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I have to confess that I do like the occasional fast food meal and usually McDonalds is my first choice. I also like the fact that in any I have tried, the food is consistent. The 24 hours a day opening is another bonus for me, as although my insomnia has now eased thanks to medication, it used to be a comfort knowing that I could jump in the car at 4am and go get a burger. I never did (my nearest is 12 miles away and I never wanted something to eat THAT much) but the thought was there. It also means that as I am usually the designated driver whenever I go out, I can stop and get something to eat on the way home. Though I don’t do that as often; not since a drunk guy who has been refused service at the drive through tried to get in the car beside me so he could be served. I do sometimes wonder how much trade they get at 3am, but it must be enough for them to stay open the clock round.
I was in my teens before I had my first McDonalds. At that time, there weren’t any outlets outside of Belfast, and I was rarely in Belfast because of the troubles. Now, the large yellow Ms are a common sight across Northern Ireland.
McDonalds have a bad reputation with many people, including food snobs. Yes, people can argue that the food is tasteless, there is no nutritional value and that McDonalds is responsible for the obesity epidemic, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time. There are also a lot of urban myths surrounding the chain, most of which I am certain there is no truth in. I’m sure that there has been rogue staff that worked for the chain in the past, but I can’t imagine that people would be allowed to put their own ‘special sauce’ on burgers nowadays. Especially not since the ‘Scores on the Doors’ initiative was introduced by councils. I have also noticed that the restaurants have had a makeover in recent years and have been given a more upmarket look with design features such as wood panelling and perspex. The restaurant areas are also light, bright and airy.
I was given the advice of never visiting McDonalds at quieter times, as food could have been sitting around for longer. Though, ordering a burger without an ingredient can usually endure you get a freshly cooked burger as well.
McDonalds have made an effort to have some ‘healthier’ options on the menu in recent years. The healthier options include a side salad of Mixed salad with carrot and cherry tomatoes served with balsamic dressing which you can have as part of a meal, or separately at a cost of 99p. I would recommend if you are wanting a side salad to order earlier in the day, as it can get a bit limp in the evenings (hmmmmmm, (must resist inserting joke here). There is also a grilled or crispy chicken salad, with or without bacon available, with a choice of Caesar or Balsamic dressing. McDonalds have faced criticism about the calories in their salads, mainly because of the creamy dressings, but the balsamic dressing with the grilled chicken is a relatively healthy choice.
McDonalds are best known for their burgers, the most famous being the Big Mac, which is two beef patties with lettuce, onions, pickles, cheese and the secret recipe Big Mac sauce. Other burgers on offer include: The Quarter Pounder which is A quarter pound beef patty with two slices of cheese, onions, pickles, mustard and a dollop of Heinz® Tomato Ketchup in a sesame seed bun. Filet O Fish, an Alaskan Pollock or Hoki served with ½ a cheese slice and tartare sauce in a crisp breadcrumb coating. McChicken Sandwich, a reformed chicken breast burger, served with mayo and lettuce. There are also limited edition burgers often available such as the Big Tasty (one of the worst burgers I’ve ever eaten) and seasonal promotions such as Great Tastes of Summer.
The fries are world famous and I am partial to the occasional portion. My only criticism is that sometimes they could be cooked slightly longer, but some barbecue sauce usually sorts that out.
Another well known item on the menu is the kid’s meals – known as happy meals. Consisting of a hamburger, cheeseburger or chicken nuggets, a small portion of chips or carrot sticks and a drink, they are ideal for smaller appetites. You also get a toy, usually from a popular cartoon or a film that the company are promoting. I recently bought a couple of happy meals and got Smurfs figures along with my meal. You can also buy the figures separately, but I don’t think that’s as much fun!
There is also a cheaper value menu available, for times when you only have about £2, or just wanting a snack. This poundsaver menu includes the McChicken Mayo which is crispy coated chicken with lettuce and mayo in a toasted bun, the double cheeseburger, a small side salad or a regular portion of fries. Prices are around 99p, or £1.49 for the Double Cheeseburger, which seems to shoot up in price every year or so.
The Deli choices range is a variety of fillings served in either a roll or a wrap. Every day, one of these is available to purchase for £1.99 for the sandwich and £3.69 for the meal. If it's not the sandwich of the day, they are available for £2.99 and £4.49 respectively. The choices for the deli meals are as follows; Sweet Chilli Crispy Chicken Grilled Chicken Salad Crispy Chicken & Bacon Spicy Veggie (approved by the Vegetarian Society)
I don’t really drink tea or coffee, but I have heard a lot of good reports about the coffee in McDonalds. Coffee is freshly ground and you can have your choice of Latte, Cappuccino and Espresso. Prices are around £2 for a large coffee on it's own, but it is also available in the meals.
Other drinks available include soft drinks, water Tropicana orange juice and Fruit Shoots. There is also a drink available with happy meals called Fruitizz, which is made with grape, apple and raspberry juice and sparkling water. I usually get this when I buy a happy meal and it is a refreshing, fruity drink. McDonalds are also very well known for their milkshakes, but I haven't ever tried these, as I'm not a milkshake fan, but I know they are very popular.
There is also a fairly varied desserts menu available. These include whipped ice cream served in a cone (with or without a flake), as an ice cream sundae with strawberry or toffee sauce, or as a McFluffy, a sundae with smarties, dairy milk or crunchie pieces mixed through the ice cream. There are often special McFlurry’s available, with the inclusion of chocolatey delights such as KitKats, Matchmakers and Galaxy chocolate. Other desserts include apple pie, chocolate brownies, muffins and doughnuts.
Their breakfasts are another favourite of mine, although not one I often indulge in. I am particularly fond of the pancakes and syrup and the hash browns. Not the healthiest of breakfasts, but as with most things on McDonald’s menu, okay in moderation. Breakfasts are served from 5am – 10:30am. Breakfast items include Bacon Rolls, Breakfast Wraps, sausage or bacon and egg McMuffins and Pancakes & Sausage with Syrup There are also healthier choices available such as Oatso Simple Porridge and bagels with Philadelphia or Flora.
I do think that the menu is very limited if you are a vegetarian, although I am guessing that vegetarians aren’t one of their main focus groups. There was a Quorn burger on the menu for a while, but it has been discontinued. The only vegetarian items available on the menu are the fries and the veggie wrap/sub.
While not as cheap as they used to be, it is still good value. With a burger, chips and a drink costing around £5.00 on average (some are cheaper, some more expensive, but I rounded it up), it’s cheaper than some other fast food outlets. It’s also generally fast service, so ideal for when you’re in a hurry and want to grab something to eat. McDonalds also often run promotions to tempt customers into the store, such as free Coca Cola glasses and the very popular Monopoly where you can win anything from cars and cash to a (more frequently) a free McFlurry.
McDonalds isn’t fancy food, but sometimes I just want something fast and quick, and McDonalds does me. I also find that the quarter pounder burgers are a fantastic hangover cure. I know that the food served in McDonald’s isn’t to everyone’s tastes, but I think it’s fine as an occasional treat and I find that the food served is consistent, so it’s handy to know that when if you are in a new area, the food will be familiar. Even in Europe, I have found that the food tastes similar to what is served here. It's a nice occasional treat, but don't eat too many as they're not the healthiest of meals, but we all need an occasional treat, I think anyways.