If the idea of eating food prepared at a gas station makes you shudder, we’re here to change your mind. It’s time to banish those nightmare visions of greasy hot dogs, soggy sandwiches, lousy pizza and stale doughnuts.
There’s delicious gas station food to be found in Alabama if you know where to look, and some of it is downright delicious. When people on the go need food, a bag of chips and a cold soda just won’t do. Ideally, we want a quick stop that fills our bellies and feeds our souls, invigorating us for the journey ahead, no matter how long or short the journey may be.
Here are five of our favorite gas station food spots in the Birmingham metro area, all offering reliable, tasty, prepared food. Some provide chairs and tables for your dining pleasure, while others are strictly grab and go. Now, let’s gas up the car and start pushing.
READ: AL.comTop 5 choices for barbecue, pizza, burgers, barbecue chicken, ice cream, hot dog, donuts, breakfast, fried chicken, Mexican restaurants, chicken wings and meat and three in Birmingham.
5. ONE STOP AT MAC
400 19th St. South in Birmingham. facebook.com/macsonestop
This place is a hidden gem in Birmingham, nestled in a Chevron station near UAB’s Southside campus. Visitors can easily walk in, buy gas and walk away without ever entering a small brick building that sits behind the pumps. But people in the know are happy to trumpet the virtues of Mac’s One Stop, an efficient little eatery that serves up satisfying breakfast sandwiches, biscuits, burgers, patties, grilled cheese, chili, chicken fingers and more. It’s a family business with a devoted following and a busy grill that cooks “everything fresh to order,” as the menu says. It’s best to get there early because the cookout starts at 6 a.m., Monday through Friday, and stops at 2 p.m. But even if you find yourself at Mac’s when the kitchen is closed, you can still grab sandwiches, desserts and other homemade items from a refrigerated display case near the cash register.
Side note: Mac’s One Stop was the subject of Ava Lowry’s 2019 documentary short film, One Stop, which debuted at the 2019 Southern Foodways Alliance Winter Symposium in Birmingham. You can watch it here.
Order this: Enjoy a double bacon cheeseburger paired with onion rings or potato wedges. If you’re feeling particularly decadent, try the banana pudding for dessert. Portions are usually generous here—an order of banana pudding is like a meal in itself—so we suggest sharing this sweet treat with a friend.
4. J&J GROCERY AND DELI
8169 Dickey Springs Road in Bessemer. facebook.com/jjgroceryanddeli
J&J Grocery and Deli has several claims to fame, adding to the list this year when Matthew McConaughey arrived in June to film “The Rivals of Amziah King” at the small country store and gas station in Bessemer. However, regulars will tell you that J&J’s delicious burgers are the real stars of the show, served Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the in-house grill. “All we do is salt and pepper them and put them on the grill,” Sherry Harding, one of the cooks at J&J’s, told AL.com’s Bob Carlton in 2022. “That’s it. This grill it’s been here for countless years and it’s just seasoned.” Burgers can be ordered with a variety of toppings, from a chili cheeseburger to a mushroom Swiss and a jalapeño bacon cheeseburger. The menu also includes hamburger steak, fried bologna, chili dogs, chicken wings and more. Breakfast starts at 5:30am if you are an early riser and can dine in or get your takeout.
Order this: The classic cheeseburger is great in its simplicity, topped with lettuce and tomato and paired with crispy fries. Take one bite and you’ll understand why J&J’s burgers have appeared on many “best of” lists, including AL.com’s recent ranking of the top 10 burgers in Alabama.
3. BLUE PACIFIC AT HOOVER FOOD MART
3219 Lorna Road in Hoover. facebook.com/bluepacificathooverfoodmart
Word of mouth has power in the dining world, and it’s helped one Thai restaurant become a popular Hoover mainstay. We are talking about Blue Pacific, founded in 2015 by Sam Arun and his family. The location is nothing special – Blue Pacific is located in the Hoover Food Mart, a former gas station and convenience store – but the cuisine is exceptional, prepared with care, authenticity and fresh ingredients. “Whatever they cook in the restaurant in Thailand, we cook here,” Arun told Birmingham magazine in a 2015 interview. soup, fiery curry, Pad Ka Tem-Prik Thai (grilled meat with garlic topped with fried egg) and outstanding Pad Thai. But don’t just take our word for it. In 2022, celebrity chef Andrew Zimmern named Blue Pacific as one of the best restaurants in Birmingham, calling the food “amazing”. By the way, the opening hours are from Wednesday to Saturday from 11 to 14:30 and from 17 to 20:30
Order this: Pad Thai is a must, especially for beginners and diners who avoid Americanized versions of the dish. Blue Pacific’s Thai sub is spicy and sublime, offering a pile of spaghetti rice stir-fried with your choice of meat — we recommend the shrimp — topped with scallions, chopped bean sprouts and an egg. A lime wedge and crushed peanuts are served on the side.
2. BAYOU FRESH SEAFOOD AND DELIS
217 N. Walston Bridge Road in Jasper. facebook.com/BayouFreshSeafood
We know what you’re thinking: Sushi from a gas station? Sounds like a gastronomic disaster. But fear not. Bayou Fresh Seafood knows exactly what it’s doing, thanks to owner Zhu Jianjun, who expanded menu offerings to include made-to-order sushi about 11 years ago. Bayou Fresh Seafood, a small restaurant next to a Marathon gas station, was known for hearty American fare like grilled, fried and blackened fish. While you can still get that stuff there (and a lot of people do), the Jasper establishment has made a new reputation for its elegant, crave-worthy sushi. There are about 30 sushi items on the menu, prepared in rolls or nigiri (plain pieces of fish on rice balls). The evocative names are part of the appeal: Dragon Roll, Alabama Roll, Spider Roll, Crazy Roll, Super Crunch Roll and more. The restaurant also offers different combinations of rolls and nigiri, served with miso soup and ginger salad. The atmosphere is no-frills – dine in and you’ll be using disposable plates and cutlery – but the food is very impressive. Hours are Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m
Order this: We’re all about the Super Crunch roll, made with shrimp tempura, cucumber, avocado, tempura crunch and eel sauce. Get the two-piece shrimp nigiri combo if you’re really hungry. Also, the Alabama roll is a popular option, created by wrapping a California roll (a mixture of crab, cucumber and avocado) in fresh tuna.
6900 Buc-ee’s Blvd. in Leeds. buc-ees.com
Buc-ee’s is like the Six Flags of convenience stores: huge, colorful and fun. It’s true that the Texas-based chain can be overwhelming for newcomers—there’s just so much going on! — but Buc-ee’s can be blissful for people who enjoy an overwhelming experience. So far, we have four Buc-ee’s locations in Alabama, including one in the Birmingham area off Interstate 20 in Leeds. It covers more than 53,000 square feet and has 120 fueling points. Walk through the doors—Buc-ee’s is open 24 hours a day—and you’ll find a huge cornucopia of snacks, including what we like to think of as the Big 5: BBQ brisket sandwiches, fries, candied nuts, creamers, and Buc- ee’s famous Beaver Nuggets. (Watch AL.com staff try and rate the Big 5 snacks here.) If the marquee items aren’t to your liking, don’t worry. Buc-ee’s sells several different types of sandwiches, plus salads, burritos, hot dogs, cheese fries, wraps, cookies, muffins, cookies, hot apple pies, cinnamon rolls and more. And here’s the kicker: most of them are damn good. Buc-ee’s excels when it comes to abundance and quality. What’s not to like about it?
Order this: Get a BBQ brisket sandwich at a Texas Round Up station by opting for sliced brisket instead of sliced. Each sandwich contains a savory pile of brisket drenched in a spicy-sweet barbecue sauce. And if you’re in the mood for something sweet, the rich and creamy chocolate fudge is guaranteed to give you a sugar rush.