Since the turn of the 20th century, when Americans would buy gasoline at grocery stores, food and petroleum have carried on a torrid love affair. True, nowadays many of us associate gas stations with Snickers bars and Doritos—craveable snacks in their own right—but against the monotony of the asphalt highway, countless entrepreneurs have seen fuel stops as social hubs ripe for an expertly-made burrito, a Czech bakery, or even a BBQ joint paying homage to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Some of these restaurants, like Route 66’s Pops, with its gargantuan, LED-illuminated statue of a soda bottle, call out loudly to travelers. Others, like the French bistro Caffé REL, hide behind a nondescript fueling station. And on a culinary tour of the nation’s fuel pumps, you’ll encounter plenty of former gas stations whose food has replaced their gas entirely. The fungi-shaped Mushroom Building, in Dassel, Minnesota, for example, retains its dormant pump for posterity, but it now functions as a community center that serves up a mean brownie sundae. Petroleum may be on its way out, but dessert? It’s not going anywhere.