In the United States, 7-Elevens are packed with chemical-laden snack food designed with shelf lives, not human lives, in mind. These convenience stores are last-resort pit stops, stocked with old, wrinkled hot dogs rotating in perpetuity inside plastic containers.
But, as I recently discovered, this is not the case in other parts of the world. The truth: Elsewhere, 7-Eleven is actually kind of awesome.
A perfect example? The fare found at Copenhagen's 7-Eleven stores. On my second day in Denmark's capital city, I decided to take a peek inside of the 7-Eleven near my hotel to see what junk food the Danes had up their sleeves. I found the exact opposite of what I expected. In lieu of Cheetos and energy drinks, the brightly lit store was brimming with healthful items like green juices and grain bowls!
I did laps around the place, finding myself shocked in every corner. There was an entire section of Paleo-branded foods, neatly packaged to expose their nutritious seeds and sprouts. The 7-Eleven sold tiny tonics of ginger and fennel, little vitamin-laden vials I threw into my basket immediately. There were salads, wraps, and rye bread sandwiches — and they looked good, too, unlike the underwhelming iceberg items sold stateside.
I wandered toward where the cashier stood, where a familiar convenience store staple, the hot dog, was on display. Instead of looking like sad meat tubes, the hot dogs (and sausages) were plump and vibrantly colored. Their aroma was enticing, not off-putting. I ordered one with ketchup and mustard, and waited as the cashier put my baguette-like bun in an oven. A few minutes later, he handed me my toasty meal. I left the store with dog in hand, happier than ever thanks to the bun baked to order. I bit into the juicy meat, its casing bursting like a fresh, hot sausage should.
It's not just in Copenhagen that hurried shoppers have access to a superior version of the chain.
Taiwan's 7-Eleven offers irresistible baozi, or stuffed bao buns. You need to make sure you get to the convenience store on the earlier side of the day; these handfuls of doughy delight sell out by the afternoon (or sooner).
In Tokyo, one of the perks is the array of sweets packed onto the shelves. Between the Kawaii animal-shaped pastries and packaged mochi, you'd have a hard time trying every dessert available at a Tokyo 7-Eleven. After noshing on some onigiri or fresh noodles, start your dessert exploration with a cup of pudding custard, or Purin. The texture alone is something to write home about.
And just look at this 7-Eleven in Paris!
Back in the United States, I wonder why we're stuck with our less-than-mediocre 7-Elevens. Perhaps someday, the 90-year-old brand will offer American something to get excited about beyond Slurpees. Until then, I'll be dreaming of that Copenhagen hot dog.
Have you been to a 7-Eleven outside the U.S.? Was it actually awesome?