What I'm saying is, and it's sad news, McDonald's needs a break today.
Which is why they're introducing the Arch Deluxe, advertised as a sandwich for grown-ups, because, and hold on to your seats here, it has Dijon mustard on the burger, although no mention of whether it's Grey Poupon. It also has apparently grown-up tomatoes, grown-up slivered onions, grown-up pepper-flavored bacon and grown-up potato bread, which, if it catches on, could be a great boon to the Irish economy.
You've seen this coming, particularly if you've watched the commercials with the suddenly grown-up Ronald McDonald -- who is, if you don't count Rush Limbaugh, America's favorite clown.
The images are startling. Ronald, definitely not your standard crying-on-the-inside kind of clown, on a golf course. Ronald in a business suit, in which he bears a remarkable resemblance to my boss. Ronald in a grungy pool hall. I'm waiting for Ronald in a bar, with two days' growth on his clown beard, a Scotch in one hand, a rinsed-out blond in the other. That's a grown-up clown.
Having missed the first Woodstock, I had to be there for the Arch Deluxe. This was too much like history to miss.
I check my driver's license, and it seems I qualify for a grown-up happy meal. Actually, if I were any more qualified, Willard Scott would be announcing my entrance.
Let's just say nobody cards me.
The restaurant is packed, of course, although many of the people seem unaware of the momentous occasion.
It's packed because, well, it's noon and it's McDonald's and the sign under the golden arches says 99 billion served, and I'm thinking, that's probably just in this McDonald's, this week. It's packed because in the age of health food and Stairmasters and garlic-flavored beta carotene, we still have the same fat jones we've always had. See: Pizza Hut's new Triple Deckeroni, with its two pounds of pepperoni and six kinds of cheeses. Maybe sex won't give you a heart attack, but two slices of this baby and the next thing you'll be eating is nitroglycerin pills.
The Arch Deluxe (is the plural, Arches Deluxe or Arch Deluxes?) has more fat content than a Big Mac. McDonald's learned its lesson with the ersatz McLean burger, now consigned to the trash heap, where you know if you ever tasted one it will remain, like plastic, forever unbiodegraded. Thousands of years from now, they'll be used as Frisbees.
People don't eat fast food for the salads. You never heard anyone say, "Marge, that low-cal Caesar's dressing is to die for." In other words, if people who eat fast food wear sweat pants, it's only for the drawstring effect. Look around, and it's definitely a relaxed-fit jeans crowd.
Anyway, I'm in line, and nobody asks for my ID, and nobody asks for my cholesterol count.
Actually, before I even get in line, Marie Malory, the floor supervisor, is supervising a table full of free samples. She loves the Arch Deluxe, maybe because it's her job.
"When I take my first bite," she says, "I don't feel anything special. But all of a sudden, it's like my palate is on fire. It's the peppery bacon kicking in. Then that goes away. I take another bite, and I taste the Dijon. What happens? It's like the Fourth of July right in my mouth."
The lady can sell. You'd be psyched for your first Arch Deluxe even if the young woman behind the cash register looks just as unhappy as I would look if I had to work at McDonald's. Break this, she seems to be saying.
You'd be psyched, until you take your first bite. No fire. And a second bite. No Fourth of July. If my palate is a holiday, it's Arbor Day. It's a hamburger, not Kung Pao chicken.
The man next to me has passed on the whole experience. He had a sample. That was enough. He usually comes here for breakfast and orders the Egg McMuffin. Plenty of egg, plenty of cheese, plenty of bacon. Good for you.
"But it's Canadian bacon," he says. "I'm not too fond of Canadian bacon."
You like the American kind, I say. More patriotic.
That prompts a lunch-table friend to say, "You know, there's no irony at McDonald's." Which might be a whole new column.
A burger by any other name ...
* Location: Pretty much everywhere you look.
* Hours: Pretty much any time you need.
* Credit cards: You're kidding, right?
* Prices: If you can't afford McDonald's, you shouldn't be reading restaurant reviews.
McDonald's new Arch Deluxe sandwich has a see-through package, a potato-bread roll and Dijon mustard. It also has a quarter-pound burger, slivered onions, iceberg lettuce, American cheese, tomato, peppered bacon and, of course, ketchup.
It tastes remarkably like ... a burger.
If it didn't have the see-through package, I'm certain I'd still know it was a burger.
With my eyes closed, I'd think it was a Whopper, except that a Whopper, by Burger King, doesn't have Dijon (pronounced dee-jawn; say it with me: Jacques mange le Big Mac avec Dijon). My colleague said he, too, found that the Arch Deluxe tasted, for better or worse, very much like every other fast-food burger.
"I couldn't taste the Dijon," he complained. He also said he couldn't taste the peppered bacon, the slivered onions and, at times, was having problems distinguishing the potato bread from the potato fries. Of course, maybe he couldn't taste the Dijon (dee-jawn) because, unlike, say, in many of your top French restaurants, McDonald's mixes the mustard with a "mayonnaise (may-o-nayze) blend."
As for ambience, well, it's McDonald's we're talking about. It was packed, meaning a diner faces the irresistible combination of squealing kids and long lines. And they don't take reservations.
The fries, though, were terrific.
Pub Date: 5/10/96