Crappy Food Critic #05: RaceTrac Italian Pizza Link

When I reach the end of my life and the coroner opens me up for the autopsy, his or her first thought will be: “Dang, that guy really liked gas station roller-grill food.”

Although the shabbiness of my diet should come as no surprise to anyone who is caught up on this feature, it doesn’t lessen the sting of the admission that the majority of my breakfasts consist of heavily processed tube meat. What can I say? It’s on the way to work, it’s cheap[1], and this is America.

I buy my putrid meat-like sustenance from a convenience chain called RaceTrac, which is based in Georgia and serves that state as well as Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and my home state, Texas.[2] (I would make a blithe joke about “regional cuisine” here, but I’m sure similar foodstuffs exist in your neck of the woods if you know where to look.) Normally I get jalapeño cheddar sausage links if I’m commuting before or at sunrise, and buffalo chicken roller bites if it’s closer to lunchtime. This is a pretty ironclad routine I have, so when something new arrives—like the Italian Pizza Link, which we’ll be examining today—I hesitate to deviate from it. Is my trepidation justified, or am I just a lily-livered philistine?

Let’s take a look at our specimen.
At first glance, I detected pepperoni of the diced Tony’s/Totino’s variety, a cheese that could either be mozzarella or provolone (always hard for me to visually tell the difference), black pepper, and … caraway seeds? Um, okay. And of course, Italian sausage, in clear abundance. That’s pizza-ish enough, I suppose. Pizza carries a heavy risk as a general flavor because although it’s ubiquitous, the definition of it is far from universal. I admit I consider the lack of any tomato-based ingredients a mystifying omission, but maybe it’s best not to kill this thing with overambition before it leaves the concept phase, and if you think I put Heinz ketchup on it, your bags are packed for Crazy Town.

I knew I was in trouble when I picked it up for the first time. Usually I can put the phallic subtext of these things out of mind, but there’s no ignoring it here. The Italian Pizza Link is thick and heavy and bows with obeisance to the force of gravity. I kind of wish I had taken a picture of its inability to maintain its horizontality, but I might have ended up on some watch lists. So the obvious visual connotations are all but unavoidable, but the Italian Pizza Link is also a distinct displeasure to touch and hold. From its disgusting appearance to its baffling ingredient profile to the grease you can smell a mile off, everything about this sausage screamed regret, and I hadn’t even put it in my mouth yet.

You know when you go to a Mexican restaurant and you can tell the tortilla chips have been fried in old oil? That’s not just a feature of the Italian Pizza Link; it’s the primary flavor. I was willing to give the first bite the benefit of the doubt because I didn’t get any of the inner ingredients in it. Unfortunately, the pepperoni and cheese succumb to the overwhelming aura of the grease. This abomination was doomed before it left the factory. No amount of seasoning or flavor variety had any chance of salvaging it.

Although the deal-based nature of the roller grill lends itself to buying in pairs, I’m really glad I only bought one link, because I only ate half of it before waving the white flag. The Crappy Food Critic is still a fledgling young feature, but this is the first food item I’ve given up on without finishing, and it is without question the worst one I’ve subjected myself to yet. That makes it the first inductee into the CFC Hall of Shame, a fate to which I will consign any comestible I fail to consume in its entirety. More effectively than Food, Inc. or Jamie Oliver or any other health-food crusade(r), the Italian Pizza Link made me step back and and wonder just exactly what bilge I’m running through my pipes. It has managed a feat almost no edible object I’m willing to eat has accomplished: it has made me feel ashamed of conspicuous consumption and of being an unrepentant garbage chute. THANKS A LOT, RACETRAC.

One final note: in case I haven’t dissuaded you thoroughly enough or you’re one of those Sharknado-watching ironists who just has to experience a train wreck firsthand, I recommend doing something that normally only Neanderthals do with pizza: dip it in ranch dressing. You’re going to need something to chase that greasy taste. Dr Pepper didn’t cut it. But the most sensible thing to do would be to just avoid it at all costs. Italian Pizza Link, I cast thee out!

[1] though steadily rising. Roller items used to be 2-for-$2, then rose to $2.22 briefly before jumping again to $2.49. I fully expect 2-for-$3 by 2017.

[2] You may also have RaceWay in your state, which is owned by RaceTrac Petroleum, Inc. Whatever the name, it’s exclusive to the South, which explains a lot of what you’ll read here. (It’s unclear to me if RaceWay carries the same items as RaceTrac.)

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2 Responses to Crappy Food Critic #05: RaceTrac Italian Pizza Link

  1. We have a chain called Marathon here in the northeast, and towards central America they have Kum-And-Go. As shameful as it is, I enjoy getting the breaded buffalo chicken ranch dippers; usually 2 for $2.

    This thing looks absolutely disgusting.


  2. J. Eubanks says:

    I saw Kum-and-Go a lot while I was driving through the Midwest several years ago. They have them as far south as Oklahoma though (there's one I know of in Muskogee)


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