Gone are the days of stopping at a gas station and hurriedly filling up for gas.
No way: You stop and you shop. At many of the oversized gas stations popping up all over the Lone Star State, the bathrooms are impeccably clean. There's a small food court with aisles of chips and candy. There are koozies to buy. Might be a car wash. There is definitely one of those giant fountain soda machines with nearly every kind of fizzy drink out there.
The founder of Fuel City, John Benda, just opened his third giant gas station, this one in Haltom City. But while Benda is interested in serving roadtripping customers who passed three Buc-ee's on the way, Fuel City isn't quite the same.
CEO and founder John Benda's Fuel City fill-up shops are decidedly wackier. (And that's saying something, because that buck-toothed beaver is pretty odd.)
On a tour around the 8-acre property in Haltom City, the founder found himself saying more than once, "no one's done something like that."
Benda has decided that his customers might want to sit and stay awhile, so he built an enclosed patio with TVs and free public wifi. Those driving through the car wash will get a free show from the seven ornery animals fenced in behind it. The zonkey -- a zebra-donkey mix named Stormy -- is probably the peskiest.
Of course, the newest Fuel City sells tacos. Texas Monthly helped the Fuel City in Dallas become a food destination when it ranked the picadillo taco as the No. 1 taco in the state. Before that 2006 article, taco sales were "quiet," Benda says. Now, at Fuel City's three locations -- Dallas, Mesquite and Halton City -- customers sometimes line up for tacos, which are available 24 hours a day.
The famous tacos follow similar recipes that helped the Dallas original become a must-visit spot. Still:
"We think these tacos are a little bit better," says Joseph Bickham, president of Fuel City.
They're still $1.62 each, cash only. The barbacoa and pastor are expected to be some of the top sellers, like they are at the other gas stations.
Benda and president of the company Joseph Bickham say they have no plans to expand outside of North Texas for now. Fuel City No. 4 is expected to open in Saginaw in late 2017.
"We love Dallas-Fort Worth," Bickham says. "This is where John and I were born and raised."
Benda has a ranch in Eureka, Texas, near Corsicana, and most of the animals at his gas stations came from his private property. "They're kind of like my pets," Benda says.
After an animal dies, it is usually memorialized as a bust on one of the Fuel City walls. Inside the new Fuel City in Haltom City, the walls are adorned with animal heads "so they live forever," Bickham explains.
Fuel City is located at 1715 Haltom Road, Haltom City. It is expected to open by Dec. 24.