Kwik Trip is a Wisconsin institution.
Founded in 1965 in Eau Claire, it’s headquartered in La Crosse, and, from wedding photos to recurring references by Wisconsin comedian Charlie Berens, it has secured its place in Wisconsinites’ hearts.
I am on board with Kwik Trip love. I stop there often for morning coffee — and am psyched to be enjoying its annual pumpkin spice brew yet again.
When my daughters were younger, it was regular after-school excursion; they would choose a drink and a snack, and we would relax in the café area as they told me about their day. And this past Mother’s Day, when my sister and I told my mom we wanted to take her out for breakfast, she instead requested that we just stop at Kwik Trip for coffee to bring back to her front porch while we sipped and chatted.
Although I’ve always loved Kwik Trip for its coffee and snacks, I don’t typically use it as a grocery store. But since the school year started and my schedule has gotten busier, I’ve become very aware that Kwik Trip is closer to my house than my regular grocery store. I’ve also become aware of the variety of options to prep a quick dinner.
After a little research, I discovered a reason I’ve noticing more meal selection choices. While doughnuts, hot food, salads, sandwiches and produce have been in the stores since the early 2000s, Kwik Trip’s fresh fried chicken and take-home meals didn’t arrive until 2019 and 2020.
Recently, I took a few trips to the Kwik Trip, picked up several foods to taste-test with my family and put together ideas for meals I can make purely out of Kwik Trip food.
Kwik Trip meal for a busy weeknight
Roasted chicken: Roasted or rotisserie whole chickens are my go-to for a busy weeknight. I usually buy them at Pick ‘n Save, but since Kwik Trip is closer to my house, I was glad to see I could get one there. My daughter Wendy and I loved the chicken, which was flavorful and juicy even after reheating it.
Dinner rolls: My husband often picks these up on his own snack runs to Kwik Trip. They’re soft and pair well with butter; we didn’t even need to heat them up.
Prepared Caesar salad: A lower container holds Romaine lettuce, with chicken and Parmesan cheese in separate containers on top. This setup keeps the ingredients from becoming soggy. I figured it would be a typical gas station salad, but the lettuce was surprisingly fresh, and the chicken was flavorful. I recommend combining two of these for a family.
Yogurt parfait: The yogurt parfait had vanilla yogurt and strawberries mixed together, with granola in a separate container to mix in afterward. I picked this up on my second Kwik Trip visit, which Wendy accompanied me on. She said she misses the parfaits we used to get at McDonald’s and wanted to see how this compared. It was less sugary than the McDonald’s version but still had enough sweetness to work for a healthy-ish dessert.
Fried chicken: Kwik Trip has both hot and cold versions of much of its prepared food. The cold option worked out well when I picked up fried chicken one morning after dropping my kids off at school. I didn’t want to heat it up for fear of drying it out, so we ate it cold, picnic-style. It was juicy and well-seasoned.
Sushi: This was a wild card as I’ve never had gas station sushi, and, admittedly, that sounds a little scary. But this isn’t just any gas station; it’s Kwik Trip! I went very basic with the California roll. It’s packaged like grocery store deli counter sushi, with rolls in one container and packets of wasabi, ginger and soy sauce on top, and a handy compartment to place them in. The rolls are smaller than standard deli counter sushi (and smaller than typical restaurant sushi), but they tasted great.
Kwik Trip meal for a moderately relaxed weeknight or a weekend
When I have enough time to cook instead of just reheat, this is what my family likes in a Kwik Trip meal.
Sloppy joes and buns: I usually make sloppy joes from scratch, so I didn’t know it was possible to buy sloppy joe meat already seasoned and ready. Kwik Trip sells cooked meat with sloppy joe sauce that just has to be heated.
Baked potatoes with sour cream
Salad made from lettuce, mushrooms, tomatoes and other vegetables.
And here are some other meals for those moderately relaxed times:
Bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin: This was a shocker when I saw it. Yes, I had seen the ground beef, the chicken breasts, the brats, even the steak at Kwik Trip. But the bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin seemed so fancy, and it was only $1.99. When I asked Wendy if I was reading the price correctly, she helpfully answered with a shrug. I followed the directions to heat it up in a pan, and we all agreed that it was delicious. Although Wendy pointed out it’s hard to go wrong with double pork, I was still impressed. The portion is small, but with a reasonable number of sides, it could be a good main dish for two people and provide a good taste of something delicious for three or four people. And, if you’re just cooking for yourself, it’s a great option.
Fresh meat like brats, steak, hamburger patties and chicken breasts
Pizza: Kwik Trip has frozen pizzas, hot pizza slices and take-and-bake pizzas. I reviewed the take-and-bake pizza a few years ago during a taste-testing pizza party. My friends and family didn’t love the pizza, which they thought had too much sauce, but if sauce is your thing, it’s worth a try.
Tacos: This is the same deal as sloppy joe meat for me; When we have tacos, I typically cook the meat and mix in my own spices. But Kwik Trip’s seasoned-and-ready taco meat is super convenient. Along with some lettuce, tomatoes, shredded cheese, sour cream and taco shells — all available at Kwik Trip — this is an easy meal to prep.
Kwik Trip meal to replace fast food
I mentioned that my local Kwik Trip is closer to my house than the grocery store. It’s also closer than most fast-food restaurants. That makes Kwik Trip a great choice, and a nice change of pace, for our Friday nights, when we typically get fast food to eat at home while watching a movie. Here’s what my family would choose for that.
Chicken tenders: These tasted very similar to the fried chicken — Kwik Trip does a good job of seasoning chicken. These are sold both on their own or with waffle fries as a side.
Cheese cards: When I saw Kwik Trip had cheese curds and pointed them out to my daughter, she nodded her head. “Can we really say we’re from Wisconsin if we don’t try the cheese curds?” she asked. A very reasonable question. This is an embarrassing admission — Wisconsin girl that I am — but I’m not a huge fan of cheese curds. But — Wisconsin girl that I am — I did appreciate that they smelled like State Fair food. My husband is our family cheese curd connoisseur, and he liked them. We all thought they were a bit too bready, but the flavor was good.
Frozen drinks: I think a fast food meal needs a special drink to go with it. Kwik Trip’s self-serve drink stations have always fascinated my daughters and me. Their favorites are the Arctic Slushes (Blue Moon Frost), and I gravitate toward the coffee specialties, including frappes and macchiatos. Kwik Trip also has machines for fruit smoothies and chocolate shakes.
Additional options for fast food-like meals include hamburgers or cheeseburgers; Es, including fried chicken and waffle, barbecue pork rib and fish with cheese sandwich; chicken wings; hot dogs, pizza slices and burritos.
Kwik Trip snack meal
When we have people over for a game night, or sometimes just for our own family dinner, we like to make a meal out of snacks. This is especially a good idea for us, since most of Kwik Trip’s prepared foods aren’t safe for my older daughter, who has food allergies. (Side note: Kwik Trip has a sign on its door to alert people to the possibility of cross-contamination by the major allergens in its prepared food.)
For those meals, my family would choose sausage, sliced fruit, veggie trays and a variety of crackers, cheese blocks or slices, pretzels, chips and dips, and salsa and guacamole.
Kwik Trip sick meal
When family members are sick, I take advantage of how close Kwik Trip is to my house. It’s convenient because they carry Tylenol, Advil, cold and allergy medicine, Pepto Bismol, cough drops and throat lozenges. For the nourishment I have sought out soothing foods for sore throats, bland foods for upset stomachs and novel foods to get people with suppressed appetites excited to eat something. Here’s what I typically choose:
Soup: Kwik Trip carries fresh hot soup as well as refrigerated bags of soup to heat up on the stove. And canned soups are in the grocery section. I heated up a bag of refried chicken and wild rice soup. Wendy loves rice, and she’s been enjoying chicken noodle soup from restaurants lately. However, she took one look in the pot and declared there were too many vegetables for her. And there were quite a few vegetables: carrots, celery and mushrooms, as well as chicken and wild rice. Lots of veggies is not a flaw to me; that’s how I love my soup. If I were to get this again, I would add salt and pepper. The flavors were good, but it tasted a bit bland.
Crackers such as Saltines, Ritz and Goldfish
Bland foods like Cheerios, bread and rice
Popsicles and candy to suck on for sore throats
Drinks: Kwik Trip has lots of drink options in the refrigerated section, with different juices, water and sodas (We always get Sprite and Gatorade when someone is sick.) The drink stations are convenient for soothing sore throats, with cold Slushes and fountain drinks, and hot tea and coffee.
Contact Amy Schwabe at (262) 875-9488 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @WisFamilyJSInstagram at @wisfamilyjs or Facebook at WisconsinFamily.