Shriveled up pizza, old wings and hotdogs under a heat lamp might be what springs to mind when the words “gas station” and “food” land next to each other. When you stop at your local gas station for a fill-up before spending hours in traffic on I-94, you might grab a bag of chips or some candy, but might not think, “Let’s get lunch here.”
In metro Detroit, restaurants inside gas stations have a strong foothold among a group of regulars. They can be reliable places for a good meal, and they are becoming more popular. Behind these restaurants, local entrepreneurs have created a name for themselves by offering classic, fresh food in accessible locations. While other states are passing drive-through bans, gas station restaurants close to home are quick alternatives for people on the go.
Looking for the best gas station restaurants in the Detroit area? I tried four so you didn’t have to (though, you still should).
There are plenty of local restaurants where the setting isn’t glamorous but the grub is excellent. What’s your favorite no-frills spot to grab something fast and tasty? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us why you love it.
Las Cazuelas Grill
4000 Livernois Ave.
Founder Maria Aldana said she always wanted to own a business, but she “kind of stumbled” into starting a restaurant in 2006. While filling up her car, Aldana said she recognized a need for homemade, healthy food in an accessible place.
Aldana now owns two Las Cazuelas restaurants — one is in Detroit at a Citgo gas station, and another is a free-standing restaurant in Southfield. She also owns Aldana’s Mexican Bar & Grill in Troy.
She wanted to serve people like construction workers who start the day early.
“We ended up putting a buffet line or quick service line that was ready at five in the morning,” Aldana said.
Aldana recommended one of her most popular offerings, the enchiladas with hot salsa for $11.49. They were easily the best enchiladas I had in a while, although on the pricey side. Ordering is simple too: walk up to the counter, place your order and cash out at the gas station counter. Quick and easy.
Dining in is not an option at the Detroit location, but I was in and out in less than five minutes.
Krispy Krunchy Chicken
1140 Clay St.
With more than 2,700 locations in 47 states, Krispy Krunchy Chicken can be a community staple for the cities they serve, says Vice President of Marketing Alice Crowder. There are at least 45 locations in metro Detroit alone.
The chain dates back to 1989, and has franchised into gas stations, convenience stores, casinos, arenas and big box retailers across the country. All of the chicken is fried in-house daily, and Krispy Krunchy’s food ranges from bone-in chicken and chicken tenders, to honey butter shrimp and honey biscuits.
Crowder said much of Krispy Krunchy Chicken’s customer base are regulars — people who come to convenience stores for hot meals at least weekly, but many visit two or three times a week.
I tried the two-piece white chicken meal, which comes with a honey biscuit, for $5.99. I opted to add cajun seasoning. Lemon pepper was the other spice I could have added free of charge, and plain chicken is also an option. The chicken I got was crispy and fresh, and had just the right amount of spice. The biscuit was unforgettable — the honey glaze on top really seals the deal.
At least 10 customers came and went in the 10 minutes I was there. Their service is quick without compromising quality.
10419 Ford Road
In 2014, Ali Jawad was 21 and had just dropped out of Oakland University. Growing up with a family working in the gas station business, Jawad knew his grandfather’s gas station had a spot opening up, but couldn’t decide what to do with it.
“My grandpa really just told me, ‘If you’re going to put all your money into something, come up with your own thing or don’t do it at all,’” Jawad said.
Out of that advice came Taystee’s Burgers. There are now locations in Dearborn, Dearborn Heights, Ann Arbor, Warren and Taylor. Founder Jawad wanted a burger place that captured “somewhat of a Subway feel,” giving customers the ability to build their own halal version of a classic American burger.
Taystee’s classics are the Ali’s Notch-Yo-Burger and the Taystee’s Original burger. On my visit, I tried the latter for $9.36. Fries cost extra.
The star of the show was easily the Taystee’s Original Sauce — a mix between mayo and ketchup with a dill pickle-type sourness. I was also wowed by the quality of service in the Dearborn location. The staff bantered with customers, served orders in less than ten minutes and even said goodbye to me on the way out. It’s the perfect lunch stop with dine-in space and good vibes.
Jawad has made good on his vision, making the Forbes 30 Under 30 list in 2022 in the Food & Drink category.
Mr. Kabob Xpress
3372 Coolidge Highway
Nas Gulli said his family was working in the Berkley gas station business in 2001 when they realized selling gas wasn’t enough to keep them afloat.
After bouncing ideas around for another revenue source, ranging from pizza to subs, his family realized what would perfectly complement their gas station — their mother’s Mediterranean food.
Now, celebrating the 20th anniversary of Mr. Kabob Xpress, Gulli said his family still uses the same recipes to this day.
“It’s simple and it’s not,” said Gulli. “We just stick to our system, and we’re thankful for the 20 years and hope for another 20 more.”
Mr. Kabob has five locations, including ones in downtown Detroit, Southfield, Livonia and Troy. I visited the original gas station location in Berkley.
Gulli said the most popular menu item is the chicken shawarma wrap, which is what I went with for $7.49. The shawarma was perfect: not too garlicky, and the pita wasn’t overfilled where eating was messy. I couldn’t help going in for more bites. Of the restaurants I tried, this is my favorite.
This Mr. Kabob location gets relatively busy around noon, so keep that in mind if you plan to visit.