Today’s installment of Adventures in Gas Station Eating brings me to Fircrest.
You’ll find gyro sandwiches and platters in a tiny cafe tucked into the back of a new convenience store at the 76 Station across the street from Tacoma Community College.
The bulk of the menu is brought to you by national franchise Cooper’s Express, but this location strays from the fried chicken formula with gyros and gyro cousins, such as a falafel and kufta platters.
The mini-mart of the gas station is called Infinium Stop. It opened in April and started serving its Mediterranean menu about a month ago.
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Here’s a first-bite look. It’s this paper’s policy to avoid criticism of food and service during a restaurant’s first month.
Gas station, what? Don’t be afraid. This region has a great tradition of restaurants tucked into gas stations or converting gas stations into restaurants, including barbecue, Mexican and Cajun restaurants. Never judge a restaurant by its location or you’ll miss a lot of good stuff.
Feather signs are food beacons: Back in May, I popped into the Infinium Stop after seeing a feather sign, waving in the wind and cheerily announcing “gyros.” They were not yet serving those then and more recently those feather signs were replaced with ones saying, “Lunch.” But I can confirm the gyro sandwiches and platters are now on the menu.
The owner: Waleed Alghzaqli. He’s a former TCC student who moved away to attend Washington State University, but returned to open a business. He said, just as he imagined, much of his business is from college students.
The scene: Gas station chic. Three tables with six chairs and a giant assortment of chips, candy, soda and everything else you might need for a road trip. The steam table holds an assortment of fast-food chicken, but look to the menu above the counter for the gyro selection. Those are made-to-order, so expect them to take longer than the fried chicken that’s ready for take-out.
The food: Made from scratch by Alghzaqli and tastes like it. Each platter comes with a different sauce, which is handmade with ingredients such as yogurt and tahini. Kufta meatballs are hand-rolled from fresh beef (not frozen) and spices. The rice is sauteed with whole and ground spices. The falafel is even made from scratch, not a mix, Alghzaqli said, with chickpeas that are boiled from dry beans, then pulsed in a processor with garlic, cilantro and spices.
The gyro menu: Gyro wrap ($3.99) or platter ($4.99); falafel platter ($5.79) kufta platter ($7.79) and fried beef sambosik turnovers ($2.99).
Get the: Gyro platter. This bargain lunch at $4.99 was a small pile of shaved, sliced pieces of the typical compressed ground beef-and-lamb served at fast-food gyro stops. The spiced meat topped a tasty bed of yellow rice pilaf flecked with whole peppercorns and cumin. Be careful. The rice packs a hefty wallop of peppery heat.
Cucumbers, red onions and iceberg lettuce flanked pita that had been grilled and cut into triangles and served with a delicious drippy tahini-yogurt-garlic sauce.
The falafel platter ($5.79) came with that same terrific spice-tinged rice, pita wedges and a small salad, but a different kind of sauce. That one was thick, creamy yogurt heavy on the garlic, a perfect companion for dunking the fried falafel discs that tasted assertively of garlic and spices (beware, office mates).
If gyros aren’t your thing: Find fried chicken, fried fish, jojos and fried pickles.
Your turn: Tell me about your favorite gas station food stop. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Speaking of gas stations: Has anyone ever tried the Wabodi Special sandwich advertised at the Canyon Road Gas and Deli Mart in Puyallup? Should I take a field trip?
Infinium Stop at 76 Station
Where: 1901 Mildred St. W., Fircrest; 253-564-9595.