Everyone who struggled during their college years or early twenties – when good credit and extra income looked like fairytale desires – ate “meals” from convenience stores. These death reels were often the last option when there was enough room on the gas card to protect against starvation.
Well, the new 7-Eleven concept store at the corner of Alpha and Preston Road is looking to change that and is headed in an interesting direction.
This oversized version of the 7-Eleven convenience store has all the usual aisles, snacks, sodas, and slurpies offerings, but the extra space is for a selection of beer and wine, an expanded selection of cold brew dispensers and the latest Laredo Tacos website.
A press release issued earlier this month notes that this is a test site. “These lab stores give us an opportunity to test, learn and scale successes in our new store standards that ultimately allow us to continually improve the experience for all of our customers,” said Molly Long, 7‑Eleven, Vice President of Store Development.
The core concept of 7-Eleven is practically baked into our DNA. It’s the place to go to get gas when you’re looking for an excuse to grab a snack or a drink while pumping and maybe a judge-free pack of cigarettes. This version attempts to offer something more than a simple in between meal or a little drip coffee. This is evident from the entrance. There is even an elevator.
The main floor offers all the usual conveniences of stores but with a slightly larger selection of snacks and drinks, including Utz chips.
Other notable expansions are the beer fridge and wine cellar. Just having a wine cellar in a small shop is impressive, even if it’s technically on the first floor. The beer fridge was a disappointment as it only served the usual and cheap brands that you are bound to find in any other store.
The real gem of this concept store is Laredo Tacos Bar. Although there is no drive-thru delivery, it is much better than most “tacos” pushed through the windows at fast food restaurants.
There are a variety of proteins and additives, and most of them are delicious and unlike something that has just been reheated to extend its shelf life. Meats range from the usual beef and chicken to signature meats such as barbacoa, brisket, and carnitas bravas. This last one is my favourite. This spoonful of pork chops is crunchy on the outside, tender on the inside, and has a nice amount of spice.
Simple staples like beef fajitas look greasy in the wrap, but still come out completely on their own with tender meat and warm, fluffy tortillas that don’t taste like someone pulled them out of the store aisle at the last minute. There is a remarkable amount of care that has gone into making these choices.
The only disappointment was the breast meat. The tacos were very greasy, could lubricate engine parts, and the taste of the meat was light and chewy. Any one of the five flavors of this salsa bar can easily be improved upon. Salsa roga may only score as “captains” on the Laredo taco scale, but it’s packed with ripe tomatoes and jalapenos and adds much-needed spice to brisket.
And since you’re already at 7-Eleven, there’s only one way to finish a delicious, convenient, and well-prepared meal: Coca-Cola Slurpee.