The summer of 1989 was a strange time. Jack Nicholson's Joker chewed his way through the Gotham City scenery, the New Kids on the Block decided it was OK to wear overalls without shirts, and McDonald's started serving pizza in a handful of its restaurants. Weird, right? By the mid-1990s, pizza was on the menu in an estimated 40 percent of McDonald's locations, but it never caught on and was quietly yanked out of stores, joining McSpaghetti and the McLeanDeluxe in the McTrashcan we never speak of.
But, thanks to three Canadian twentysomethings, we now know that there are two McDonald's locations in the United States that still sell pizza—because these determined individuals drove 1,000 miles round-trip just to eat one. Earlier this month, Mitchell Boughner, Nathan Dallaire and Dan Sutherland drove from London, Ontario to Spencer, West Virginia to sample one of the rare pizzas, a road trip that took more than eight hours each way.
"A couple of months ago, I Googled McDonald's pizza and an article came up from 2015 saying that, apparently in West Virginia, they still sell McDonald's pizza," Dallaire says in their YouTube video. "So we're going to go all the way down to West Virginia, come back and we'll see how that goes."
Dallaire's investigoogling was right on: the only places you can score a McDonald's pizza of your own are in Spencer and in Pomeroy, Ohio. According to Mental Floss, both locations are owned by the same franchisee, Greg Mills, who seems to be getting some kind of corporate OK to keep the pizza alive. (MUNCHIES has reached out to McDonald's for comment but hasn't yet heard back).
Although Mills is making a valiant effort, McDonald's pizza never really became A Thing for a number of reasons, ranging from customers' expectations about where they should go for good pizza (it was not under a set of Golden Arches), the comparatively high price point, and the not-exactly-fast prep time for each pie.
"Although it was a popular menu item in Canada, the preparation time was about 11 minutes—which was way too long for us," McDonald's Canada wrote on its website in 2012. "Every McDonald's has a busy kitchen and the pizza slowed down our game. And since speed of service is a top priority and expected by our customers, we thought it best to remove this menu item. For now, our pizzas will have to remain a tasty bit of history."
OR A TASTY BIT OF THE PRESENT, if you want to drive to the meaty center of West-by-God-Virginia, like Boughner, Dallaire and Sutherland did. The trio chronicled all 500 miles on their fresh-baked YouTube channel, Completely Irrelephant, and it still might be the only pizza run that will ever require them to carry their passports. MUNCHIES spoke with Mitchell Boughner (the driver wearing that sweet 'Merican t-shirt) about the trip, their inspiration, and how much it costs for an international personal-sized pizza.
MUNCHIES: Hey guys. OK, let's get this out of the way: Why McDonald's Pizza?
Mitchell Boughner: Well, Dan, the guy in the back seat, is in the Navy, so he lives in Nova Scotia. Nathan, in the passenger seat, lives two hours away in Toronto, and we were all talking about McDonald's pizza one day. Nathan looked it up, and it turned out that there's two places that have McDonald's pizza: Spencer, WV and in Pomeroy [Ohio]. We made a joke about going there when everybody was home.
Did you know that you were going to be able to order it?
Nathan said he was going to check to make sure that they actually have the pizza, and I said, "No, it would be hilarious if we just drive down there and it turned out that they don't even have it." Either way, it would've been good.
When was the last time you actually had McDonald's Pizza?
It would've been back when we were just kids, in the 1990s. I'm 25, Dan's 25 and Nathan's 24. It definitely would've been a long time ago.
Did you have some kind of really great memory attached to it?
No, we knew it was completely mundane and mediocre. It was more about the story behind [the trip].
There's a scene in the video when you get to the US border and the caption says that you're laughing nervously. Did you think that there was a chance that you wouldn't be allowed to leave Canada?
We were all thinking, There's no way we're not getting pulled over and searched. We thought as soon as we said that we were going to McDonald's, they would've said "Yeah, you guys can go ahead and pull over here." But then we thought about it afterward and, if you're going to lie about coming over the border, you're probably not going to say that you're going for McDonald's pizza. It was so ridiculous that it had to be true.
When you guys were driving, for that eight hours in the car, was there a point where you thought 'This is a really stupid idea?'
Oh, the entire time. Before we even left I said this was a stupid idea—but that was the whole point, right?
What was the total cost of the trip?
The Canadian pesos not very good right now, but it was three tanks of gas and a night in a bed and breakfast in Spencer split between the three of us and the cost of food. It was about $100 CAD ($75 USD) each. It wasn't bad at all.
What do you guys think you'll be tackling next?
We've got another trip planned. Unfortunately, Dan won't be able to make this one because he serves in the military, but we've got something in the mix. We want to keep it a surprise for now. We didn't expect this to take off the way it did, but we're going to have to keep thinking of other ridiculously stupid ideas to travel long distances for.
Thanks for speaking with us.