If you haven’t been to Buc-ee’s, you haven’t been to Texas.
Well, at least that’s the rumor I’m starting, because although I have now been a resident of the Lone Star State for just over a decade, there is something uniquely and indisputably Texan about this chain of gas stations and convenience stores.
Actually, even describing Buc-ee's as such does a disservice to the breadth and depth of its retail offerings, which range from the sensible to the entertaining to the downright vulgar. In essence, a representative cross-section of Texans themselves.
I had only breezed in and out of one Buc-ee’s location before embarking recently on a visit that lasted longer than a Roman Catholic wedding Mass, a fact that has made me simultaneously celebrate and question how I am able to spend my time. Facilitating this temporal indulgence and consumer experience was a friend equally fascinated by Buc-ee’s and therefore more than willing to make an extended detour on the way to our ostensible destination of Galveston.
Seeking to fully grasp Buc-ee’s ontological valences, we made one slow lap around the interior and looked at stuff. Here are my top 10 edible highlights:
- The Largest Selection of Beef Jerky Known To Man. Buc-ee’s sells the desiccated flesh of every living creature on Earth, made with every possible combination of spices. The only thing I couldn’t find was Mesquite Giant Panda. It might have just been sold out at this location.
- Very Flaccid, Very Sad Croissants. With a color similar to that of the drug test sample of a slightly dehydrated athlete and the texture of a damp sock, these unlayered pastries made those depression-inducing croissants vended by Burger King seem gourmet in comparison.
- A Selection of Coffee Creamers Paralyzing In Its Diversity. Remember when Got Milk? was enough? I do, but apparently customer demands for 57 flavors of creamer has prompted Buc-ee’s to match these preferences. The bizarre roster ranges from interpretations of Cinnabon and Almond Joy to "Coldstone Creamery"(?) and blueberry.
- Overpriced Fudge Omakase. Buc-ee’s really shouldn’t have left it up to their resident confectioner to "curate" their variety packs of fudge. Only two or three of the dusty blocks included looked to be made from standard ingredients, such as chocolate, nuts, or peanut butter; the rest appear to be colorful Aveeno moisturizer formed in into a bar shape in a fudge pan. That said, we couldn't pass up the banana, redolent of Laffy Taffy.
- Charcuterie and Cheese… in a vertical plastic container. Apparently, plates, boards, and platters are so 2016. Disposable, environmentally-unfriendly tubes are the way of the future when it comes to serving fromage, in this case yellow and white cubes that have melted into a Dalí-esque synthesis. And speaking of plastic containers…
- Eggs in a Cup. I'm not being dismissive. That's what this item is actually called. There's obviously only one use for a plastic cup bedecked with a smiling beaver, filled with two hard-boiled eggs and nothing else—grabbing and consuming straight from the container by you, weeping and alone in your Mazda. Add a "salad" to seem less pathetic. Don't worry, there aren't too many vegetables to avoid.
- Fish For Fish To Eat, Not You. “I think that’s bait,” said my friend, when I contemplated out loud purchasing a package of what I thought were exotic sardines but turned out to be minnows. Oops. The frozen squid, however, might still be worth lugging home.
- Sizzlin’ Saltines. Buc-ee’s should have resisted the alliteration impulse in naming these snackies and gone instead with a good ol’ rhyme, like “EXTREME Saltines.” That moniker better represents their kick-you-in-the-taste-buds heat. By the way, consume with caution: that scarlet seasoning will coat your hands and subsequently everything else you touch.
- Dippin’ Dots. What’s better than one big, softball scoop of ice cream in a dish? 1 million pebble-size scoops of ice cream! They melt in your mouth, not on your spoon, and come in flavors such as birthday cake, cotton candy, and cookies and cream. Sorry, we can't be irreverent about "the ice cream of the future."
- Photo Ops With Buc-ee Himself! Okay, it’s not edible but it was my favorite. Turns out that while Buc-ee is the soft, silent type, he is nevertheless eager to hug and mug for the camera. Maybe too eager. Uh-oh.