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As dedicated as we are to trying out the most local and unique foods for our Foreign Grocery Friday series, we also have a definite thing for investigating the fast food preferences of destinations. This usually involves stalking the pastry cases of Starbucks in Switzerland or snacking as the world's fanciest Taco Bell, but more likely we're around the corner squinting up at the menu boards of a McDonald's.
Hoping for some rice patties or other exotic offerings, we wandered into the Golden Arches in the Central Festival Mall in Phuket Town, Thailand. Instead we came face-to-face with the Samurai Pork Burger, a standard item on Thai McD's menus, and something that sounded safe to try.
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An integral part of a balanced Brit breakfast: the McBacon Roll
We will fully admit to having a favorite McDonald's location in London. It's a little one nearby the Marble Arch tube stop, and it sits on the historic location of infamous gallows used for 500 years...until the world decided to kill people with carbs instead of nooses.
As intriguing as this one is, London is about to get an even more controversial McDs in one year, for the occasion of the 2012 Olympic Games. According to the Guardian, the Olympics McDonald's will be appropriately Olympics-sized:
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It's a beautiful day in Norway's second-largest city of Bergen, and a stroll down cobblestone lanes seems like a great idea. There's the fish market, and street vendors selling reindeer pelts and long, knit winter hats. And thenmaking itself at home in a historic building on a corneryou're faced with the dreaded Golden Arches.
Yep, McDonalds has invaded the fresh northern air with its smell of french fries and...hot wings? As usual with foreign McD's, the menu varies:
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"That doesn't look like 'German Sausage,' we said to ourselves, while standing in front of the brightly backlit menu boards at a McDonalds in the equally bright Shibuya neighborhood of Tokyo." And what the hell is 'Shaka Shaka Chicken?' Is that pronounced 'Shacka Shacka,' 'Shake-a Shake-a' or "Shock-a Shock-a?'"
We didn't dare even attempt to order anything, but not because of any hesitance on the language frontc'mon, this is McDonaldsbut because a cheap stand-up sushi counter was around the corner and a good meal there costs just about the same as a set meal from McD's.
In the end, we concluded that Shaka Shake Chicken was just a fancy name for large chicken tenders, and that the German Sausage actually lies partially hidden underneath a fried chicken patty on the sandwich above, but we also concluded that foreign McDonalds menus are perfect travel anecdotes.
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If there's one thing that's inescapable in Germany, it's sausage. You don't have to be eating it, but you will find a thousand variations of sausage specialties offered up everywhere from fancy restaurants to kiosks on train platforms. Because of the ubiquity of meat, we were delightfully surprised to find that McDonald's, usually the bringer of sandwiches covered in bacon and mystery sauce, is considering the rest of the population by offering a Veggieburger in German McDs.
Originally introduced in February, the Veggieburger is still touted as "Neu" (new), and is made with potatoes, peppers and carrots. In the ad above, the sauce looks suspiciously like mayonnaise when they could have chosen a healthier option, but Europeans love their mayo.
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If there's one thing we've learned from our time plotting the Most Shocking McDonald's Locations in the World, it's that where there are tourists, there will also be the Golden Arches. From Krabi, Thailand to a rest stop in the Israeli desert, you simply can't escape Ronald (unless you're in Iraq).
Our next stop on our world tour of weird McDonald's locations takes us back into Europe, to the palatial grounds of Versailles, a French royal palace just outside of Paris. Although the palace is named Versailles, so is the town around it, and it's a town that boasts not one, but two McDonald's.
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In our travels, we've seen fast food chains spreading faster than Avian Flu, and of course McDonald's leads the pack with locations as diverse as the Israeli desert, an ancient Roman site, and even the Museum of Communism in Prague. Earlier this month, we discovered that one golden arches sits among pagodas and mountains in a scenic area of southern China, and now continue on the exotic Asian streak with a McDonald's in Thailand.
Shauna Watson, the nomadic soul behind the site GypsyChickTravels.com reports of a McDonald's in Krabi, Thailand. On Shauna's bucket list as she travels around the world are curious things, like "eat a sheep eyeball" and "drink vodka in a yurt (before said eyeball)," so a little McDonald's shock in Thailand shouldn't be too bad, right?
Got another shocking McDonald's location we should know about? This is a running series, so email us your suggestions!
· Have a Happy Meal in a Pagoda [Jaunted]
· Is There Really a McDonald's in Iraq? [Jaunted]
· The Most Shocking McDonald's Locations in the World [Jaunted]
· More McDonalds Locations That Make You Go 'Hmm' [Jaunted]
[Photo: Shauna Watson]
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In our travels, we've seen fast food chains spreading faster than Avian Flu, and of course McDonald's leads the pack with locations as diverse as the Israeli desert, an ancient Roman site, and even the Museum of Communism in Prague. But never have we seen one in a Chinese village...with its own scenic bridge and pagoda neighbor.
A reader actually discovered the curious place, and although he doesn't admit to stopping in for some McNuggets, he does give plenty of info on the destination:
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We have discussed our love for shocking McDonald’s locations before, but we this is the first one we’ve seen where you can’t order a Big Mac or even an order of fries. In Des Plaines, Illinois sits a replica of the very first McDonald’s that opened in April of 1955. McDonald’s purists don’t be alarmed—the very first restaurant was located in San Bernardino, California—but this Illinois location was the first franchise location that Ray Kroc opened.
The original place was refurbished a couple times, but the suits at McD’s apparently had enough dealing with its upkeep and the place was leveled in 1984. The restaurant was then reconstructed using the original blueprints with a few changes to make the place comfy and cozy for both visitors and staff. At least that means that there are no rogue French fries from the 1950s still hanging out somewhere.
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When in London recently, we came across yet another McDonald's in an odd spot, to add to our ever-growing map of the Most Shocking McDonald's Locations. In search of an English Breakfast sandwich we had once had at a British McD's, we walked to a golden arches nearby the Marble Arch tube stop in London. While eating our bacon rollsadly the English Breakfast sandwich is no morewe Wikipediaed the location and discovered that it was once the site of Tyburn Tree, a gallows where criminals and Catholic martyrs were hung for almost 500 years.
And now we're eating hash browns and egg mcmuffins there.
A better view of that Bacon Roll, and more history after the jump
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Just like with our search for a McDonald's in Iraq, we've been asked to help a reader locate a shocking McD's location somewhere in the globe. This time: the rumored existence of the Golden Arches within one of the caves at Carlsbad Caverns State Park.
The claim comes from the reader's coworker, who remembers there being a McDonald's down in the dark depths back in the 1970s, when he was a child. Curious to see if Ronald McDonald's magic had permeated the ground, we started digging, and this is what we found…
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Have you ever been traveling somewhere really remote or of historical importance, and then turned around and spotted a McDonald's? We have! From the Yuyuan Gardens in Shanghai to the Negev Desert in Israel, the world is peppered with Shocking McDonald's locations, and we're trying to map them all.
Helping us out, a reader emailed to tip us off to the fanciest McDonald's, which was also the first to be in Italy; it opened on March 20, 1986, and is still going strong next to the Spanish Steps in Rome. We've actually been to this one a few times when we lived in Rome, and we can vouch for its ritzy interior (mosaics!) and breadth of offerings (salad bar!), but let's hear what a more recent visitor had to say about it: