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The world's largest chain of fast food restaurants

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The world's strangest cultural bellwether

  • May 17, 2000
  • by
Pros: Fascinating cultural phenomenon, somewhat addicting potato-type offerings

Cons: An abomination to the gastronome, an embarrassment for advocates of unrestrained free-market economic systems

I cannot even pretend to view McDonald's as a simple chain restaurant, and have been meaning to pick up one of the "Behind the Golden Arches"-style books on it to satiate some of my curiousity about its bizarre prowess.

Consider this: you have all seen or read actual news reports when some far-flung country opens its first McDonald's. Moscow's first Mickey D's seemed to rival the fall of the Berlin Wall as a "news" event.

Cost-of-living indices are frequently reported in terms of the cost of a McDonald's hamburger. (Good heavens, look at that rip-off in Tokyo!)

I have a grandfather who boasts about the fact that he has never once set foot in a McDonald's[*]. He is not a rural fellow with some sort of decent excuse, but an urban fellow who literally circumnavigates the globe twice a year, giving him plenty of opportunities to reach out in desperation at aeroport McD's and the like. How has he managed? Most people simply write this story off as yet another silly tale from a snob (I, knowing the fellow, believe him), but the stranger thing is that this is actually an anecdote worth telling. That most people find it unbelievable should give anyone pause for thought. I have never, say, shopped in a "J.C. Penney's." Nobody cares. I've been to Sears and other stores of that ilk. There is nothing of note there, but to not have experienced that which is the scary-looking clown and his strange foodstuffs -- that, that is a story; it will probably show up in his obituary.

The most puzzling thing for me about McDonald's is its absolute inflexibility and consistency -- consider the ill-fated "Arch Deluxe" burger and the stories of the vast fortune that had been expended on the research and development of a sandwich. Good grief. A McDonald's menu change is a very, very serious event indeed...

...which is why it fascinates me when they will now and then make concessions to regional and cultural differences. A McDonald's in Tokyo is not that far removed from a McDonald's in New York (more on that in a moment), but there are small differences, and they're important ones: when you see a regional variation in a McMenu, it is the greatest proof you can get that that particular quirk is very firmly entrenched in that culture. I have seen McLobster items in the Northeast. Canadian McDs sell (thankfully, because it is actually somewhat tasty) pizza, which was test-marketed but removed in US markets. There is a rumour that Utah-area ones have something called "fry sauce," a concession to that region's affection for mayonnaise-style dips. Cheap beer is available in McFrance. And so on. A friend who knew I was homesick sent me an unfailing badge of Canadiana: a pile of McDonald's vinegar packets. White vinegar. Not even the most low-brow chip wagon in Canada dares sell fried potatoes without white vinegar (malt is not 'done'), and McVinegar packets are, natch, exclusive to Canada.

There is also the dodgy issue of the coffee stirrers having been altered for the American market because they were reportedly being used as coke (cocaine) spoons; Canadian Mcstirrers remain spoon-like. Make of that what you will.

Right, right. I get hung up on strange elements of pop culture, and to me, McDonald's is the strangest. On to the food.

Two confessions:

* I enjoy McDonald's fries

* I am, and have always been, a vegetarian, and so may be somewhat ill-qualified to review what is usually thought of as a burger joint

Vegetarianism aside, I can advise that this is one of the more disgusting fast-food places in which to get a cheese sandwich. (You know -- cheeseburger, no meat.) Unripe tomatoes, icky cheese and bland buns make for a rather unpleasant bit of food.

All McFood seems to have a rather strange quality which one either likes or doesn't: none of it is quite "normal," which see especially the sugary, extruded fries. Putting salads in decent containers has been a boon, but I am still not terribly impressed with the contents. The beverage selection irritates me -- being over twelve, you start to wish you lived in France when constantly confronted by the sad soda pop and milk offerings. There really isn't much more to say here.

Which makes the popularity of this place all the more puzzling. I finally figured it out on one of my first "adult" trips to New York: I had spent the day wandering the streets of Manhattan. I was ravenous. I passed restaurant after restaurant and rejected them all: too snooty, too filthy, too expensive, too non-vegetarian, too...I ended up, much to my shame, stopping in a McDonald's. I knew exactly what I was going to get, knew it was going to be hassle-free and quick, and taste became secondary. I think this sheer consistency probably accounts for at least half of all the "billions and billions served" -- supposedly, the average adult sticks to a very limited number of meals in his regular diet, and McDonald's offers fewer surprises than the average Archie comic: pure, plain, digestible and utterly fake Americana.

[*] Those of you who have been irked by the 'snot-nosed elitist' quality to some of my reviews can now placate themselves with the knowledge that it is partially inherited


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review by . August 21, 2013
I normally use the drive thru, but last week I went inside the restaurant to eat. There were several employees and they were all bullying and teasing another young employee. A management-type person was standing right there and did not do ANYTHING!      I will not go to a place that condones this type of behavior by its employees - I will now go to a different place for lunch - maybe the burger place across the street.
review by . January 21, 2012
posted in Love Bites
Best junk (food) in the world!
I like McDonald's especially when I crave for fried food. French fries is good but I only like them with chilli (especially the sweet and hot version; like Thai chilli) sauce and not ketchup. The only burger I eat is Filet-O-Fish and nothing else  (oh, may be once in a blue moon the McChicken). McDonald is also great to have when I'm broke! Other than that, I've no idea what the rest of McDonald means ;-)      Oh, I do love its hashbrowns! Matter of fact is, …
Quick Tip by . November 13, 2011
There's nothing I can find appealing about McDonald's, as I think they're the epitome of cheap, processed garbage passing as food. Hell, just thinking about their name and image is enough to make my skin crawl.  Don't get me wrong, I like fast food when it's done right, but McDonald's and quality are like antonyms. I haven't been to one in five years, and the only things I ate there were the chocolate shakes and fries (which I didn't eat frequently). Ever since …
Quick Tip by . November 13, 2011
Someone has to speak up for McDonald’s. I’ll gladly accept the challenge. I’ve eaten their burgers in cities across the nation since 1964 and I’m still munching with delight. The regular hamburger is my favorite, with the perfect combination of soft bun, meat patty, catsup, mustard, dill pickle and chopped onion. For the price, I’m always surprised by the consistency, the lack of grease, the flavor and the…well, unami.       Transfat? …
Quick Tip by . January 07, 2011
The least favorite of fast food options, I'll only eat here as an absolute last resort and I'm starving to near death. I used to like their fries until I tried Carl's Jr's which are far better. I think that Mickey D's has long ago given up on any sort of quality and gone for profit and expansion. When I'm traveling, I get a little frustrated that this fast food place is in a culinary city like Paris or somewhere where travellers should be encouraged to try the local cuisine which is going to be …
Quick Tip by . January 07, 2011
The French Fries at McDonald's are about all I will eat there. They are probably one of the better fast food fries around. Otherwise, watch out for the chicken nuggets which are made of sketchy excess chicken parts that are turned into paste, dyed and re-modeled into what resembles a nugget. Yum, yum.        
Quick Tip by . July 19, 2010
posted in Awesomeness
A cheap tasty fix, but beware, as the quality can change making it exciting to eat at sometimes.
Quick Tip by . July 23, 2010
Personally McDs makes me sick to eat anymore except for the occasional breakfast sandwich, but they do serve their purpose. As a person that home cooks most of my children's meals, happy meals now and then can be effective tools for treats for them and they can burn off most of the crap they eat playing on the play structure until they are worn out.
Quick Tip by . May 27, 2010
Just had their Reese's McFlurry and found it to be a delightful little treat. I still prefer the Reese's Sonic Blast from Sonic, though.
review by . August 25, 2009
posted in Awesomeness
You can order the McMystery meal if you want-it is either fresh cooked or a greasy gray patty!
It's hard to say what you can get at a McDonalds these days.      After I moved I got to experience a whole new slew of fast food locales with more visits then I have in teh past.  The more I ate at them, the more I realized that McDonalds can't cut it for me in my fastfood diet anymore.      Sure they're fries are okay, and only okay.  Compared to the freshness of In N Out fries or the beefiness of Wendy's …
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K. Mennie ()
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Member Since: Oct 27, 2010
Last Login: Nov 23, 2010 02:45 PM UTC
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McDonald's is the world's largest fast food chain, serving more than 47 million customers daily, and having more than 31,000 locations worldwide. The restaurant serves traditional American foods like burgers, fries, shakes, and chicken, and has branched out into other foods in recent years, such as salads, Mexican cuisine, and snack wraps.

McDonald's has come under heavy criticism in recent years for its role in contributing to growing obesity trends in many nations. As a response, the company prints nutrition information on many food wrappers, in addition to serving healthier fares such as salads.

The company was founded in San Bernardino, CA, in 1940, and is currently headquartered in Oak Brook, Illinois. As of 2008, the company had over 380,000 employees worldwide. 
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