Because my family lives in both Corpus and the Hill Country, I find myself on the road to and from Houston frequently. During those long, boring drives through south and central Texas, there is one thing that shines like a beacon among the run-down gas stations and cows and oil rigs: Buc-ee's.
Buc-ee's is the king of Texas convenience stores. I know that at Buc-ee's, there will always be enough gas pumps, enough parking spaces, enough toilets and more food than I could ever eat. Plus you can do most of your grocery shopping and all of your holiday gift buys there (if the people on your list are into bedazzled cowboy paraphernalia). The chain's bathrooms are consistently named the best in America, and I suspect it's one of the few places on earth where you can buy pecan pie in a jar, a camo onesie, a glittery decorative vase and windshield wiper fluid all in one convenient location.
I go to Buc-ee's for the food, though. The company makes most of it in-house, and it provides a great alternative to the usual convenience store fare. The beef jerky is some of the best around (no joke), the fudge is rich and delicious, and the wall of gummy candy looks like something out of Willy Wonka's shop.
So next time you're on a road trip in Texas, look for the giant beaver signs and stop by Buc-ee's for some tasty treats. It can be overwhelming, for sure, but to help you out, here's a list of the five best things worth checking out at the Texas-sized convenience store.
5. Buc-ee's Pecan Cinnamon Roll Crunch Popcorn
There's caramel popcorn, and then there's pecan cinnamon roll popcorn. Always wished you could get that same great cinnamon roll flavor without eating a calorie-filled pastry? Buc-ee's, purveyor of both ICEEs and dreams, makes that possible! I mean, sort of. The popcorn isn't exactly healthy, but it does taste incredibly similar to an actual pecan cinnamon roll, only crunchier. Plus, trying to get the popcorn and sugar coating out of your teeth will keep you busy in the car for hours.
4. Buc-ee's Southwest Cobb Salad
I know, a convenience store salad sounds gross, but this one is totally legit. Buc-ee's uses fresh spinach and tomatoes, grilled chicken, black beans and a house-made corn salsa in their Southwest Cobb, then the whole thing is topped off with Monterey Jack cheese. It's maybe one of the healthiest things you can get at a convenience store, which is a welcome relief after living off Doritos and Skittles all day ('cause apparently I only drive in the 1990s...). 3. Buc-ee's Fudge (in any flavor)
No, it's not the same as your grandma's homemade fudge, but it's pretty close. It's all made in-house, and the variety of flavors is overwhelming. From the standard chocolate pecan and mint chocolate to Heath English toffee, butter pecan and chocolate pumpkin, Buc-ee's has just about any flavor of fudge you could want. And it's good fudge, too. I know I sound like I'm writing PR for Buc-ee's, but its fudge bar never ceases to thrill me. I'm like a kid in a candy store! No, wait. I'm like a trucker in a giant convenience store!
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2. Buc-ee's Beaver Nuggets
Contrary to what these sound like, Beaver Nuggets have nothing to do with rodent droppings. They are, in fact, sweet, buttery corn puffs whose name is a nod to Buc-ee's beaver mascot. The nuggets are Buc-ee's No. 1 selling item among all stores, and even the smaller locations that may not carry fudge or bakery items carry Beaver Nuggets. They taste a lot like the kids cereal Pops, but bigger, plumper and more sugary. And they're really easy to eat in the car. Like, it's a little too easy to keep eating them until you stick your hand in the bag, wave it around frantically and find that there is not a single golden nugget left. Good thing there's another Buc-ee's on the horizon.
1. Buc-ee's Jerky
In my opinion, it's not a road trip unless there's jerky in the car. Buc-ee's makes about a dozen varieties of jerky, so you'll never get bored by the options. It's mostly beef, but there are also a few types of turkey jerky, too. You might be averse to buying jerky from a glorified convenience store as opposed to a meat market or a quaint little stand off the highway, but trust me. This jerky is legit. My personal favorite is the Hunter Peppered Beef variety, but I recently tried the Peppered Turkey Jerky and the newest addition to the lineup, Hill Country Bohemian Garlic, and they're pretty stellar as well. What makes garlic bohemian, you ask? I have no idea. Just eat the damn jerky. You can thank me later.