After many weeks of research, travel and personal experience, we've compiled a list of the best convenience stores in the Midwest. These opinions are final for the year of 2022 and we will be taking no further questions at this time. Let's begin:
States: Alaska, Idaho, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming
Headquarters: Bloomington, Minnesota
Founded by Arthur and Alfred Erickson in 1928, Holiday has been a northern Midwest staple for decades, although I'm not really sure why. They are now part of the Circle K family of convenience stores which span across most of the United States.
Highlights: As touted on their website, FREE CONDIMENTS WITH EVERY FOOD PURCHASE.
Author Notes: While Holiday has been conveniently located for a bathroom break and fuel up from time-to-time, it is not my first choice. Inadequate food choices and poor layout resulting in an overall average experience. No great knocks, but nothing special.
States: Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas
Headquarters: Tulsa, Oklahoma
QuikTrip was founded by Chester Cadieux in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1958. This chain dominates the lower Midwest and a good portion of the South with loyal fans across the nation. Apparently they span across 11 states, although my inconclusive research lists nine (a little suspicious).
Highlights: QuikTrip’s are typically large and offer a wide variety of food and beverage options. They rank highly on places to work and you will rarely visit a dirty store. They also produce an “arguably best convenience store hotdog”.
Author’s Takes: I have never had a bad experience at a QuikTrip location, but I’ve never had a “wow, that was amazing” one either. QuikTrip needs a signature menu item and a wow-factor to keep me coming back for more and to crack the top 3 rankings. QuikTrip has never let me down, but often leaves me feeling uninspired.
3. Kum & Go
States: Iowa, Arkansas, Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Wyoming
Headquarters: Des Moines, Iowa
Kum & Go is maybe the best name for a convenience store on the planet. Founded by William Krause and Tony Gentle in Hampton, Iowa in 1959, Kum & Go now spans across 11 states. Often seen as an underdog in the convenience store market, this retail chain holds its own.
Highlights: In 2021, Kum & Go received a Leed Certificate for “Green Building Practices” that recognizes architectural sustainability efforts. Their stores are clean, well-organized and provide a pleasant shopping experience. These guys take their food seriously and have intentions on bringing more healthy food to store locations (if that’s your thing).
Author’s Takes: Kum & Go is still searching for its signature calling card. They rank highly on food and store layout, but if given the choice between their stores and say #2 on the list, they usually lose out. I expect big things from this company in the coming years and wouldn’t be surprised if they keep climbing the rankst. Kum & Go never let's me down.
2. Casey's General Store
States: Illinois, Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee and Wisconsin
Headquarters: Ankeny, Iowa
Casey’s has been a Midwest icon for decades, and for good reason, the chain has provided consistent, quality service since the 1960’s! Founded in Boone, Iowa by Donald Lamberti, the retail chain has expanded to all 12 Midwestern states and beyond.
Highlights: Pizza. Maybe it’s not the first thing you think of when visiting a gas station, but Casey’s is the 5th highest volume pizza seller in the United States. Casey’s receives votes across the region for “best gas station”.
Author’s Takes: Casey’s is consistent, you know exactly what you’re in for when visiting one of these stores. The pizza is the best you will get from a convenience store. If there was a knock, it is that they lack in store design innovation, at times are rundown and can feel dirty. Casey’s has never let me down.
1. Kwik Trip/Kwik Star
States: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa
Headquarters: La Crosse, Wisconsin
Kwik Trip/Kwik Star is taking the Midwest by storm. Founded in Eau Claire, Wisconsin by Don Zietlow, the chain has spread rapidly across three Midwest states with plans for further expansion. Once small and mighty, the entire Midwest will soon know about this fine establishment.
Highlights: Kwik Trip/Kwik Star has consecutive awards for “cleanest bathroom” and “best convenience store workplace environment”. Customers rave about the fried chicken, bakery “the Kwikery”, Karuba coffee, and the take and bake pizza.
Author’s Takes: When you stop at a Kwik Trip/Kwik Star you are going to have a great experience from start to finish. The stores have an accessible layout that creates a stress-free shopping experience. The food is fresh and the bathrooms are clean. To top it off, you rarely encounter an unhappy employee, they are notoriously known for being friendly and live up to the hype. In fact many visitors have even experienced the notorious "Midwest Goodbye" and had a hard time leaving the store. Kwik Trip has never let me down.