IT FELT LIKE THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE. For 17-year-old Daniel McCoy Jr., a Mvskoke Creek/Citizen Potawatomi kid newly arrived in Santa Fe from small-town Oklahoma in the mid-1990s, the gas station and convenience store near Cerrillos Road and St. Michael’s Drive was home to the most interesting mix of folks he had ever seen.

“I just always felt very accepted,” the La Mesilla–based artist remembers of the years he spent hanging at Allsup’s while attending the Institute of American Indian Arts. “You can see some nice BMWs, you can see a cool lowrider, and you can see a car that barely makes it in the parking lot. It’s a place of equality.”

Some of his most memorable college experiences went down at that store. “One time, we helped an old gangster change his tire,” he recalls. “We needed money that day, made friends, and he gave us a $20 bill and bought us a bunch of burritos. We were like, ‘All right!’ ”

Daniel McCoy's "Burrito Man and Hot Sauce Man," 2019. Courtesy of Daniel McCoy.

More than a decade ago, McCoy decided to honor Allsup’s food in his paintings. In the artist’s signature punk, Americana, and Pop Art–influenced style, a hot-sauce-packet character has a pair of white-gloved hands and a jaunty grin. “I thought, Oh, nobody’s gonna understand this piece.” The work took second place at Santa Fe Indian Market in its category that year.

Images of Allsup’s taco sauce, chimichangas, and burritos continued to appear in McCoy’s works, culminating in a 2019 exhibition, Allsup’s in the Hinterlands, in which he combines images of colorful mountains and foothills with the gas station’s iconography. “How does the artist return to landscape after the colors of sugar water and hot sauce have tainted the palette?” the gallery description read.

Daniel McCoy’s "Where Trouble Began," 2018. Courtesy of Daniel McCoy.

THIS YEAR, ALLSUP’S CELEBRATES the 50th anniversary of the World Famous Allsup’s Burrito, a deep-fried gut bomb that has tempted the palates of generations of New Mexicans. Since a baked burrito fatefully made its way into a doughnut fryer at Lonnie Allsup’s Clovis convenience store in 1974, Allsup’s addictive lineup of proprietary fried foods—especially the original Beef & Bean Burrito and the “Chimi” chimichanga burrito—has permeated New Mexico culture.

Allsup’s offerings inspire a cultlike following among gas station food enthusiasts, YouTube influencers, drunk college students, long-haul truckers, and hungry road trippers. Clothing lines have sprouted in tribute, with T-shirts and hoodies honoring the convenience store’s unique stamp on the Land of Enchantment. Tattoo artists bestow renderings of the chain’s logo, hot sauce packets, and wrapped burritos upon the faithful. After Yesway’s acquisition of the chain in 2019, which expanded Allsup’s to more than 400 stores across New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma, Allsup’s logos and food continue to proliferate at art exhibitions, memorialized in photographs, paintings, drawings, and cartoons. And at stores in Alamogordo, Carrizozo, Tinnie, and Roswell, company-sanctioned murals by local artists pay tribute to the unique culture of Allsup’s, which is all things to all New Mexicans.

Lonnie Allsup’s first drive-in grocery. Photograph courtesy of Yesway.

A 2012 map created by graphic designer Steve Lovelace, The Corporate States of America, shows the brands most identified with each state. The Zia-adorned Allsup’s logo floats over New Mexico, as inextricable from the state’s identity as the scent of fried food from your car after you’ve brought a bag of steaming Chicken and Hatch Green Chile Chimis in from the cold.

Part of that deep-seated staying power comes from the brand’s story, which begins in 1956. That year, Lonnie Allsup bought a drive-in grocery in Roswell, stocking it with staples such as milk and bread in addition to fresh seasonal produce. Open late and seven days a week, Lonnie’s Drive-In Grocery was the place to pick up a pack of cigarettes or grab a watermelon on ice from a horse trough out front. Soon after, at a customer’s suggestion, Lonnie added gas pumps outside.

“I’m gonna be honest right now. There ain’t really gas station food like them Allsup’s burritos, bro.”

— Albuquerque influencer Johnny James

In 1964, he began a new food-and-gas chain in Clovis, and “There’s one near you” became the Allsup’s company slogan. When he died in 2018, the founder was remembered for Allsup’s being among the first stores in the nation to offer 24-hour self-service gasoline, as well as its early adoption of selling foods cooked on-site to hungry travelers.

The burrito has its own fiery origin story. On September 7, 1974, Bob Pitcock was ready to try something new. The employee at Allsup’s in Clovis was looking to sell more of the baked beef-and-bean burritos that sat on the counter warmer, so he slipped them into the doughnut fryer. As the story goes, their golden-delicious hue and scent tempted the next wave of customers, who quickly bought them all. When Lonnie heard about the success, he purchased a vent hood for Pitcock’s store location—and thus was born the treat many New Mexicans associate with their most formative memories.

Military servicepeople stationed overseas have requested burrito care packages. Illustration by Michael Byers.

“MAN, Y’ALL REALLY HYPIN’ UP THIS GAS STATION FOOD,” musician and influencer Johnny James says on an episode of his podcast, Respect the Connect. He’s imitating out-of-staters when they encounter New Mexicans’ love for the Allsup’s burrito. “But listen, I’ve been all over the country, I’m gonna be honest right now,” he continues. “There ain’t really gas station food like them Allsup’s burritos, bro.” James is the Albuquerque-based proprietor of the Allsick clothing brand, which folds the cultural touchstone into a regularly sold-out line of T-shirts, hats, and hoodies, all of which feature a take on the store’s logo combined with the popular local phrase “All sick,” meaning that something’s very cool.

Christine Hernandez, an artist who lives in Albuquerque, was inspired by the company’s logo for All Sad, her small-batch line of T-shirts and sweatshirts that replaces the Allsup’s Zia with an eye and a teardrop. “There’s that slang, like you say to your friend, ‘Oh, you’re all sad er what?’ ” she explains. “It’s like when you drop your favorite cookie and you’re all sad about it.” Hernandez says she thinks of Allsup’s as an artistically inspirational place in addition to its logo. “I’d always thought it’d be so cool to do a little art gallery there,” she says fondly of an older store on Agua Fria Street, in Santa Fe. “Rent it out and do a short-term art show.”

A pueblo-style Allsup's store in Santa Fe. Photograph by Douglas Merriam.

“There’s a kitsch about it,” says Frank Rose of the Allsup’s-inspired art he’s seen over the past decade. Rose is the owner of Hecho a Mano, in Santa Fe, where he serves as McCoy’s gallerist. “But there’s also a certain level of pride that comes from Allsup’s being a staple of New Mexican iconography. It’s sort of democratic—it’s a place where everybody can go to get their needs met.”

Cartoonist Ryan T. Cook drew upon the fandom of the Shredded Beef Chimi for Gas Station Food, his 2023 travelogue and graphic novel of northern New Mexico delicacies. After a visit to the La Cieneguilla Petroglyphs, his motorcycle-riding protagonist fuels up at an Allsup’s. In a tribute to Lonnie Allsup’s merchandising genius, Cook vividly describes the Chimi’s native environs: “The prepared foods are displayed like hot jewels near the register.”

A demo of the proper technique to add hot sauce to your Allsup's burrito. Photograph by Douglas Merriam.

Over coffee, Cook explains, “There’s a cheeky quote, ‘Museums are where art goes to die.’ I’m thinking, food culture is the same way. It’s not this dead, taxidermied animal that’s behind glass.” He loved the process of finely detailing the deep-fried outsides and “savory ooze” of the chimichanga’s interior. “This is what people are eating at this place in time, you know? People have such emotional memories and ties to this food, based off who they experienced it with and the time in their life when they had it.”

Most people who have Allsup’s tattoos get at least a few other more serious ones first, according to Jennifer Billig. The owner of Altura Tattoo, in Santa Fe, Billig saw her first tattooed ode to the chain—a taco-sauce packet—shortly after moving to the state in 2014. “Folks I’ve met who got the logo, at least one of them had moved away from New Mexico at that point,” she says. “It’s just, like, this is a funny thing they identify with from their youth in New Mexico.” Billig says she mostly sees burritos and chimichangas on “people with lots of tattoos and a good sense of humor. Like, nobody’s getting that because they think it’s the finest food they’ve ever eaten.”

Ryan T. Cook’s "Gas Station Food," 2023. Courtesy of Ryan T. Cook.

AND YET, YESWAY CHAIRMAN AND CEO Tom Trkla says that Allsup’s “destination food service products” were a key factor in the company’s 2019 decision to acquire the chain. He compares Allsup’s food to that of two other gas station chains: the prized pizza from Casey’s general stores, located in the Midwest; and the hyped hoagies at Wawa, along the East Coast.

“When I say destination, I mean that people will drive there to get the food,” he says, “not just gas and a pack of gum.” The national food press agrees. In 2021, Eater called Allsup’s burritos one of the best gas station snacks in America. Yesway has since made Allsup’s the main food service platform in most of the Yesway stores in the Midwest. That means you can now walk into a Yesway store in Belmond, Iowa, and get an Allsup’s chimichanga.

The Beef & Bean Burrito wrappers still sport their original brown-and-orange 1970s color scheme. “When you have a brand that is well-known, revered, and iconic, you don’t change it,” Trkla says simply. Instead, Yesway has leaned way into the Allsup’s following, amping up its social media features of food products and their cartoon renditions.

On April Fool’s Day in 2021, their Instagram and Facebook accounts read, “You asked. We delivered. Introducing our new, limited edition Allsup’s burrito and chimi-scented candles!” Accompanying photos showed Beef & Bean Burrito, Hatch Green Chile & Cheese Burrito, and Shredded Beef Chimi scented candles. With the right accessories, you can even cosplay at night as a 50-year-old snack: The Allsup’s website’s ever-expanding Cool Merch section features Beef & Bean Burrito wrapper–inspired baby and oversize blankets along with a burrito-shaped pillow.


🌯 1956. Year Allsup's was founded
🌯 4. Number of murals painted by local artists at New Mexico stores (Alamogordo, Carrizozo, Roswell, Tinnie)
🌯 1974. Year the World Famous Allsup’s burrito was introduced
🌯 119. Number of Allsup’s stores in New Mexico
🌯 3. Number of states with allsup’s stores (New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas)
🌯 428. Number of Yesway and Allsup’s stores nationwide
🌯 22 MILLION.  Approximate number of Allsup’s Burritos sold annually

The Allsup’s food lexicon is quirky. Despite some slight cosmetic distinctions between the company’s burritos and chimichangas—the Chimis are larger—both are deep-fried, which rubs up against the unique definition of chimichanga (a deep-fried burrito of Southwestern origin). Also, though the vinegar-rich so-called taco sauce is largely meant to pair with burritos, Allsup’s does sell some lesser-known taco varieties. The stores have a curated menu that can feature up to 70 items, depending on what each local market demands. (In some, that means catfish nuggets and chicken gizzards.)

Yesway has embraced the mystique; in 2023, Allsup’s introduced Beef & Bean Burrito– and Hatch Green Chile–flavored tortilla chips. Last fall, the company also announced that in celebration of the burrito’s 50th birthday, customers can now order six-, 12-, 24-, 48-, and even 72-packs of Allsup’s burritos and chimichangas online, along with taco sauce and salsa.

In 2023, Allsup’s introduced Beef & Bean Burrito– and Hatch Green Chile–flavored tortilla chips. Photograph by Douglas Merriam

THE COMPANY HAS HEWED CLOSELY to Lonnie Allsup’s original business practice of mostly keeping stores in rural markets, where they’re often the only place for miles around where residents can buy grocery staples. Yesway has also increased the availability of proprietary grocery products stamped with the Allsup’s label, making a wider variety of groceries available to towns that would otherwise be labeled as food deserts.

Jeff Scarbrough worked for Allsup’s at its former headquarters in Clovis for more than two decades before its acquisition by Yesway, where he now serves as senior vice president and director of fuels. He says the company’s convenience-store ethos is rooted in that first drive-in store in Roswell.

“We go back in everybody’s memory to when they had their first experience with the store, and that goes back into the fifties,” he says. “That follows everybody through their whole lives. We are the social center in a lot of towns that we’re in.”

That small-town role was crucial during the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon fires in 2022. As New Mexico’s largest-ever wildfire raged through San Miguel and Mora counties, the lone Mora Allsup’s store placed billboards outside it to show the route of the fires, closed roads, and stages of evacuations. “We had the only stable internet,” remembers district manager Jenny Urquhart Mahmoud, “so the community was coming here to make phone calls to family. We trucked in donations, and then when we were behind the fire lines and couldn’t truck in any more, we got police escorts to help scan the store for more goods to donate. A lot of people were coming to us for information.”

Christine Hernandez, who creates the All Sad shirts, feels a similar kind of integral connection with Allsup’s. “It’s one of those real places,” she says. “I mean, it’s a convenience store. It’s a gas station. Everybody needs these necessities. It’s a kind of a place where everyone can feel really comfortable—at home in that kind of beautiful grittiness that is just daily life in New Mexico.”

Read more: Native artists Daniel McCoy Jr., Celestino Crow, and DeAnna Autumn Leaf Suazo talk about their new designs for the Albuquerque hotel.

Christine Hernandez, an artist who lives in Albuquerque, was inspired by the company’s logo for All Sad. Photograph courtesy of Christine Hernandez.



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