations! Normally, gas station food is questionable. How long has that hot dog been spinning? No one knows. Maybe 3 months. Sometimes, there’s a mostly processed kitchen in the big chains, but 9 times out of 10 those chicken wings are not the best idea.
Then you have the hidden gems, those restaurants defying all logic and reason and changing the face of gas station food. Part of their charm is being able to say that you found these diamonds in the rough, these needles in the haystacks, these fuel stations for the tummy and the Toyotas. These are the gas station spots in Gwinnett that locals swear by!
Restaurant owners Terry and Dale Lee are happy to get the business of those who amble into the Exxon station at the corner of Five Forks Trickum and Oak Road for a pack of smokes or a candy bar. “They bring us business, and we bring them business,” Terry says. “It’s a mutually beneficial relationship.”
Chip Mautz of Dacula was one of those unsuspecting gas station clients who came inside the store one day for a pack of gum. Once he caught the scent of fresh-cooked ‘cue, still steaming from the smoker, he became a card-carrying Tipsy Pig BBQ enthusiast. The most important factor in the establishment’s success? “It’s good, it’s fresh, and the service is hard to beat,” Chip says.
Terry says it’s customers like Chip who have made Tipsy Pig BBQ a success. “Word of mouth built this place,” Terry says. “But without consistently good food, these folks wouldn’t keep coming back like they do.”
How about a steaming plate of pulled pork and a signature side item like mac and cheese, fried okra or butter beans? Look no further than Dicky Doo’s, a family-style restaurant that opened years ago beside the Chevron at 2700 Lawrenceville Hwy. Owner Dicky Parks says some folks prefer a hole-in-the-wall type restaurant like his.
“We’ve got a lot of return customers who love this location,” says Parks, who took time out to talk on one afternoon, excusing himself from friends and a helping of his own fare. “Then, we’ve got other customers who happen to be getting gas and they see the ‘B-B-Q’ sign.”
Other offerings include all-beef Scooter Dogs, Brunswick Stew and a daily special like fried catfish, meatloaf, or pork chops. And you thought you were just getting $20 on Pump 10. This worked out just fine.
“I swear to you… the best tacos in the world get served out of the Chevron service station on South Lee Street.” These were the words I heard immediately after asking if anyone knew where to find a good taco in Buford.
Just because I don’t typically trust people, I also looked up El Taco Jalisco on Yelp and found the star-studded reviews that confirmed the conundrum. Could it be that this hidden oasis of flavor was actually a “rock-your-face-off authentic Mexican mouth party” as one of the 154 reviews on Yelp states?
Yes. It is all true.
El Taco Jalisco is indeed right beside a gas station, but it’s always packed at lunch nevertheless. There is nothing quite like finding a great restaurant in an unexpected location. The small business owners who make their mark by their quality, service and “rock-awesome” products, (no matter if that’s tacos or BBQ,) know that you can never judge a restaurant by its location.