We asked our entire international MUNCHIES team and VICE editors around the world to visit their local McDonald's and report back on what they found. This is what they found.
United Kingdom: Bacon Roll
Bacon Roll. Photo by Phoebe Hurst.
Full disclosure before you read this: I am vegetarian and apart from accompanying inebriated friends to stuff ungodly quantities of McNuggets into their mouths at ungodlier hours of the morning or the one time a weed dealer asked to meet at our local McDonald's, I haven't ventured through the Golden Arches since Happy Meals came with Tamagotchi keychains.
So, when the directive comes to find the McDonald's menu item "local" to the UK, I have to do some research. Isn't British Maccy's basically the same as American Maccy's, except with slightly smaller portion sizes and slightly higher instances of illicit sex in the disabled loos?
Well, actually, the fast food annals of Reddit inform me, no. There are a couple of regional variations on the British McDonald's menu—the main one being the bacon roll, which is sold as a breakfast item until 10:30 AM. Not quite as exciting as McNoodles or as sophisticated and European as being able to order wine with your Big Mac, but who doesn't like bacon butties? (No comment.)
Isn't British Maccy's basically the same as American Maccy's, except with slightly smaller portion sizes and slightly higher instances of illicit sex in the disabled loos?
I arrive at McDonald's hoping to be faced with a McJobbing teenager who will reluctantly ask whether I want fries with that. What I actually find is a row of huge touch screens and signs bidding me to "Order Here." It really has been a while.
I do as I'm told, feeling like I'm standing in front of a huge iPhone as I tap the "Breakfast Wraps and Rolls" button. There, alongside the Bacon & Egg Snack Wrap and Egg & Cheese McMuffin, for the price of £3.69 and 319 calories, is the bacon roll.
The screen offers me the option of ketchup or brown sauce and given that I'm repping Britain today, I choose brown sauce—that vaguely vinegary condiment no one outside of the British Isles really seems to bother with. The McDonald's bots are intent on funnelling me into adding to other items to my meal, and I'm encouraged to choose a breakfast drink and side. I tap the screen for a black Americano but am stumped by the choice of sides. Hash browns make sense and yeah, a blueberry muffin could be quite nice in a breakfast pudding kind of way, but I'm at a loss to think of who would chase a greasy bacon roll with a bag of melon slices. I skip the side and pay.
I wait for my order to appear at the till behind a post-school run mum holding a child's scooter and huge bunch of keys. She collects a coffee while two teenagers in school uniform grab Egg McMuffins to-go. A guy with a neck tattoo seems confused when he is handed a Berry Burst Iced Fruit Smoothie with his sausage wrap. The woman behind the till explains to him that it was part of the order he made on the touch screen.
"Yeah, but I thought it would be an extra sandwich or something!" he says.
I wait until I'm back at the office to unwrap my order. The bread is slightly squashed and not fully toasted, but opens to reveal a generous two rashers of bacon underneath a smear of sauce. No butter. The coffee is … actually not terrible? Although I realize that for the true British breakfast experience, I should have ordered tea.
With Morrissey's dying animal sound effects echoing around my head, I know that McDonald's bacon roll could never tempt me to break my ten-year run of vegetarianism—no matter how precisely it has been engineered for my home country's palate. I offer it to a colleague. He takes a bite and chews thoughtfully for a minute.
"Needs more brown sauce."
—Phoebe Hurst, MUNCHIES UK
France: Croque McDo
What's the Frenchest item to grab if you happen to be in a McDonald's in France? If you're familiar with the movie Pulp Fiction, you know that "Le Big Mac" stands for "a Big Mac" and that when French people want to order a Quarter Pounder with Cheese, they ask for "Le Royal with Cheese"—the last resurgence of a monarchy we beheaded more than two centuries ago.
That being said, there is a sandwich a foreigner might not notice at first glance. Not because it's part of some sort of French hidden menu—obviously, one that would go with a glass of Bordeaux and a beret or a Beton-striped shirt—but because it might actually sounds like an oddity for someone who didn't grew up in France.
No more useless suspense. I'm talking about the infamous Croque McDo, the Frenchest McDonald item's you could ever possibly get. Croque McDo is a slice of ham and two slices of gooey Emmental between two pancakes, toasted. It appeared on French McDonald's menus in November 2001, during the peak of the mad cow disease crisis in Europe. A McDonald's France rep at the time described the sandwich as a beef-free sandwich, designed to reassure concerned French mothers.
The thing is, the sandwich is quite a bold take on the much-loved Croque Monsieur—bold because you have to be crazy to make a Croque Monsieur without béchamel. Béchamel is to French people what the national flag is to the American: something we deeply cherish and want to see everywhere. So hey, McDonald's France: where's the béchamel?
—Léo Bourdin, MUNCHIES France
Denmark: Kylling & Hummus
When I went to high school in a small town in Denmark, there was a surefire way of getting into the local nightclub: having a student job at McDonald's. The bouncers at club Hollywood Hard Rock got a discount voucher for Big Macs, and us fast-food workers slipped through the queue with no questions asked. Working at McDonald's in my hometown was a brilliant riot of afterwork drinking and privileged pay.
This is almost two decades ago, way before Nordic was new, and when the peak of cool dining was American processed cheese and clamshell-grilled patties. So what does the menu look like now at McDonald's? Is it all fermented grain burgers and scurvy grass smoothies? I stop off at a highway branch outside Skanderborg and bypass the touchscreen displays where most people place their order. At the counter, I'm greeted by Mariam's beaming smile. Mariam has worked at McDonald's for 13 years, and has the patience and professional demeanor of a maitre'd at a three-star Michelin restaurant. She clasps her hands with excitement when I ask for any local Danish specialities.
There is no sea buckthorn in sight; it's all sweet, tropical creaminess.
"I'm so glad you asked me that," she says and points to two burgers on the snack menu that are as Danish as doughnuts: Super Cheese, which doubles up on slices of Emmental, and Tasty Cheese, a slightly smoky marriage of a cheeseburger and a McFeast. The salad options seem much more on point with the local zeitgeist. Even though the label indicates that my bowl of chicken, wild rice, hummus, and cabbage was produced in Sweden, the ingredients are apparently curated specifically for the Danish market. It's raw, healthy and annoyingly delicious (who in their right mind comes here for the raw cabbage?). I wash it down with a Københavnerstang ("Copenhagen ice pop") shake, which is a tribute to a classic Danish ice cream treat with vanilla and pineapple ice cream. There is no sea buckthorn in sight; it's all sweet, tropical creaminess. Back at the office, I add a healthy splash of dark rum and the beast comes to life. A summery cocktail worthy of a nightclub. If only McDonald's would open one of those.
—Lars Hinnerskov Eriksen, MUNCHIES Denmark
The Netherlands: McKroket
The McKroket is a bread-crumbed, deep-fried glob of beef ragout, served on a typical McDonald's bun, garnished with a bit of Dijon mustard that contains actual mustard seeds (yay!) but that's also been mixed with mayonaise (boo!).
You can get something like this (called a broodje kroket) in basically every diner in this country, and they're typically eaten with mustard, though some people (tasteless people, tbh) prefer mayonaise instead.
The Netherlands actually were the first country outside of the Americas where McDonalds tried to set up franchises, back in the 1970s. They failed at first, mainly because they set up their restaurants in the suburbs, which wasn't a terribly successful strategy in the Netherlands. But they did introduce the McKroket, which they served alongside the holy trinity of Dutch children's birthday foods: chicken, applesauce, and fries. (And split pea soup, too. But nobody serves that at Dutch children's birthday parties.)
Anyway, after McDonalds' first attempt to conquer the Netherlands failed, they came back with a vengeance, and the restaurant really took off in the 80s and 90s, at which point they re-introduced the McKroket. It sold so well, they kept it.
A good croquette is a hot, chunky mess of deep-fried goo.
Now, an actual broodje kroket, when you get it at a reasonably good spot, is flat out better than the McKroket. The McDonalds croquette is a bland slab of everyman's beef ragout. The ragout is very plain, very creamy, and not chunky at all. A good croquette is a hot, chunky mess of deep-fried goo. If you try the McKroket, try it once, take it for what it is, and then go get a 'broodje kroket' at Van Dobben or something.
—Jan van Tienen, VICE Netherlands
Is it possible to create a fast food item that incorporates every single cliché about Germany? With the 2010 release of the McDonald's "Nürnburger," basically three pork sausages nestled in a single bun with some mustard, it seemed like the answer was yes. Thanks for nothing, McDonald's.
But three sausages in a bun isn't where this ends: to make the Nürnburger, McDonald's collaborated with one of Germany's most controversial personalities, Uli Hoeneß. Hoeneß was a very successful soccer player who won pretty much everything as a player at his club Bayern München. Once he retired, he became Bayern München's general manager, then its president, and won more or less everything again. And meanwhile, in 1985, he also started a sausage company in Nürnberg. Which is not as odd as it sounds: Hoeneß' father was a butcher, and Nürnberg—or, as it is called in English, Nuremberg—is a Bavarian city renowned for its sausages, "Nürnberger Würstchen."
It's been a while since it was on sale, so no one can really remember what it tasted like. The Nürnburger is still the most iconic German item ever to be on the McDonald's menu, and since Uli Hoeneß's release from prison (he ended up behind bars for tax evasion, but that's another story), there's been a chance it might return. The Nürnburger contains sausages, it's the brainchild of a Bavarian soccer player, and it's vaguely affiliated with crime, but not sex. Does it get any more German?
—Philipp Sommer, MUNCHIES Germany