McDonald’s will open its ground-floor restaurant inside its new Chicago headquarters on Wednesday on Randolph Street, home to many of the city’s hottest restaurants. In order to fit into the trendy West Loop neighborhood, the new restaurant will serve a rotating menu of special items found at the chain’s restaurants in other countries. That includes cheese- and bacon-loaded fries from Australia, a McSpicy chicken sandwich from Hong Kong, and a McFlurry Prestigio from Brazil.
It’ll also have full-time baristas preparing specialty espresso drinks, including flat whites. That’s a page out of McDonald’s restaurants in Australia. These global items will be available in additional to the Golden Arches’ regular Big Macs, Chicken McNuggets, and Happy Meals. The international items will rotate “every couple months or so,” said Ann Wahlgren, McDonald’s VP for global menu strategy. There’s no drive-thru, but there are spaces for cars to park up in front if customers are picking up an online order. It’s banking heavily on UberEats, too.
“Everything we have done to modernize the brand over the past several years is exhibited in this restaurant,” said Robert Gibbs, President Barack Obama’s former press secretary turned McDonald’s chief spokesperson.
The modern restaurant, at 110 N. Carpenter Street, is an appeal to demonstrate how the fast-food giant has evolved. It includes those touchscreen kiosks that McDonald’s debuted in River North in 2016. Customers can also order using a mobile app. The franchise hopes to transition all of its restaurants to this “McDonald’s Experience of the Future” by 2020.
It’ll also offer table service at the 6,000-square-foot restaurant. The headquarters sits on the former home of Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Studios. The tables feature inductive charging for mobile devices. If a customer’s phone supports it, they can power up with touch charging. There are about 16 tables with said technology, something that Starbucks attempted years ago.
McDonald’s already has a West Loop restaurant, a few blocks west at Lake and Ogden. But this sparkling new spot is unique and opens at 6 a.m. on Wednesday.
Here’s a rundown of the first batch of international items:
- The Mighty Angus Burger From Canada (1/3-pound patty, lettuce, onion, cheese, bacon, smoky Angus sauce on a glazed poppy, sesame seed bun)
With Umami Burger, Shake Shack, Kuma’s Corner, and the Loyalist in the neighborhood, McDonald’s needed to up its burger game. This Canadian burger has a good weight. The onions under the cheese make for a nice combo. It’s sweet, and the onions are diced thinner than, say, a White Castle slider. The bacon bits, the same ones found in on the loaded fries, make for a chewy experience.
- The McSpicy Chicken Sandwich from Hong Kong (spicy, deep-fried breaded chicken breast, lettuce, bun)
There are traces of heat on this sandwich, but spicy food lovers shouldn’t be overjoyed. Don’t expect karaage or an Asian take on fried chicken — there’s still that familiar mix of shredded lettuce and mayo. This one didn’t have a sesame-seed bun as the news release described. Instead, it came on the same bun as a classic McDonald’s hamburger, and featured the same crispy chicken filet that customers already know about.
- Cheese & Bacon Loaded Fries from Australia (fries, melted cheese, bacon bits)
This batch of fries isn’t drenched with cheese sauce, and there’s a sprinkle of bacon bits that would be at home on a salad. The toppings almost obscure the fries, an American classic.
- Mozza Salad from France (balsamic-dressed pasta salad, roasted tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, arugula, grilled or fried chicken, breadstick)
Though the item is from France, the label on the package describes it as the “Italian Mozzarella Salad.” There are mozzarella balls on each of its four corners, with arugula sprinkled on a bed of tangy pasta salad. The pasta is mushed, compressed by the weight of the cut-up room-temperature chicken on top. The chicken, grilled in this case, can’t shake the texture of being processed.
- Manhattan Salad from France (lettuce mix, baby kale, romaine/spring lettuce, grape tomatoes, dried cranberries, sliced apples, grilled or fried chicken, breadstick)
The apples are sliced, and their skins are removed. They are kind of sad. The fried chicken is reminiscent of KFC’s original recipe. The ripe tomatoes are the best part of the salad, as the lettuce mix, while crisp and green, is basic.
- McFlurry Prestigio from Brazil (vanilla soft serve ice cream, strawberry sauce, chocolate-covered coconut bites)
The chocolate-coconut bites are what makes this dessert different. It’s as though someone threw a box of Russell Stover chocolates into some soft serve. The strawberry sauce is more sweet than tart.