Customers going to Wawa’s newest store at 901 South St. on Thursday got to try the Broad Street Meatball hoagie recipe created by award-winning chefs Michael Solomonov and Steve Cook of Zahav, and Wawa’s chef Farley Kaiser.

This preview ahead of an April fund-raiser was part of Wawa’s grand opening at the South Street location, which also features free coffee all day.

The chefs created the new recipe by first putting garlic aioli and provolone cheese on an Amoroso roll and toasting it to basically make a “cheesy garlic toast,” Kaiser said at the event. Then they loaded the roll with meatballs in marinara, a little bit of hot chili pepper relish, and a dusting of grated Parmesan.

“We’re just a convenience store, but when you have James Beard award-winning chefs and restaurants, that those folks that have created them are here and have a collaboration with us, that makes us feel super special,” Wawa CEO Chris Gheysens said at the grand opening. And this new item will help benefit a wonderful cause here in the city."

This item will be available Monday in Center City stores, and proceeds up to $10,000 will go to the Broad Street Ministry, a church and social-services agency that helps people experiencing homelessness and those in poverty. Wawa also recently completed an eight-week campaign in 14 stores raising funds for those experiencing homelessness and presented a $25,000 check Thursday to Project HOME, a nonprofit dedicated to helping this population.

Sister Mary Scullion, the nonprofit’s co-founder and executive director, said that the funds raised through this in-store campaign will support the Maguire Residence in Kensington.

A sample of the Broad Street Meatball hoagie at Wawa's opening at 901 South St. on Thursday.
Ellie Silverman
A sample of the Broad Street Meatball hoagie at Wawa's opening at 901 South St. on Thursday.

Bob Spena, 72, a retired pastry chef, tried a sample of the new meatball sandwich. He dubbed it “very good,” and said he would get it again. As a motorcyclist, he said, he goes out of his way while on the road to stop at Wawa when he needs gas or something to eat and drink.

“I’m a dedicated Wawa guy. I love Wawa,” he said. “They make a good sandwich at a good price. That’s the bottom line."

On the “Hoagies for Hope” campaign, Wawa is partnering with the Rooster, one of Solomonov and Cook’s restaurants, which has donated 100 percent of its profits to the Broad Street Ministry since opening in 2017. A ceremonial hoagie was built Thursday by Kaiser, Solomonov and Cook.

“We’re good Philadelphians," Solomonov said before the ceremonial building of the Broad Street Meatball hoagie. "Why would we not want to work with Wawa? It’s the best thing ever.”

Wawa is one of Cook’s favorite restaurants in the city, he said.

“To be associated with an institution like Wawa is an honor and almost like a sign that we sort of made it,” Cook said.

This is the chain’s sixth store to open in 2019, a year in which Wawa is planning a record 63 new stores while remodeling 59 others in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Florida, and Washington. Wawa, which has more than 800 convenience retail stores with more than 600 offering gasoline, also recently launched catering services in Philadelphia.

Rashika Kaushik, 26, of Center City, was eating a Sizzli breakfast sandwich of sausage, egg and cheese on a croissant and an iced coffee Thursday morning. She came to this Wawa specifically to see the grand opening.

“This is my dream come true. To be interviewed about Wawa for the Inquirer is the most Philadelphia thing,” she said. Kaushik then remarked that when getting iced coffee, “you just push on the machine and the coffee just fills your soul.”

Her friend Ramon Lee, 29, lives across the street from the new Wawa and joined her in eating Sizzlis on Thursday morning. He noticed the store had bananas in it a couple days ago and thought that meant it was opening soon and he wanted to be there.

“I’ve been to Sixers draft parties, I’ve been to games," Lee said. But “this is truly the most Philly thing I’ve ever been part of.”