Is this real life? Is this just fantasy?
Does Buc-ee’s really have Bohemian Garlic beef jerky?
They do. And it’s magnifico.
That’s not my real lede. I just am enamored of the idea of Bohemian garlic. What makes the garlic Bohemian? No idea. It must be socially unconventional.
It’s rebel garlic, operating outside the bounds of polite society, and it’s one of the best snacks at Buc-ee’s.
So now, here’s my real lede.
Indeed, we have become a Buc-ee’s family.
For a long time, we’d heard whispers and have been Buc-ee’s curious. Now, on multiple road trips to Florida, we’ve been able to really soak in the Buc-ee’s travel center experience in multiple locations and can confirm it’s one of the best places to stop on a trip.
We are completely smitten with the ever-expanding Texas chain of gas station/truck stops.
What is Buc-ee’s famous for?
Buc-ee’s features dozens of gas pumps, world record-breaking food options and impressively clean restrooms.
And we are counting down the days for Buc-ee’s to open the world’s largest convenience store at Exit 407 in Sevierville, TN. In fact, it will be a half-hour drive from our house.
Over the years of family road trips, I’ve earned something of a reputation. On family pit stops, I will inevitably choose the worst option in a 50-mile radius.
It’s in my head now. And it happened again recently when we had to make a stop without a Buc-ee’s nearby. I carefully selected my exit, one with multiple restaurants advertised. And that usually means you’ll have several options when you get off the interstate.
However, I hadn’t even reached the end of the off-ramp before I knew I was in trouble. Most of the places were several miles down the road and only a single gas station was near the exit. It was as bad as I feared.
The restroom was a single stall – and while it wasn’t dirty, it was a far cry from Buc-ee’s clean bathrooms with several stalls. A father and son team beat me to the door by a few steps, so I had to wait for quite a while as they did their business.
It was suboptimal. And it was a far cry from Buc-ee’s.
And so, while I had time to pontificate, to lament my situation, I decided that if I ever run for national office, it will be my campaign promise to work with the iconic brand to put a Buc-ee’s along every interstate in this great land, no more than 150 miles apart in heavily populated and traveled regions.
It’s a good idea, one that can unite our country in these troubled times.
But Buc-ee’s is more than gas pumps and bathrooms. It’s an entire road trip experience.
We were leaving Universal Studios after a holiday weekend. And the busiest thing we saw all week – busier than the Wizarding World of Harry Potter or Disney Springs or International Boulevard – was the Buc-ee’s in Calhoun, Georgia on a regular Sunday afternoon.
The good news was with multiple cashiers working, we didn’t have to wait long to check out despite the massive crowd.
Everything about Buc-ee’s is ratcheted up. The shopping experience, the customer service and the tasty treats, it’s all top level.
I came to the realization during this latest trip that I’d rather have the food items from Buc-ee’s than almost any fast food place I’ve ever stopped at on a road trip.
The fact of the matter is Buc-ee’s is a great place to eat when on the road. I’m not saying you should take the family out for a meal at Buc-ee’s. However, if you’re traveling and don’t want to stop for a full sit-down meal, Buc-ee’s is a great place to give your taste buds a treat.
What food can you get at Buc-ee’s?
Well, I’m glad you asked. The best Buc-ee’s snacks and my favorite Buc-ee’s snacks aren’t exactly the same thing, but we’ll try to thread the needle with a bit of both.
They also offer free samples of some of the more popular items so you can really get a good idea of what you want before you make your purchase.
Also, we’re treating this as a road trip food destination, not a family night out for dinners, so we’re factoring practicality into these Buc-ee’s food rankings.
18. Sausage on a stick
I’m genuinely sad to report this here as I am typically a big proponent of foods on sticks.
The Buc-ee’s sausage on a stick – which comes wrapped in a tortilla – was difficult to navigate while driving and ultimately underwhelming in just about every way.
17. Buc-ee’s pickled quail eggs
Every once in a while, you get a real hint of Buc-ee’s Texas roots.
Look, I’m an open-minded guy.
Eat what you want to eat. But I do not want to go on a 10-hour road trip with someone eating pickled quail eggs.
16. Buc-ee’s homemade chips
They’re chips. They don’t reinvent the art form or anything.
But they are homemade, so there is that.
15. Fresh fruit
We can’t all live by Beaver Nuggets and beef jerky. We need a little fresh fruit.
Buc-ee’s has a nice selection of fruit – probably slightly better than your typical gas station, but probably not quite as good as a local supermarket.
Especially in the south where fresh fruit is available for most of the year, I can’t imagine targeting Buc-ee’s for the fruit.
In Florida and Georgia, we saw dozens of ads for citrus fruit and peaches at stands up and down the interstate. In my experience, any one of those has better fruit than you’ll get from a large chain.
14. Peach rings
Of the many varieties of gummy foods available at Buc-ee’s, and there are a great many, the peach rings are likely my least favorite.
In truth, it’s not that they’re bad. It’s just peach rings are not my thing. If you like sugary, peachy flavor, adjust accordingly.
Again, we’re in the realm of personal preference. I’m not a fudge guy. Every tourist town in America hawks fudge and saltwater taffy and I’ve never much liked either.
I think it’s the consistency.
Still, even if you don’t have a sweet tooth, the Buc-ee’s fudge counter is a sight to behold.
They have flavors ranging from traditional, like the chocolate peanut butter, to the curious, like a blueberry cobbler, to the downright reckless – I’m looking at you key lime pie – and also birthday cake.
12. Cinnamon rolls
Buc-ee’s has a variety of pastry selections and honestly, the cinnamon rolls are great.
It’s just that as road trip food, cinnamon rolls can be a bit … messy.
Therefore, I say get a box and put it away for the hotel at the end of the trip. But will I let you eat cinnamon rolls in our new family car? I will not.
11. Caramel corn
It’s a high floor, low ceiling kind of snack. Is it possible to mess up caramel corn? I suppose, theoretically, it is, but more often than not you know what you’re getting with caramel corn.
Good. Satisfying. Sweet. Crunchy. Not life-changing. But it’s a good road trip snack.
10. Brisket tacos
We’ll talk about this more as we get into the great barbecue versus brisket debate.
I like Buc-ee’s barbecue very much. But the brisket?
It’s just OK. Your taste buds may disagree. Still, I would rather have a brisket taco from Buc-ee’s than almost anything you could get at a fast food place so there’s that.
9. Pecan pie
I worked in a grocery store as a kid and once, I had a lady stop me and ask where she could find the “P cans.” I was perplexed. I turned the question over in my mind, wondering if she meant cans of peas.
Suddenly it dawned on me. And without thinking, I said, “Oh. You mean “pe-cahns,” in possibly the most pretentious moment of my life. I sounded like a Yalie who’d gotten lost on safari in the South.
Anyway, that’s my third worst grocery store customer interaction behind the lady who asked what aisle my nuts were on.
The worst was the guy who had a heart attack and passed in the back with my assistant manager standing over him, yelling “Sir, do you need help?”
Anyway, pecan pie is the best road trip pie and folks from Texas generally know how to make it.
8. Meats and cheese
When on the road, I like meats and cheeses and Buc-ee’s has a fine array of choices.
On our most recent visit, I got a vacuum-sealed pork loin with pepper jack cheese. There are several options including a summer sausage that’s quite good as well.
7. Cold sandwiches
While Buc-ee’s has quite an array of hot food, there is an excellent variety of deli sandwiches as well.
I recently tried the Italian sub and it was really, really good. Not good for gas station food, but enjoyable enough that I’d seek it out again.
The roast beef and the pastrami Reuben are also pretty good.
6. Buc-ee’s Beaver Nuggets
A controversial selection here as the Beaver Nuggets are probably Buc-ee’s most recognizable and blogged-about snack.
To me, they’re a cousin of the cereal Honey Smacks. But with more caramel flavor.
It’s not my favorite thing but many people swear by the puffed corn nuggets.
5. Trail mix
Buc-ee’s specializes in walls of various treats. There’s a beef jerky wall, a dried fruit wall and a wall of gummy treats. There is also a large section dedicated to a variety of trail mixes.
It goes far beyond the typical trail mix with a variety for everyone. In particular, it’s a good energy snack for the road.
4. Banana pudding
As you can probably tell from the list, I prefer savory snacks to sweet snacks most of the time, but I’m a sucker for banana pudding.
In case you’re wondering, the best banana pudding in the world is at Dreamland Barbecue in Tuscaloosa.
Buc-ee’s isn’t that good but when you’re on the road, you have to take what you can get. And this banana pudding is worth taking.
3. Breakfast tacos
Ah. Now we’re on the high ground.
You know that meme from the Sly Stallone movie “Over the Top” which tried to be “Rocky” but for competitive arm wrestling? No. The 80s were a strange time, man.
Anyway, the only cultural relevance left is a meme of two muscular arms – one white, one black – clasping hands as if ready to arm wrestle. It’s used in internet culture to represent the meeting of two disparate cultures on common ground.
So if I knew how to make memes, I would make one representing Mexican cuisine and breakfast foods. It is, in fact, the common ground upon which a society can be built.
Buc-ee’s has a variety of breakfast tacos. However, I think drifts closer to the realm of burritos – but we’re not going to quibble over technicalities.
There are different varieties. The Hippo has bacon, egg, cheese, potatoes and beans. The Rhino substitutes sausage for the bacon. And honestly, they are all wonderful.
2. Beef jerky
Belinda Carlisle once sang “Heaven is a Place on Earth.” I’m pretty sure she was singing about the Jerky Counter at Buc-ee’s.
It is like the meat case at a grocery store but instead of selections of steaks, chicken and ground beef, it’s just different flavors of dried meat piled high.
How committed am I to the beef jerky life? I can remember the first time I had it. It was made by hand by a craftsperson who served it on a field trip at Historic Old Fort in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
So, I like to think the reenactor – a champion of jerky tradition and pride – is looking down from somewhere ethereal at the Buc-ee’s jerky counter and pleased that their life’s work wasn’t in vain.
My initial review of Buc-ee’s barbecue was incorrect. I’d tried the brisket but never the pulled pork. I corrected that mistake recently.
The brisket, in my opinion, remains just OK.
Better than most fast food road trip options, but not as good as local mom-and-pop barbecue establishments.
The pulled pork, however, is a notch or two above the brisket. I suspect it’s because it’s the pulled pork survives slightly better under the production limitations that Buc-ee’s must overcome. The calibrations don’t have to be quite as precise.
Certainly, I’m not here to tell you to drive past a local smoker who’s doing barbecue to go to Buc-ee’s, but I am willing to tell you it’s probably the best mass-produced road trip sandwich available.
Do you have a favorite Buc-ee’s food? What items do you think are the best? Let us know in the comments!