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Disappointment Under The Golden Arches

I had heard so much about this place that I knew I finally had to try it. With locations at almost every rest stop, city corner and college campus, it’s a wonder I hadn’t visited it sooner. I can only blame my hesitation on the fact that its mascot, a certain clown, freaks me out. One day, on my way to Water Tower Campus, I finally looked up at the golden arches of McDonald’s (10 E. Chicago Ave.) and knew that it was time to face my coulrophobia (fear of clowns) and learn what the buzz was all about.

It was fairly early in the morning, so I decided to give the breakfast menu a try. Although I was tempted by the big breakfast with hotcakes, which included a buttermilk biscuit, sausage patty, scrambled eggs, hash browns and hotcakes (all for only $5.49!), when I saw the sausage McGriddle ($2.79), I knew I had to try it.

I am always torn between sweet and savory dishes when I go out to breakfast, so the option of a sausage patty between two maple-flavored pancakes seemed like the perfect compromise. The pancakes were warm and fluffy and the sausage tasted, well, like sausage. I ordered a side of hash browns (two for $1). They tasted exactly like shredded potatoes formed into a brick, and they were perfectly crispy after their bath in the deep fryer. I also tried the coffee ($1 for a small). The quality was what you imagine a cup would taste like from a pot made in someone’s back corner office at 5 p.m. that’s been sitting there since 9 a.m with a sprinkle of sewage and a splash of curdled milk.

Apparently, McDonald’s serves breakfast all day, which is every college kid’s dream. However, I’ve heard that not every location serves hash browns all day, which apparently caused some uproar. I can see why, because who wouldn’t want potatoes in all their possible forms at every time of the day?

I left for class satisfied and ready to start the day.

As I headed back to Lake Shore Campus, the golden arches beckoned to me again. Its prime location right next to the Chicago Red Line stop could make this a dangerous discovery. I decided to give lunch there a try as well.

Sadly, this is when my expectations began to not live up to my dreams.

I ordered the premium bacon ranch salad with buttermilk crispy chicken ($4.59) and mozzarella sticks (three for $1.19), which you can get without the cheese inside if you’re looking for a lighter version. The ranch dressing tasted like it definitely did not come out of the hidden valley, and the bacon was soggy, like it had been sitting in its own grease for too long. I was also disappointed when I learned that the dish had 29 grams of fat in it. I thought I was making a healthier choice by ordering a salad instead of a burger and fries.

The mozzarella sticks were fine, but nothing near what you would find at an authentic Italian restaurant or on the streets of Rome.

I was on my way home to my apartment after I had finished classes for the day, and then, on Broadway (6231 N. Broadway St.) near the mail room, I saw those golden arches again. I noticed that it was pretty close to dinner time and decided to give McDonald’s one more shot.

Having learned from my mistake earlier that day, I decided to order what I had really wanted all along: a burger and fries. Now fairly familiar with the menu, as it was my third visit of the day, I looked to the value section to get the most bang for my buck. I ordered the quarter pounder with cheese, which came with fries and a drink ($3.79). I got a Diet Coke because calories count, ya know?

I took my tray back to the table and was a little hesitant to dig in when I noticed the burger wrapper was already soaked through with grease. Nonetheless, I forged ahead and dug in.

I was disappointed by the size of the beef patty. I did notice an asterisk next to the “quarter-pounder” sign that said 4.25 oz. was the weight before cooking. My patty seemed to be half that. The meat was brown and dry, and the cheese didn’t do much to add some tenderness to the dish. The lettuce and tomato looked nothing like the picture on the menu, and both were wilted.

I will say that the fries were equally as satisfying as the hash browns I had had earlier that day. If there’s one thing McDonald’s knows, it’s how to mend an already delicious vegetable to an even more delicious dish that questionably constitutes as a vegetable.

I know that Morgan Spurlock made a documentary in which he ate McDonald’s for every meal for one month. Having tried that for a day, I decided I would not continue on to star in the sequel to Supersize Me.

McDonald’s prepares some menu items well (mostly potatoes, and anything that’s deep fried), and the prices are a friend to any college student’s budget. However, what started off so promising at the beginning of the day left me feeling sluggish and smelling like grease and regret by the end.

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