The 10 best late-night gas station munchies, ranked

When a car goes careening into the Super America lot at 2 a.m., it’s probably propelled by a body’s desperate plea for protein.

It's 2 a.m. and the gut demands sustenance. The late-night meal is as important a meal as any, especially when the incorporation of certain mind-altering substances are at play, such as vodka. The only thing to do is to follow the fluorescent glow of the nearest convenience store or gas station.

Ask anyone what their favorite fried bologna sandwich is, or even chicken and waffles, and they might not even know. But people know late-night convenience store food. It is the tie that binds us. Show me someone who claims they've never eaten gas station fare, and I bet you'll find a glove box stuffed with Rap Snacks potato chips wrappers.

Here are the top 10 best gas station foods of all time, ranked, with special attention to Minnesota brands (though not exclusively, because cravings know no boundaries).

10. An entire pint of ice cream, preferably Häagen Dazs

When a serious ice cream crave emerges, only a full pint will do. Häagen Dazs is still the gold standard, if only because it makes you feel slightly elegant while hoovering 1,160 calories and 56 grams of fat, which is of course a single serving.

When the Camry goes careening into the Super America lot, it’s often propelled by a body’s desperate plea for protein. Only when you spot a shrink-wrapped pack of heavily salted meat do you know what you’ve come for. Jack Link's seems slightly healthier with its approximate shape of real meat, but if you’re truly following your lizard brain wants, opt for a Slim Jim, which is beef, yes, but also “mechanically separated chicken, lactic acid starter culture, dextrose, salt, sodium nitrite, and hydrolyzed soy.” Never watch the meat sticks get made.

8. Pump nacho cheese and chips

With a flick of the wrist, I can control how much cheese I get. (None of this "$2.99 for another single-serve portion.") When a concessions guy doles out nacho cheese, he tends to conserve like he's serving liquid gold instead of chemically processed whey. But ideally, you want more cheese than chips. When you run out of chips, run your finger around the container as a finisher.

Variation: buy a bag of Cheetos, open on site, and pump some cheese into the bag. An insider-tipster claims chopsticks are the key to this maneuver.

7. Heggie’s Pizza

Minnesota’s own frozen pizza brand has saved lives. Any good neighborhood bar without a full kitchen has a Heggie’s pizza oven and a stack of pies in the deep freeze. The brand has garnered such a cult following, that even big-time top chef Doug Flicker has attached his name to it. His pie is the El Jefe, with black olives, jalapeño and chorizo. A Heggie’s means a mere 14-minute window to a more-sober you.

6. "Wheel of Death" hot dogs

Only the bold need apply. Because it’s a hot dog and it’s hot. The only problem you could run into here is that it might be old. I think most places try to throw them away if they are. But then some places don’t. So it’s hit or miss. But as far as a hot dog goes, a gas station is a reliable place to get one.

5. Totino's Pizza Rolls

These were invented in 1968 by local cookbook maven Beatrice Ojakangas for one Jeno Paulucci, a Duluth entrepreneur who owned Chinese food producer Chun King. You know the rest. Pizza meets egg roll in a marriage six-year-olds and drunken minds have been indebted to for decades to come.

4. Cheez-Its

This is potato chip of the cracker world. You cannot eat just one. Your anti-junk food mom would buy these because even she cannot resist the call of the cheesy cracker. You can’t have a bad time when the red-orange box is on the table. I’m a purist for original flavor, but lovers of newfangled variations like "Grooves" and "Extra Toasty" make strong and convincing arguments.


3. Earl’s Cheese Puffs 

Many experienced snackers are still woefully unfamiliar with Earl’s. The Shakopee-based company makes popcorn (plain, cheese, and caramel, or a blend of all three if you like), but their crowning achievement is the cheese puff, making ordinary puffs bow down in inferiority. This is Minnesota’s niche snack brand, what Zapp’s are to New Orleans.


2. Cool Ranch Doritos & Top the Tater

Quintessential. It’s unclear who first stuck a Dorito into this essential Minnesota-based baked potato topper that approximates sour cream with chives and “seasonings.” Likely scenario: late ’80s when the blue bag flavor reached its crescendo. Teenagers alone in kitchen. Nirvana achieved. Derivatives include original Doritos and potato chips with ridges. But TTT is non-negotiable.

1. Deli Express Chuckwagons

My one true gas station love. I was quite literally raised up on this Minnesota brand snack-wich. When mom was too busy to cook or even head to McDonald's, it was a Chuckwagon in the Cutlass Supreme for din. A bun that teases the line between liquid and solid when microwaved, but then peppered with poppy seeds for class. Four-point-five ounces of quality “meats and cheeses,” think hot ham with liquid cheese in a plastic pouch, and pure bliss.

Mecca Bos is a Twin Cities-based food writer. She has an upcoming podcast called Snax Everywhere. Find her on InstagramFacebook, and Twitter.

Next Up

Screen Shot 2021-10-15 at 10.01.55 PM

Large police presence at Emagine Willow Creek movie theater in Plymouth

There are few details at this stage as to what has happened.

Maple Grove Police Department

Maple Grove-based businessman convicted of fatally shooting wife

Wiseman owns properties in both Minnesota, Nevada and China.

betty and earls biscuits facebook

Jason Matheson's biscuit shop to briefly close ahead of relaunch

Betty & Earl's will shut down for two weeks before reopening under a new name.

Simon Merino Go Fund Me

Worker dies in forklift accident at paper recycling business

The victim was described as a loving father of two who was devoted to his church.

rosie means - go fund me

Authorities ID woman killed by hit-and-run driver who ran red light

A fundraiser was created to support the family after the "sudden and senseless loss."

Prior Lake Football

Watch: Prior Lake stuns Rosemount with last-second hook and ladder

The Lakers dusted off an old favorite to get a victory on Thursday night.

unsplas - maple leaf frost fall lawn

MN gets its first frost advisories, freeze warnings of the season

The coldest spots could dip to below 30 degrees overnight.


Ahead of Big Ten clash, Huskers fans spend their Friday mocking PJ Fleck

Huskers fans are in a playful mood ahead of Saturday's game.

Jamal Smith

New 1st-degree murder charge for man accused in youth coach's killing

A grand jury indicted the suspect in connection with the shooting of Jay Boughton.

trick or treating halloween

COVID: Mayo Clinic's tips for staying safe while trick-or-treating

A layered approach, especially for those who aren't vaccinated, is recommended.


'My patience level is gone': Walz calls on lawmakers to help hospital strain

The governor said only legislators can enact some of the needed measures.


Ranked: The 10 weirdest foods at Hy-Vee

Brownie batter hummus is just the beginning of the oddities within.

The best Twin Cities convenience stores for late-night snacking

Here are 4 prime destinations for grab-and-go goodness at any hour.

The 10 best restaurants at Midtown Global Market

Our favorites from the local eating treasure trove.

The best taco trucks in Minneapolis: A tour

Half a dozen taco trucks on Lake Street make up an ideal Twin Cities taco tour.

RIP, Uptown Dulono's: Long live Minnesota's own pizza

This is the pizzeria of a Gen-Xer's childhood.

5 qualities that make a restaurant a home away from home

AKA the stuff that turns you into a regular.

Why DeGidio’s Italian Restaurant and Bar is my home away from home

This St. Paul institution has all the elements to keep customers coming back.

Need a new regular spot? Try these 5 Twin Cities restaurants

Minneapolis and St. Paul, these neighborhood restaurants will keep you coming back.