McDonald's International: Top Ten Most Unusual Around the World
McDonald's spokeswoman Lizzie Roscoe explains: "When you walk into a McDonald's -- no matter where you are in the world -- the restaurant should connect to the local culture. We are a global company, and at the same time, we are a neighborhood business. So when you look at our menus in the 117 countries in which we do business, you'll find food that reflects local taste preferences."
However, instead of simply duplicating local favorites, the company takes what's familiar and puts a McDonald's twist on it, often working with local suppliers to produce these specialty items. McDonald's Corporation opened its first restaurant in Des Plaines, Ill. in 1955 and began to expand internationally in 1967, with restaurants in Canada (try a McLobster roll here) and Puerto Rico (where flan has appeared on the menu).
Today, McDonald's international restaurants can be found on every continent except Antarctica; their popularity is due to menu variations that recognize cultural differences, as well as to such international favorites as French fries (nine million pounds are served every day).
McDonald's first opened in Hungary 22 years ago, when a Big Mac cost a mere 43 forint (27 cents). Travelers are thankful for a quick burger at Budapest's Western Railway, where the Golden Arches have set up shop under the marble arches of the former Royal Waiting Hall. The restored 19th century structure was originally designed by Eiffel & Cie of Paris to welcome dignitaries arriving by rail, including the beloved Princess Elisabeth, or "Sissi," as people remember her.
If you're catching an early train and looking for a hearty breakfast, ask for the "Wrap Omelettel," a tortilla stuffed with an omelet and chicken and "McBuri" (hash browns).
Hoang Dinh Nam, AFP/Getty Images
When the first McDonald's opened in Manila in 1981, it had to contend with the popularity of a local chain called Jollibee, whose American-style fast food restaurants serve Filipino-influenced dishes. While bringing American standards of quality and cleanliness to the Philippines, McDonald's menu has integrated dishes that locals seem to love -- like McSpaghetti, a combo of noodles and hot dogs topped with a sweet tomato sauce and grated cheese. The Chicken McDo combines chicken with the spaghetti. McDonald's breakfast menu also features Longganisa (Philippine chorizo) served with rice.
If there is a country that embraces pop culture more that the U.S., it must be Japan, where Pokemon and Nintendo are prominent McDonald's tie-ins. McDonald's debuted in Japan in 1971 in the Mitsukoshi department store in Tokyo's Ginza district.
Thousands of restaurants followed, making the country one of McDonald's top markets, thanks in no small part to a menu that catered to Japanese taste preferences. The Ume Nuggets (Chicken McNuggets with sour plum sauce), and the French Fries with barbecue, seaweed, or Italian basil seasoning are hugely popular.
The Koroke Burger, served in the winter, is a sandwich made of mashed potato, cabbage and katsu sauce. Another seasonal item is the Tsukimi Burger (literally moon-viewing burger), with a beef patty topped with bacon, a poached egg, and mayonnaise-ketchup sauce; it is served before and during tsukimi or autumn moon season. (The egg represents the moon.)
The McDonald's drinks menu includes tea, soft drinks (Fanta is popular here), Qoo (a non-carbonated juice drink produced by Coca-Cola especially for the Japanese market) and green tea-flavored milkshakes.
Fun Fact: The world's smallest McDonald's measures only 496 square feet and is located in the Haneda Airport.
Michael Yeung, flickr
In 1990, the first McDonald's restaurant opened in the Special Economic Zone of Shenzhen, Guangdong province. In 1992, the world's biggest McDonald's (over 700 seats) opened in Beijing, but was later demolished along with adjacent buildings to make way for new construction.
In China, where chicken is the favored fast food, McDonald's has had to play catch-up with the already-established and very popular KFC. But the company plans to increase its presence from about 1,100 outlets to 2,000 by the end of 2013.
Reflecting the growing interest in all things western, McDonald's menu does feature beef burgers along with the more widely accepted chicken burgers -- which use thigh meat, rather than the breast meat used in the West. Chicken McNuggets come with a chili garlic sauce, as well as with the traditional BBQ, Sweet 'n' Sour, and honey mustard sauces. In a bow to tradition, the Chinese New Year meal features a Grilled Chicken Burger, curly fries, a horoscope of the 12 zodiac animals of Chinese astrology and traditional red packets, or gift bags, for monetary gift-giving as good luck.
If you go to Windsor Castle to visit the Queen and she doesn't invite you in to tea, there's always Mickey D's right across the street.
McDonald's landed in the U.K. in 1974, in Woolwich, southeast London, and since then, the country has become one of the company's best-performing markets.
Of all the McDonald's international restaurants, those in the U.K. may seem the most familiar, with a menu that includes the Big Mac along with various chicken sandwiches. For vegetarians, there's a Spicy Vegi Deli, a spicy patty made from chickpeas with coriander and cumin, served with lettuce and a squirt of sweet chili (sic) and ranch sauces on a toasted deli roll.
The Brits love bacon, so for breakfast, there is the Bacon Roll, a bacon sandwich served either with ketchup or brown sauce -- as well as another favorite you won't find in the U.S. -- porridge Oatso Simple® Porridge Oats served with jam or syrup.
The restaurants in Oxford, near the seat of higher learning for the English-speaking world, are popular with the university's 20,000 students. Pubs may close at 11:00 p.m., but the students don't have to face an all-nighter without refueling at McDonald's -- the one at 57 Cornmarket Street is open until 3:00 a.m.
Dining in Paris on escargots, champagne and foie gras is fine when you have unlimited time and plenty of euros. But for people on a budget or on the go, McDonald's has been a welcome spot for a quick meal since the first restaurant opened in 1972. And despite some high-profile protests organized by anti-GM activist José Bové, McDonald's is thriving in France, merci beaucoup.
With over 1,100 outlets, many of which are in Paris, France is one of McDonald's most profitable markets, serving 1.7 million customers daily -- and it's not just tourists. McDonald's menu, featuring such French-inspired dishes as Croque McDo (a toasted ham and Swiss sandwich akin to the classic Croque Monsieur), has become popular with young people for whom Chez McDo has become a relaxed and inexpensive date option.
McDonald's most recent affront to the Gallic sensibility is the chain's invasion of the hallowed Louvre Museum, the former royal palace that holds many of the world's greatest art treasures including the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo. McDonald's opened last year in the underground approach to the museum, the Carrousel du Louvre, sending defenders of haute cuisine and fine art into a frenzy.
Vittorio Zunino Celotto, Getty Images
So great is the red tape involved in doing business in Italy that even mighty McDonald's resisted for many years before opening in Rome's historic Piazza di Spagna in 1986. The restaurant is one of the world's fanciest McDonald's, with a marble interior that seats 800 people and a tasteful gold McDonald's sign on the exterior -- and no visible Golden Arches.
Still, the opening set off a food fight extraordinaire, with some critics proclaiming "the death of Italian cuisine." This McDonald's restaurant, close to the famous Spanish Steps, inspired a Turin gourmet named Carlo Petrini to launch a protest that became the international Slow Food movement, which favors local, organic cooking over processed products.
The controversy reignited earlier this year when the Italian Minister of Agriculture put the government's seal of approval on McDonald's new McItaly burger, which uses all Italian beef, Asiago cheese and artichoke spread.
McDonald's has also tried to assimilate with a menu that includes salads not seen at home like a Caprese (tomato and fresh mozzarella) and a Shrimp and Salmon salad. In a country that thrives on debate, a Catholic country where a porn star can get elected to Parliament, McDonald's was simply the controversy of the day.
Rene Volfik, AP
After the fall of communism, the new Czech Republic was hungry for everything the west had to offer -- literally. Czechs have been fans from the day McDonald's opened in Prague in 1992.
McDonald's has even opened its eminently capitalist doors directly below Prague's Museum of Communism, so that after learning about totalitarian regime that controlled Czechoslovakia from 1948 until 1989, visitors can enjoy a taste of freedom, American-style.
A regular McDonald's menu item is the McCountry, a pork sausage patty served with lettuce, tomato, onion and mayonnaise on a plain bun. So is Smažený Sýr, a slice of cheese coated in flour, egg, and breadcrumbs, and then fried -- a caloric marvel that Americans hadn't even thought of.
Daniel Berehulak, Getty Images
"Where's the beef?" another hamburger chain once famously asked; well, you won't find beef or pork on McDonald's menu in India. Here, in a nation that is predominantly Hindu and reveres the cow, is an excellent example of how McDonald's adapts its menu to conform to local culture. The solution: the McVeggie, a "burger" that isn't a burger at all, but rather a sandwich made with peas, carrots, green beans, red bell pepper, potatoes, onions, rice, and a special Indian seasoning topped with lettuce and vegan mayonnaise -- all on a sesame seed bun.
The Filet-O-Fish is the only sandwich that is prepared exactly the way it is in the U.S. The best bet for the hungry road crew: the Chicken Maharaja Mac sandwich, made with two grilled chicken patties and topped with onions, tomatoes, cheese, and a spicy mayonnaise. When Chicken McNuggets were introduced in May 2009, they sold so well that some stores ran out.
David Silverman, Getty Images
At McDonald's in Israel, you can get a hamburger -- but you may not be able to get a cheeseburger, as a number of restaurants are strictly kosher. The first McDonald's opened in 1993 and the first kosher McDonald's opened in Mevasseret Zion in October 1995.
At the kosher restaurants, the familiar yellow and red signs have been replaced with the McDonald's name in blue and white in Hebrew and the word "kosher." All McDonald's restaurants here use kosher beef, chicken and other products -- and the beef used is leaner than elsewhere, with only 9% fat (versus 20-24% in the U.S.). The burgers are not cooked on a griddle, but charcoal-grilled, catering to Israelis' preference for healthier foods. They've even created their own version of a Middle Eastern favorite with the McShawarma -- turkey, tahini and pickles wrapped in lafa bread.
McDonald's has come a long way since the first international restaurants were opened. Today, the over 32,000 outlets in 117 countries serve more than 60 million people each day. But whether the menu features Big Rosti (Germany) or Barbacoa Tejana (Latin America), the food is portable and affordable. In other words: It's McDonald's.
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