When people talk about greasy fries and bad-for-you burgers, the conversation inevitably always leads to McDonald’s. No matter what initiatives the chain seems to implement, they’re always touted as the most unhealthy restaurant on the planet. This may soon change, as the eatery plans to open its first vegetarian-only restaurant in northern India‘s Amritsar early next year.
The marketing plan is to take local Indian favorites and put a “McDonald’s twist” on them.
Apparently, some of their international cuisine is pretty tasty. In fact, around-the world traveler “Dancing Matt” Harding told USA Today the McArabia – a seasoned and pita-wrapped lamb kebab he ate in Marrakesh, Morocco, and Dubai, U.A.E. – was “the best thing I’ve ever eaten at McDonald’s. If it were offered in my homeland, I might actually eat at McDonald’s.”
The initiative isn’t too different from McDonald’s usual approach, although they’ve never gone completely vegetarian. However, in many countries around the world they do try to incorporate local flavors. For example, in Japan they offer “Ume Nuggets,” Chicken McNuggets with sour plum sauce and fries with seaweed, barbecue or Italian basil seasoning. Additionally, in France you can order an “M Burger,” which comes with Emmenthal cheese on a ciabatta-style roll that is baked in a stone over.
What do you think of McDonald’s plan for a vegetarian-only eatery?
No, it’s not because the french fries are more delicious than the ones at McDonald’s. Wendy’s restaurants in Japan have added two new luxe items to their menu, a Lobster Surf & Turf burger and a Premium Caviar & Lobster sandwich.
Burger Business (yes, that’s an actual website) reports that the sandwiches will go for about $16 USD. If you just cant choose, they’re also offering a Garden Sensation salad with lobster and caviar for around $20.
This isn’t the first time Wendy’s has used the Japanese market for unique offerings. The chain left the country in 2009 and returned in 2011, offering dishes like a foie gras and truffle burger and an Iberian bacon chili deluxe hamburger.
What do you say? Is it worth the trip to Japan to score some discounted lobster?
*An earlier version of this article stated that Wendy’s returned in 2001. Thanks to commenter Sarita for noting that time travel is not yet possible.
A month ago, I was eating a terrific meal at a taverna right on a lovely beach on the Greek island of Patmos when a perverse thought occurred to me.
“I bet this lunch is cheaper than we’d pay at a Panera, in some strip mall somewhere in the U.S.,” I said to my wife, who was finishing up a carafe of the house red that cost the equivalent of $4.
I made the comment somewhat in jest, but yesterday after having lunch at a Panera in Dekalb, Illinois, I realized that my statement had actually been correct. Here’s a little comparison of two lunches, experienced in very different corners of the world.
In Patmos, we dined right on Lambi beach, with a stunning view of the Aegean. We split a half liter of house red wine, had a large bottle of water, two orders of chicken souvlaki, which came with a small salad and fries, and our kids split one order of plain spaghetti. The bill came to the equivalent of $28.50 and we were welcomed to linger and use the taverna’s free Wi-Fi for as long as we liked. Shots of ouzo were offered on the house.Panera
Our Dekalb Panera location offered a panoramic view of strip malls as far as the eye could see, with a Panda Express, a Barnes & Noble, a Starbucks and a Ross all within spitting distance. We ordered one Cuban Panini ($7.89), one chicken cobb avocado salad ($8.69), two kids’ mac and cheese meals, which included small bowls of mac and cheese and some yogurt ($4.99 each) and four glasses of ice water (free).
With tax, the bill came to $29.22 and would have been more like $35 if we’d ordered drinks or desserts. We didn’t have our laptops with us, as we did in Patmos, but Panera has a 30-minute limit on Wi-Fi usage during the lunch rush. The place was packed and there wasn’t a single empty table despite the fact that there were no free shots of ouzo or anything else for that matter.
In fairness to Panera, I like the place and our meal was pretty good, especially for fast food. But the meal in Patmos was far better, both in terms of the quality of the food, the ambience and the service. With tip, the meal in Patmos was actually a bit more expensive but not by much, because in Greece people usually just round up and tips don’t usually exceed 10%.
This is obviously an apples to oranges comparison, but the point is that “upscale” fast food places like Cosi, Noodles & Company, Panera, Corner Bakery and others seem to be getting pretty damn pricey. Getting lunch at any of these places for less than $10 isn’t easy, unless you eat like a bird. According to the Christian Science Monitor, even Taco Bell, perish the thought, is going upscale! What is the world coming to?
But bargains still exist at independent fast food outlets. Last night, my faith in the American non-burger/KFC/Taco Bell/Arby’s fast-food genre was restored at a place called Just Kabobs, in St. Charles, a nice town about an hour west of Chicago. My wife and I both had a chicken kabob platter that included two big skewers of delicious chicken, rice, pita, salad and Greek potatoes, which cost just $5.99 each, and we split a hummus and pita appetizer for only $2.25.
The quality and quantity of food was incredible, and the price was unbeatable. The only thing missing was the beach.
In a move that’s either sheer genius or…a sign of the Apocalypse, McDonald’s France is giving their cheeseburgers a serious makeover. From February 15th through March 27th, customers will be able to get their burgers on a baguette, with a choice of four different French cheeses–three of which are prestigious Protected Designation of Origin (PDO; formerly known in France as Appellation d’origine contrôlée, or AOC) products. These cheeses are under strict production guidelines and can only be made within a specific area in their region of origin. Ooh la la!
According to culture: the word on cheese (full disclosure: I’m a contributing editor), the cheese selection consists of Cantal, a buttery alpine style; Fourme d’Ambert, a creamy, spicy blue; Saint-Nectaire, an earthy semi-soft number, and “generic” chèvre, aka fresh goat cheese.
The cheesemonger/writer in me is thrilled to see something other than processed orange crap on a hamburger, and in France, I think this concept will fly. I don’t think America is ready for le gourmet burger with cheese yet, but it will be a great day when fast food actually consists of real food.
For many people–myself included–one of the most enjoyable aspects of travel is experiencing how other cultures eat. Even if you’re only traveling as far as the other end of the state, chances are there’s a regional specialty, street food, farmers market, or restaurant that’s a destination in its own right.
Sometimes, however, the pickings are slim, or no matter how delicious the food, the odds are just stacked against you. As Anthony Bourdain put it on a recent episode of his new series, The Layover, “…if there’s not a 50-percent chance of diarrhea, it’s not worth eating.”
Gross, perhaps, but gluttonous travelers know there’s truth in those words. Bourdain happened to be referring to a late-night drunk binge at one of Amsterdam‘s infamous FEBO fast food automats (above), so with that in mind, I present this photographic homage to the things we eat on the road, despite knowing better. Walk softly, and carry a big bottle of Imodium