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A Gorgeous Place to Get a McGriddle
September 14, 2012 9:00 AM   Subscribe

The World's most beautiful McDonalds may very well be located in Budapest, Hungary. With vaulted, coffered ceilings wrought-iron scrollwork and modern chairs, it's a lovely place to order a cheeseburger.

In the United States, the nation's most beautiful McDonalds may well be located in New Hyde Park. Known as the Denton House, built in 1795, the property was falling apart and the land purchased by McDonalds with the intention of tearing it down. The citizens of New Hyde Park secured landmark building status for the house, and McDonalds had no choice but to restore the building and insert a restaurant into it.

Others disagree on the most beautiful McDonalds in the world. Some say it's located in Clifton Hill, Melbourne. An art-deco-inspired masterpiece, it was originally the United Kingdom Hotel.

Or perhaps you prefer the fountain and cobblestone courtyard of the McDonalds located in Antigua, Guatemala. Or the one in Milan, Italy located near the Duomo.

Or maybe the natural landscape lends class to your Big Mac, such as in Yangshuo, China.

Whatever your choice, you're sure not to catch a glimpse of Ronald McDonald's weirdly-shaped butt in any of these.

(Hat-tip to kottke.org for the inspiration.)
posted by xingcat (82 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
Love this bit of snobbery in the second link's comments: "I swore off McDonalds decades ago but will admit to using their toilets." What a populist!
posted by yerfatma at 9:03 AM on September 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


I wonder if they all have that same McDonald's smell.
posted by goethean at 9:06 AM on September 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Relevant: the first line of Kottke's review of a Burger King twelve years ago.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 9:08 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


You can call it snobbery if you want, but I swore off McD's years ago because it left me feeling literally ill and covered in a fine film of oil.
posted by DU at 9:08 AM on September 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ronald packs a machine gun in Lebanon
posted by Burhanistan at 9:10 AM on September 14, 2012


Also, this doesn't have to be a moral thing about McDonalds. We all know the food is shitty.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:12 AM on September 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


I guess if a country imports the worst of our consumer culture, the least they could do is make it aesthetically pleasing.
posted by Rykey at 9:13 AM on September 14, 2012


See also: Rock N' Roll McDonald's in Chicago, immortalized by Wesley Willis.
posted by usonian at 9:14 AM on September 14, 2012


"I swore off McDonalds decades ago but will admit to using their toilets."

Ha. That reminds me a lot of when I lived in Eastern Europe in 1994-5. The fast food restaurants in some of the countries were literally the only lace to use a public restroom that had both a toilet seat and toilet paper, much less any amount of cleanliness. I am fairly certain my fast food intake increased only because I was looking for decent bathrooms. In the country I was living in (Romania) there was one American fast food place which was a Pizza Hut, in Bucharest. It was a high status place because the food there was quite expensive relative to what you'd get in a traditional restaurant where locals ate. So you'd see people going there with fur coats and cell phones (not quite as usual there) and there was table service.

I was there when the first McDonalds opened in the country. There were armed guards and a line around the corner for people wanting to get in and order overpriced (for local standards) and uninteresting (for my standards) cookie cutter food.

I stopped to use the restroom at what has been described as the "World's Largest" McDonald's in Oklahoma. I think the restroom approach to fast food comes sort of hand in hand with so many of them being at rest areas in the US.
posted by jessamyn at 9:16 AM on September 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


In NYC we have a luxury McDonalds in the financial district that has a guy playing a grand piano, flowers on the tables, complementary WSJ, bloomberg ticker, an orchid showroom, and table sevice. They used to have a doorman in uniform but I guess they got rid of him.

It is so over the top ridiculous you can't help but love it.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:16 AM on September 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hah, the McDonald's in Antigua was both one of the first places I ate in Guatemala and one of the first pictures I took of Guatemala. It's not particularly distinctive on the inside, and like everywhere else in Guatemala that does cash business, there is an armed guard with a shotgun standing over you as you eat, which is a bit unnerving.
posted by empath at 9:22 AM on September 14, 2012


the McDonalds in Freeport, Maine was one of the first of these trojan horses, and was a hot topic in Midcoast Maine when it opened in the 80's. Know what? The tacky plastic ones are more fun. If I'm going to patronize McDonalds, I want to justify it by laughing at the excesses.
posted by Mayor Curley at 9:24 AM on September 14, 2012


"I swore off McDonalds decades ago but will admit to using their toilets."

I don't like KFC, so the last time I went into one was the one at Marble Arch, near London's biggest Primark, to use the loo. I had a tummy bug for three days. On a kids' consumer programme years ago, one kid filmed a report complaining about the state of fast food loos (in my small town it was literally one of the few restaurants in town, and where kids met up at the weekend) and he had a point.

Jessamyn - there was a McDonalds in Tallinn, and it was really weird to go to a city with just one American chain outlet (there were no Starbucks there). I remember it being a big deal when McDonalds opened in Moscow so I imagine it would have been exciting in a former Soviet state. I've eaten at Quik in Belgium (greasy, expensive) and Hesburger in Finland (expensive by UK standards, actually quite nice) and I was disappointed in France when the local McDo's had sold out of goat's cheese burgers, because, come on, a McDonald's product with goat's cheese in it?

Also, this doesn't have to be a moral thing about McDonalds. We all know the food is shitty.

I do like a Fillet o Fish, though I try not to eat fast food and ignore the £1.99 burger-and-fries coupons that appear in our commuter paper. The hamburger is relatively healthy - on British TV, all food product advertising is assessed against guidelines for high fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) content, and the regular hamburger is one of only a few prepared foods to not get the HFSS restriction. It's usually things like lean meats, chicken, milk and fruit and veg that don't, so I was surprised. And wonder what's in the cheese they put in a cheeseburger, because that is HFSS.
posted by mippy at 9:25 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not my pictures, but the prettiest McDonalds I've ever seen was one in Kyoto. It had mood lighting and fancy booths (barely viewable here).
posted by koucha at 9:25 AM on September 14, 2012


Oh wow, I somehow missed the courtyard in the McDonald's when I was there. That is very nice.

I adore the colonial architecture in cities like Antigua, Leon and Granada. Do a fly over of them in google maps to see how much green there is. Every block and almost every building has a garden in the center. It's amazing to wake up in the morning to birds in the trees outside your hostel room door, or sit in a hammock on the inside with rain falling. If I'm ever a millionaire, I'm going to build a house with that layout.
posted by empath at 9:26 AM on September 14, 2012


I ate at either a McDonald's or possibly a KFC at Bei Hai Park when I worked in Beijing. Honestly, virtually all views in Beijing are beautiful to me, even when they're actually pretty bleh, but I remember enjoying the experience.

I quickly lost my shame at eating western-style fast food in China because, as non-stop delicious as the various local eateries were, sometimes I just pined for the boring and inferior snacks of my homeland. Although actually Chinese KFC was way better than American - locally sourced chickens or something.
posted by Frowner at 9:26 AM on September 14, 2012


I managed to end up at the Milan one last month because I'd not managed to get out to eat until half ten and everything else was closing and looking a bit formal. It's really nothing special inside, and, contemptuous as I was feeling of myself for screwing up my tourism itinerary, the bloke serving me had such an attitude of disdain for the people who were failing to get the most of his beautiful city,...

Strange that Nyugati Station in Budapest is so nice. The one where the international (I took one from Austria, and to Serbia) trains leave from, Keleti, really is perhaps the grimmest station I've been to in a long time.
posted by ambrosen at 9:27 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is there still one in Wall Street with a grand piano? When I was 17 we went to one in the City when on a college trip and hungry, and it was really weird seeing it full of men in suits.
posted by mippy at 9:27 AM on September 14, 2012


I used the cheap ceramic toilet in the marble-bedecked Rome McDonalds.
posted by infinitewindow at 9:27 AM on September 14, 2012


I quickly lost my shame at eating western-style fast food in China because, as non-stop delicious as the various local eateries were, sometimes I just pined for the boring and inferior snacks of my homeland.

We ended up in one in Sweden because everything is so expensive there. It cost the same as a mid-range chain restaurant like Pizza Express or Wagamama would in London. In retrospect we should have just had the fried herring two days in a row - man, that was good eatin';
posted by mippy at 9:29 AM on September 14, 2012


The elegant lighting fixtures in the Budapest McDonald's were hand-assembled largely by a friend of a friend named Attila Ambrus. Attila later became famous (after his McDonald's work) for robbing 29 state-owned banks and post offices in Budapest, and may be known to some people as the Whiskey Robber, from the bestselling novel about him, "Ballad of the Whiskey Robber." He just got out of prison a few months ago and apparently hates McDonald's and won't go there. Johnny Depp bought the film rights to his story, the guy is sort of a folk hero in Hungary.

This same friend of mine was several times inside the "secret place" in the McDonald's corporate headquarters in Ilinois when he was a teenager, and I can't remember all aout that, but the story was amazing so I will see if he will write it out, and if he does, I will post it.

They just opened the first Bosnian McDonald's in Sarajevo this year, and there was nearly a riot. The unemployment rate there is functionally around 50% and many who do work sometimes go half a year without receiving pay. So you can imagine how expensive McDonald's is for people. Yet people apparently didn't eat for a, week so they could save money to be there on opening day. It's really sad.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 9:30 AM on September 14, 2012 [25 favorites]


I kinda like going to McDonald's when I'm traveling abroad, because it's fun to see how they switch things around for different markets - taro pies in Thailand, mutton burgers in India (not to mention the placemats that went to great pains to stress that their cooking oil was free of beef tallow). The Delhi McDonald's was also my lifesaver when I made the mistake of going to Northern India in June (high temperatures of 115 F in Delhi) and not budgeting for air conditioning in my hotel room.

The funny thing is that I'm pretty sure I've been to that Antgua McD's, and it didn't even register as odd because just about every restaurant in Antigua has a courtyard garden like that.
posted by lunasol at 9:35 AM on September 14, 2012


I had a grass-fed halal Quarter Pounder with Cheese in a two story McDs in Jakarta that had a fancy dessert bar. It was light and delicious.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:36 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Strange that Nyugati Station in Budapest is so nice. The one where the international (I took one from Austria, and to Serbia) trains leave from, Keleti, really is perhaps the grimmest station I've been to in a long time.

Nyugati pályaudvar is slightly nicer than Keleti, but probably only because it's on the main road around Budapest and surrounding by somewhat pricier shops and stuff. The McDonald's is attached to the station, but kind of separate from it - you have to go outside the station, walk 20 meters and go into McDonald's, except if there is a back way I don't know.

The McDonald's, however, is about 50 times nicer than the station itself.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 9:36 AM on September 14, 2012


There's a really nice McDonald's in Paris on Avenue de Flandre in the 19th. It was very modern and tastefully decorated. No red, orange or yellow plastic furnishings. I never ate any food there but the coffee was very good.
posted by shoesietart at 9:38 AM on September 14, 2012


No wonder the Muslims hate us.

Hah, the McDonald's in Antigua was both one of the first places I ate in Guatemala and one of the first pictures I took of Guatemala. It's not particularly distinctive on the inside, and like everywhere else in Guatemala that does cash business, there is an armed guard with a shotgun standing over you as you eat, which is a bit unnerving.

Of course it was.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:39 AM on September 14, 2012


Any word on if they enjoy the god-given right to order a 44 oz soda with their Big Mac in Hungary?
posted by entropicamericana at 9:40 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


This, this is both the dream and the nightmare of globalization.
posted by Apocryphon at 9:42 AM on September 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


I confess to a certain fondness for the Sydney George St McDonalds, which clings to the vestiges of its former life as the Plaza Theatre foyer.
posted by zamboni at 9:42 AM on September 14, 2012


I stopped to use the restroom at what has been described as the "World's Largest" McDonald's in Oklahoma.

I have driven under that McDonald's many times. Every time, I've thought, hey, I'm driving under a big McDonald's.
posted by middleclasstool at 9:42 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Isn't there a McDonalds that looks quite similar to the one in New Hyde Park at a rest stop in Connecticut or Rhode Island? I swear I've eaten there on the way from Boston to NYC, but I've never been to Long Island.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:43 AM on September 14, 2012


No wonder the Muslims hate us.

And yet, there's a McDonald's in a food court a block away from the holiest of holy mosques, Masjid Al Haram in Mecca.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:45 AM on September 14, 2012


Yeah, "Jihad vs. McWorld" isn't literally what you think it means.
posted by Apocryphon at 9:47 AM on September 14, 2012


Everything is more beautiful in Budapest.
posted by 3.2.3 at 9:47 AM on September 14, 2012 [6 favorites]


There's been a huge debate about KFC outlets turning halal, but there aren't yet halal McDonald's in the UK. Apparently they tried it in Southall (area with the biggest Asian population in London) but it wasn't profitable.

Where I grew up there were a lot of Asian kids, so there were always offers on Fillet-o-Fish and you never had to wait ages to get one.
posted by mippy at 9:48 AM on September 14, 2012


I miss the good old days when the French fries were fried in beef tallow. So delicious.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:50 AM on September 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


They just opened the first Bosnian McDonald's in Sarajevo this year, and there was nearly a riot. The unemployment rate there is functionally around 50% and many who do work sometimes go half a year without receiving pay. So you can imagine how expensive McDonald's is for people. Yet people apparently didn't eat for a, week so they could save money to be there on opening day. It's really sad.

How do people keep from starving if they aren't getting paid for six months at a stretch? Is it just that everyone lives with someone who is getting paid and you chip in when you do have money and they don't? Do you just owe the grocer until you get paid and then pay off your debt? I assume this is all neoliberalism/dissolution of Yugoslavia - related and has been going on a long time.
posted by Frowner at 9:51 AM on September 14, 2012


I love good food, but I also love McDonald's unreservedly. I love going to McDonald's when I am traveling and seeing how they change things from place to place. (Australia's variation on McDonald's is "let's take all of the nice things about McDonald's and ruin them.) I love the fries, which are rightly revered by even food critics as being truly excellent. I like a Big Mac every now and then, although my chief guilty pleasure is the basic hamburger. I love the Egg McMuffin.

A lot of friends give me shit for this, but fuck 'em if I can't have my Egg McMuffin.
posted by mightygodking at 9:51 AM on September 14, 2012 [8 favorites]


Luckily, if you want amazingly beautiful cafes with delicious food in Budapest, you really, really don't need to bother with McDonalds.
posted by yoink at 9:53 AM on September 14, 2012


Oxymoron. Every single thing about McD's = shit, and can - in no - way be beautiful.
posted by the_very_hungry_caterpillar at 9:53 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


When I lived in Bulgaria in the 90s the McDonalds in Sofia was a big treat for my then young kids. Like the one in Romania it was considered a dress up special place and the workers were considered very lucky to have jobs there. The kids from my town, over an hour away from Sofia, would go on their end of year school trip just to McDonalds. There was a KFC, but it did not have the sophisticated panache of McD. And the restroom was fabulous-clean and sparkly and no Turkish toilets.

I think it is condescending to tell other countries what they should and should not like about American culture.

When we traveled through Europe and Africa we would treat ourselves occasionally to American fast food. We managed to eat our share of mopane worms and traditional food,too.
No apologies here-I still enjoy a spicy McChicken for a dollar.

And I remember even back in the 60s when KFC first moved to England my Nan would take us there once during our summer holidays with her. The chicken tasted like the fish cooked in the same oil.
posted by Isadorady at 9:56 AM on September 14, 2012 [6 favorites]


IDK, really really hot and fresh McD's fries taste fucking fantastic after an unhappy week of explosive assdemons in Beijing. That was also the cleanest McD's I've ever been in.
posted by elizardbits at 9:59 AM on September 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


The McD's in Oulu, Finland is quite nice, if IIRC (I was quite drunk both times I agreed to eat there.) High vaulted ceilings, fancy light fixtures, "bronze" sculpture with fake patina. It does smell like a regular McD's though...
posted by peacrow at 10:01 AM on September 14, 2012


I don't like KFC, so the last time I went into one was the one at Marble Arch, near London's biggest Primark, to use the loo. I had a tummy bug for three days. On a kids' consumer programme years ago, one kid filmed a report complaining about the state of fast food loos (in my small town it was literally one of the few restaurants in town, and where kids met up at the weekend) and he had a point.

I sometimes think virtually everyone who's been to the Oxford Street Primark has been to that KFC's loo. :) I've known people who even offer it up as a helpful hint; stuff like, "women's clothes are on the ground floor, men's above and for the toilet, you'd have to cross the street and go to KFC".

Before it closed down, the 24-hour McDonald's at my old neighborhood used to be full of either bored students trying to cram for exams while staring down mountains of books on their tables by listening to their iPods or elderly people who were mentally challenged or homeless or both (yes, you have homeless people even in purrfectly manicured central Singapore; Bukit Merah's depravity is the city's worst kept secret)

Surprisingly enough, this crowd never really went to the 24-hour Indian fast-food-isque eatery next door, even though it also had free wifi and AC. Think the Indian place felt a lot more personal for many - the owner and his wife regularly serve customers at the till side in their blue uniforms - or perhaps the homeless types have an equation with them, in that, they get cheap food from them in return for them not sleeping at the restaurant. Or there's a racial context, in that most of the elderly homeless are Chinese (but not all; there are impoverished Indians and Malays as well out there), and the kids want to be seen a more attas ( local slang literally meaning "upstairs", but figuratively a posh sort of a place, in that posh people live in houses that have an upstairs, so to speak) environment. I don't know. Was always an interesting contrast.

Yeah, the McD's now closed down, but it was there for 20-odd years apparently. My wife says it always had that reputation for as long as she can remember. I first stepped into a chain fast food joint well into adulthood, and go into one only if it's late at night and am starving; McD's have always been places bereft of any soul or emotion for me. However, communities apparently do form these shared, specific memories about certain outlets; the Oxford Street KFC is where you go to pee, the Bukit Merah McD's was where society's rejects, and students escaping their parents, washed up.
posted by the cydonian at 10:04 AM on September 14, 2012


Oxymoron. Every single thing about McD's = shit, and can - in no - way be beautiful.

Haven't been to a McDonald's since 1993, and that was only because we were on our way to Lollapalooza and everybody else in the car insisted. I had pizza. Before that, I'm thinking it goes back to 1986, Expo, Vancouver. I'm high on acid, haven't eaten all day, need something-anything, so I get some chicken nuggets that, I swear, were coated in some kind of edible, liquid metal. It made my teeth hurt. Meanwhile, Einsturzende Neubauten was playing in the distance. The gods were clearly sending me a sign.

No wonder the Muslims hate us.

The enemy of my enemy is my friend.
Some of my best friends are Muslims.
posted by philip-random at 10:04 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not that they compare to those pictures in the FPP, but most of my local McDonald's have prettied themselves up quite a bit in the past few years, as they move toward the "McCafe" concept and try to rebrand themselves as coffee-shop-type places where you can hangout and enjoy free wifi. Many of them now have fireplaces and comfortable chairs.
posted by asnider at 10:06 AM on September 14, 2012


I unabashedly love McDonald's, but only allow myself to eat there once every six months or so. It's the ultimate comfort food for me, an admiration that goes back to when I was a kid. As a family, we didn't eat much fast food and when we did it was usually Braum's (which was very good, but not the same as McD's). I do remember on a childhood roadtrip eating at one that straddled a highway somewhere, probably in the midwest on the way to Wisconsin from the south. That was insane levels of fun for young item.
posted by item at 10:06 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's the ultimate comfort food for me

I don't often think of McDonald's as comfort food, but I do have a tendency to crave it when I am down with a bad cold. So, in my own way, I actually kind of agree with you.
posted by asnider at 10:09 AM on September 14, 2012


I don't know, the McDonald's double cheeseburger may suffer in comparison to a cheeseburger you may make at home, but funyuns suffer in comparison to onion rings. It really isn't possible to make a direct comparison. The flavor profile of Double cheeseburgers bears more of a resemblance to a salt,vinegar, and sugar sandwich than a hamburger. The beef and cheese are almost vestigial, they serve to provide mouthfeel and umami. They have simply become a new species of food, they may share a common ancestor of the 1lb beef burgers we Americans are so fond of, but they are now an thing unto themselves. For me, the balance of ketchup and pickles is almost perfect. Taken as they are, without comparisons to what you wish they were, they are unparalleled.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:13 AM on September 14, 2012 [10 favorites]


I didn't go inside, but one of the two I saw in Tbilisi, Georgia was a delightful surprise.
posted by knile at 10:15 AM on September 14, 2012


I think it is condescending to tell other countries what they should and should not like about American culture.

French people love McDonald's, and as I said upthread, loads of Muslim kids ate their non-meat offerings. Thanks to Wikipedia, I just realised they only got one in Scotland in 1987, so the one where I live probably opened within my lifetime.

My mum is convinced that when it first opened they had table and waitress service - I think she was thinking of Wimpy. A former boyfriend of mine, who was a strange fellow - he wore clothes that were old to the point of shabby at and listened to home-recorded grunge tapes because it was 'keeping it real', was anticapitalist and thought No Logo was 'trendy', and constantly went on about 'yuppie students' well into the 00s - took me to a Wimpy in a bowling alley in Stockport for a date. I was allowed a burger, but he told me that he wouldn't pay for my fries and I was to keep my hands off his.
posted by mippy at 10:15 AM on September 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


About twenty years ago, the main road through my town was rerouted. A small, almost empty, plot of land which had before stood just off a back lane, was now on one of the busiest corners in the town. The plot had nothing on it but grass and a tree. One day, a local councillor got wind that MacDonald's were looking into purchasing the land, and studying to see what the local market was like. When they decided to actually buy the land, they found that the tree had, by coincidence, recently been approved for a preservation order, meaning that it could not be felled. To this day, my town has no MacDonald's, but it does have a lovely plot of land, and a tree that isn't going anywhere.
posted by Jehan at 10:23 AM on September 14, 2012


"I swore off McDonalds decades ago but will admit to using their toilets."

Well, of course. Actually I rejected McDonald's food since day 1 (you call that POS a burger? And what's with the onions mixed into the patty? Gross!) but the Golden Arches are my international sign of the toilet, especially in Europe -- not just because of the standard amenities within, but mostly because unlike most other public facilities, there's no troll of an old woman lurking near the door, demanding a coin for entry.
posted by Rash at 10:24 AM on September 14, 2012


As far as quality in comparison to cafe, restaurant, or homemade food, there's not too much to rave about at McDonald's. However, it is enjoyable for those who enjoy it, and it's probably one of the most consistent tasting foods around.

In fact, I consider the draw of McDonald's more in the comfort of the consistency of their food than the quality of said food. No matter where you are in the world, you know what you're getting when you're walking into a McDonald's. Whether that's good, bad or indifferent is entirely up to the individual. They're selling expectations met worldwide, which is pretty impressive.

Like someone upthread, I thoroughly enjoyed and welcomed my McDonald's visit while I was visiting Asia as a wonderful break from a diet my taste buds and stomach were simply not used to. Definitely my #1 McDonald's experience ever.
posted by Debaser626 at 10:44 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would still applaud José Bové driving a tracker into them if he could. What stately elegance was there before is entirely undone by the industry within.
posted by dgran at 10:46 AM on September 14, 2012


McEcoterrorisim?
posted by Burhanistan at 10:56 AM on September 14, 2012


McD is absurdly popular in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the UAE, Oman. I've happily eaten a Bic Mac in all those countries.
posted by ambient2 at 11:13 AM on September 14, 2012


fuck 'em if I can't have my Egg McMuffin

This is a much better slogan than "I'm Lovin' It" or whatever they're using these days.
posted by Wolfdog at 11:14 AM on September 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


The most beautiful McDonalds in the world is whichever one is closest in the late morning after I swear to a God I don't even believe exists that I will never drink again.
posted by srboisvert at 11:37 AM on September 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm sure it says something very wrong about me, but when I clicked the photo of the Budapest McDonalds, I thought, "Wow, that looks just like a Cheesecake Factory."
posted by Daily Alice at 11:38 AM on September 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


Ah, I don't know if it's still there, but there was a McDonald's in a medieval building in the Mala Strana neighborhood of Prague, just up from the Charles Bridge, that had a lovely courtyard with a fountain and some FINE Czech boys working there -- when I first visited in 1994/95 it was a welcome respite from the local food, which was still suffering the aftereffects of Communism (smazny syr, holla!).
posted by speedlime at 11:42 AM on September 14, 2012


Buenos Aires has a Burger King in a converted 19th Century mansion and the only Kosher McDonald's in the world outside of Israel.
posted by jontyjago at 11:47 AM on September 14, 2012


There's been a huge debate about KFC outlets turning halal, but there aren't yet halal McDonald's in the UK. Apparently they tried it in Southall (area with the biggest Asian population in London) but it wasn't profitable.

When I lived in Birmingham UK the Pizza Hut was halal and then quit on it. It wasn't that their were not customers - it was just that Pizza Hut couldn't compete with the far less expensive Muslim run fast joints that were everywhere in the city. KFC is a teeny tiny part of Birmingham's fried chicken scene and represents the high end of the market (which isn't where the generally not well off Muslim population sits).
posted by srboisvert at 11:53 AM on September 14, 2012


Finland has been mentioned a few times in these comments, and the northernmost McDonalds in the world is in the city of Rovaniemi. Alas, no bear meat burgers (tastes better than they sound), and their coffee was pricey by any standards but, after an evening of astonishingly cold Finland Aurora Borealis watching, welcome. Also, reindeer antlers.

For balance, there are other places to eat in Rovaniemi. Lordi, the 2006 Eurovision song contest winners, have a nearby Rocktaurant. And local reindeer is nice, but snow crow (ptarmigan) soup was possibly the most vile thing I've ever tasted.

I miss Rovaniemi, and Finland. McDonalds; maybe not so much.
posted by Wordshore at 12:07 PM on September 14, 2012


The McDs in Haarlem, in the Netherlands, has a very nice exterior. I didn't go inside, but the interior looked very nice as well - I wouldn't have known it was a McDs if I hadn't seen the small logo on the building.
posted by me & my monkey at 12:20 PM on September 14, 2012


The first McDonald's in Budapest opened in the 1980s, off of Vaci utca in the downtown shopping district. it was packed at all hours - and although more expensive than most local restaurants, it served as a status symbol. People took their dates there. And in normal Hungarian fashion, they lingered at the tables long afterwards - there was virtually no table turnover. The branch at Nyugati was a response to this: if people were going to treat McDonald's as a high class place to take a date and linger for an hour over your McShake, well, let's do it right.

People in Hungary no longer take their dates to Micky D's, but they have a deep and voracious love for the stuff. It outsells sausage and fried bread by a wide margin.
posted by zaelic at 12:23 PM on September 14, 2012


When I ever get around touring to Biltmore Estate in North Carolina, I'm stopping here for breakfast.
posted by radwolf76 at 12:36 PM on September 14, 2012


This same friend of mine was several times inside the "secret place" in the McDonald's corporate headquarters in Ilinois when he was a teenager, and I can't remember all aout that, but the story was amazing so I will see if he will write it out, and if he does, I will post it.

What on earth is the "secret place" at McDonald's corporate HQ? I would be really interested in this story.
posted by LiteOpera at 12:50 PM on September 14, 2012


A McDonald's in North Conway, NH uses gondolas for seating areas.
posted by mikepop at 12:56 PM on September 14, 2012


The McDonald's near the Biltmore House in Asheville, NC, has a tin ceiling, player piano and a working stone fireplace. It was featured on the Travel Channel as one of the 10 most unique McDonald's although I'm sure there are newer ones since then.
posted by SweetTeaAndABiscuit at 1:18 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


yerfatma: “Love this bit of snobbery in the second link's comments: ‘I swore off McDonalds decades ago but will admit to using their toilets.’ What a populist!”

DU: “You can call it snobbery if you want, but I swore off McD's years ago because it left me feeling literally ill and covered in a fine film of oil.”

Their food, or their toilets?
posted by koeselitz at 1:19 PM on September 14, 2012


What on earth is the "secret place" at McDonald's corporate HQ? I would be really interested in this story.

It is a literal "think tank" - a bizarre and almost druggish padded space, shaped like an egg, where (I guess) McDonald's execs would meet to come up with new milkshake flavors or something. The story is incredible, but I cannot recall it well enough to share it here, but I wrote my friend and am waiting to hear back. I wouldn't have believed the story, but I have seen photographic proof. It is or was in the main McDonald's corporate building.

I'll share the story, if I get it.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 1:53 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Coincidentally, on cheezeburger yesterday. #stereotypes #AreHashtagsAllowedOnMetafilter?
posted by Wordshore at 2:16 PM on September 14, 2012


How do people keep from starving if they aren't getting paid for six months at a stretch? Is it just that everyone lives with someone who is getting paid and you chip in when you do have money and they don't? Do you just owe the grocer until you get paid and then pay off your debt? I assume this is all neoliberalism/dissolution of Yugoslavia - related and has been going on a long time.

Well, most people either live in flats whose ownership became theirs when Communism fell, or they appropriated them when the real owners fled. Most people, when they buy a flat, pay for it in cash, so no mortgage worries. Some people who rent lose their flats and move in with relatives. Many people leave the country when there is no other option.

Until the war disrupted things, people in Yugoslavia were slavishly immobile, so there were always a zillion relatives living nearby. My family had, for the most part, lived in the same little mahala (neighborhood) for more hundreds of years than anyone really knows. My parents had their place, but there was also a family house up the road, owned collectively by my father, his siblings, various grandparents and offspring and we would all stay there for variety, somethings many of us in one bed. So there is some living space flexibility that makes things a little easier.

Sadly, most Bosnians have many relatives living abroad. I send money to aunts and uncles and cousins all the time, and to care for my grandmother who is in severe stages of dementia and nearly comatose and needs caregiving (family does a lot) and practical things like diapers, which are super expensive. I have friends I help too, and I have had a couple of friends who have died due in part to the economic situation. Get sick in Bosnia and you will probably be fired, and there's a good chance you were supporting an extended family. I have a friend with some sort of degenerative back problem who was fired. Her husband is in the military and rarely gets paid. They have two kids. Another friend lost her job when she was discovered to have breast cancer. Her husband had left her and she supported her mother. She may not make it. I have food delivered to them, and clothes and money when I can.

Most people go the market for food, and there you can kind of bargain. People trade things a lot. I don't live there anymore, so I can only repeat what I hear and how it worked for me during the war. I can't imagine any can actually afford to take credit at this point.

This is all fallout from the war. Things are much worse today than a few years ago, I think, because a lot of the assistance for Bosnia has evaporated with Europe's financial problems and a lot of beneficial rebuilding programs having ended.

This is why the opening of Bosnia's first McDonald's is a magical moment for people. It represents a possible future, with bright colors and Western allure and foreign investment. Some hope.

In reality, it's an illusion. A false promise. (I don't know, but I would assume that the franchise there is owned by local mafia.) Soon there will be a Starbuck's, and then more, and one day the wonderful local cuisine and cafe culture will be gone or fossilized.

Those are some of the things that make life in Bosnia tolerable, and their loss will mark the death throes of a culture that's pretty handicapped already. I've been watching something like this process in Hungary visit-to-visit for many years now - despite its current problems, it's a less fragile and much more stable place than Bosnia, but I can see some damage.

This is all kind of why I hate McDonald's, and got very upset when my cousins were so delighted when it opened.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 2:24 PM on September 14, 2012 [7 favorites]


The McDonald's in Barrington, Illinois is not too shabby. Above average on the outside, too.
posted by desjardins at 2:26 PM on September 14, 2012


Hey, I've been to that McDonalds! That place is gorgeous and this caused me significant cognitive dissonance while I was there.

Dee, it isn't a given that international franchises will displace local shops. They will displace some, but in a lot of places you have your McDs, your Starbucks or what have you and then there are independent coffee shops and restaurants that are generally considered a better choice. In Greece the first McDonalds opened in 1991, but the company had lost its cool factor before a decade had passed. A local coffee shop would be considered one of the same compared to the first Starbucks, but a few years later the same coffee shop is considered traditional. It all depends on prior food/coffee culture of course although yeah, any hope offered by the opening of the McDonalds is probably an illusory or at best a long way off.
posted by ersatz at 2:59 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


When I was working on the High Weirdness By Mail post last month I discovered, while reading the Breatharian website WARNING: EXTREME KOOKERY, that "All McDonalds are constructed on properties that are protected by 5th Dimenstional high energy/spiritual portals."

Further important fifth dimensional instructions relating to Quarter Pounders with Cheese can be found here.
posted by JHarris at 3:47 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


On the other hand, the McDonalds in Chamberlain South Dakota, right off I-90, managed to ruin a McFlurry. I still don't know what she did to it, but I had Oreo crumbs about an inch deep at the bottom of the cup and the soft-serve icy white stuff on the top. But cheerful service.
posted by Ideefixe at 4:00 PM on September 14, 2012


Dee, it isn't a given that international franchises will displace local shops. They will displace some, but in a lot of places you have your McDs, your Starbucks or what have you and then there are independent coffee shops and restaurants that are generally considered a better choice. In Greece the first McDonalds opened in 1991, but the company had lost its cool factor before a decade had passed. A local coffee shop would be considered one of the same compared to the first Starbucks, but a few years later the same coffee shop is considered traditional. It all depends on prior food/coffee culture of course although yeah, any hope offered by the opening of the McDonalds is probably an illusory or at best a long way off.

Ha. You don't know Bosnians! America's march into McDonald's / Disneyization was vaguely organic; it happened slowly and wasn't perfected as a parasitic form, as it spread across America. Now it IS kind of perfected, and it can be introduced into new markets as a fait accompli, doing incredible damage. "Traditional" American coffee shops weren't that different from Starbuck's in terms of what they did and how they did it - Starbuck's only offers a more efficient, standardized and reliable product (generally.) When Starbuck's hits Sarajevo, a huge percentage of the population will start drinking caramel Frappucinos and never touch Turkish coffee again - it'll be some weird junk one's grandfather drank. And you won't have to wait 35 minutes for your caramel Frappucino, either. And there'll be no going back. Sarajevan café culture will die, not because Starbuck's offers a superior (or even comparable) product to the local one, but because Starbuck's will change the entire way basic business is transacted . . . that'll be considered "cool" and things will never go back to the way they were.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 7:05 PM on September 14, 2012


It hasn't happened in Central America. The only people that eat at McDonald's are tourists and rich people in the bigger cities. The vast, vast majority of people eat at small family kwned diners, when they aren't eating at home. Even in some of the bigger cities, the chains are just in the more expensive tourist areas.
posted by empath at 7:42 PM on September 14, 2012


I can still eat their muffin sandwiches, especially if I have a coupon for 2 for 1 (no cheese), but I can't eat their cheese or beef. Unless it psychosomatic, there must be something that I'm having a reaction against since every time I have a full serving that contains their cheese or beef I have an adverse extrementory event.

I don't have this problem with the other two franchises that I rarely eat at; Wendy's and A&W. I have no problem with Wendy's beef but I haven't been to an A&W since I realized
posted by porpoise at 10:26 PM on September 14, 2012


Many of them now have fireplaces and comfortable chairs.

And few, if no, outlets. At least the ones around here. In my town there are two places where you can get something that is called "food" at 2 am for 20 miles in any direction. One is the gas station and one is McDonald's. My own "I am not always good at ensuring that there is food in the house when I arrive home from a long trip" personal failures sometimes send me to one or the other for apples and protein.
posted by jessamyn at 8:08 AM on September 15, 2012


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