Last month, I suggested to Mr. Chuckles that he consider starting a blog entitled ‘Travelling the McWorld’ in order to document his habit of eating at McDonald’s in every international destination we visit. He scoffed at the idea of joining the blogging world, so I’ve decided to write this post in his stead. In doing my mental tally, I realized that I have personally visited McDonald’s in exactly 10 cities, including my home town of Toronto. This surely gives me enough material to write up a semi-interesting post.
Since its origin in 1940 with its first restaurant in San Bernardino, California, McDonald’s has become the world’s largest fast food chain. Most recent figures report that it serves 68 million customers daily in 119 countries. It became an international corporation in 1967 when it opened its location in Richmond, British Columbia, Canada. By the end of the 1970s, McDonald’s restaurants existed in five out of seven continents. With the addition of its first African location in Casablanca, Morocco in 1992, it has now made its mark everywhere except Antarctica.
Unsurprisingly and quite impressively, the McDonald’s golden arches are the most recognized symbol in the world. Here’s a recap of my experiences testing out its menu around the globe.
While staying in the commercialized Waikiki Beach area of Honolulu during a vacation with my mother, we ate at McDonald’s more times than I would like to admit. This wasn’t actually my preference; rather, we ended up here mainly because my mom is super frugal and never wanted to spend more than $5 on a meal. In any case, I at least had a mildly interesting experience here when I tried out my first region specific menu. In Hawaii, customers at McDonald’s are lucky enough to have access to Spam and rice breakfast, Kona coffee, and fried taro or Haupia pie. I skipped the Spam and tried out the taro pie, which was quite disappointing. It was overly sweet and the filling was runny, definitely not on par with their classic apple pies which I would actually willingly eat. Apparently you can also find the taro pie at some locations in Southeast Asia, but I think I’d take a pass.
One of the most amusing sights Mr. Chuckles and I spotted in Rome was a McDonald’s near Trevi Fountain that had a gelato section, aptly named McGelato. Alas, we did not partake in this delicacy as we had been spoiled by superb gelato which we were enjoying multiple times per day over the course of our week in Italy. There was no way we were going to stoop down to the level of McDonald’s gelato after we had been lectured by our food tour guides on how to find the real, high quality stuff. The good gelato is stored in covered containers, with few of those fluffy peaks you see on the over-sweetened concoctions that are full of air. We did however end up eating at McDonald’s (or maybe it was Burger King) at the airport on our way home. We didn’t spot anything special on the menu otherwise, but it was an opportunity for a break from all the pasta and pizza we had been consuming.
We had eaten at a Burger King in Seoul, Korea where I tried out an interesting bulgogi burger, so we were hoping that we would find something unique on the McDonald’s menu in Japan too. Unfortunately, this was not to be, at least when we went for breakfast one morning. Although I have nothing special to say about my McDonald’s experience, the other food we had in Japan was incredible. I could have sushi and ramen everyday!
Hong Kong, China
This one perhaps should not be on the list, as we never actually found it. When we landed in Hong Kong airport at 5:30 AM for our layover en route to Bangkok, we spotted McDonald’s across the terminal and Mr. Chuckles immediately developed a craving for their breakfast sandwich. We walked and walked, up and down multiple escalators, and could not get to it! We must have been blocked off by some construction barriers, so I ended up having a wonton soup while Mr. Chuckles sulked. We did manage to find a Burger King on the way home, so had to settle for a Whopper instead of a Big Mac. Such is life.
Despite our failed attempt at finding McDonald’s in Hong Kong, we ended up there later in the day on our first afternoon in Bangkok after we discovered that the pad thai place I had looked up was closed and we were feeling too hot to continue walking. We stopped at a location nearby our hotel and were immediately relieved by the air conditioning. The meal here was actually pretty decent. They served good fried chicken and we both tried the corn pie, which was interesting in a good way.
In spite of our huffing and puffing from the altitude, we made it to McDonald’s for one breakfast while in Cusco. This restaurant was located in the main square Plaza de Armas. There was nothing special on the menu and the service was pretty slow-paced. I wonder if they’ve ever considered creating a cuy burger. Anyway, nothing to write home about from here, unlike many of our other meals in Peru.
San Francisco, USA
We had one McDonald’s meal while in San Francisco because it was located right beside our hotel, but it really shouldn’t be considered when you’re in a city with an In-N-Out Burger. For what it’s worth, Mr. Chuckles claims that the breakfast sandwich here was much better than the ones he has had at home. I had a hashed brown, which I suppose was good for a hashed brown. 🤷🏻♀️ In-N-Out is the place to be!
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
At the behest of Mr. Chuckles, we ventured over to McDonald’s on our final morning in Ho Chi Minh City. In terms of regional specialities, I was pleased to discover that they served Vietnamese coffee. Although not the best coffee out there, it was passable as an early morning treat. I would probably order a lot more McDonald’s coffees at home if they brought this to North America. There are few other McDonald’s locations throughout Vietnam outside of heavily Americanized Ho Chi Minh City, and I doubt that it would be very popular in this country. If you can get a delicious banh mi sandwich for only $1 USD at every street corner, why would you opt for a processed cheeseburger?
Upon our arrival at Taipei airport for our final layover on the way home from Vietnam, Mr. Chuckles again immediately had a craving for McDonald’s. There’s something about that guy and airport Mickey D’s. Luckily, we were able to locate the food court easily, unlike our experience in Hong Kong. Mr. Chuckles enjoyed his chicken sandwich, but I passed and went next door to the place that served infinitely tastier Cantonese poached chicken. Mmmm.
Since our return home to Canada, Mr. Chuckles has been delighted to discover that they serve the chicken breakfast sandwich here too. We used to live near one of the sketchiest McDonald’s locations in Toronto, which has since closed and been refurbished in a yuppie neighbourhood with fancy features like table service. Obviously, this is now shut down on account of the C-virus but McDelivery is still available, allowing Mr. Chuckles to satisfy his chicken sandwich cravings while I have the occasional hashed brown and, disappointingly, plain old regular coffee.
So what is it like to be such a worldly McDonald’s patron? I’m not lovin’ it, to be honest. It can sometimes be interesting to try their unique region specific items, but the really cool ones are often unavailable, especially at breakfast or the airport locations. However, I do have to admit that it is intriguing to observe how this corporation has managed to infiltrate such a massive global market. For those of you who are bored during lockdown and interested in learning more about the rise of McDonald’s, check out The Founder starring Michael Keaton. For something more scandalous, I’d recommend McMillions, the new HBO series about the McDonald’s Monopoly scam – what a story.
Enjoy your break today!
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