In my hometown, there were two distinct restaurant roads. We had “Fast Food Lane” by the high school with McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Arby’s and ol Long John Silver’s. By the mall, there was “Nice Dinner Avenue” with Damon’s, Fazoli’s, Bennigan’s, Applebee’s and Logan’s Roadhouse.
A date on Fast Food Lane carried different weight versus a date on Nice Dinner Avenue. For me, the distinction comes down to the appetizer/side dish barrier.
Fast food you got French fries, onion rings and every kid’s nightmare, the health conscious apple dippers. Sure, KFC opened up the game a little bit with mashed potatoes and mac-n-cheese, or Wendy’s with the cup of chili, but what separates sit down restaurants from their fast food counterparts are the appetizer options, specifically, boneless Buffalo wings, jalapeño poppers and the granddaddy of them all: the mozzarella cheese stick.
Arby’s was the first to break this barrier adding jalapeño poppers and mozzarella sticks to their menu. This took the O’Brien household by storm. Arby’s secured the hallowed post-Church lunch spot for arguably 12 weeks in a row.
And ever since that decision, I’ve always viewed Arby’s a little bit differently. If sit down restaurants are the major conference and fast food are the mid-majors, then Arby’s was Boise State football or Gonzaga basketball.
Which is why I was so impressed over the weekend when I saw the first commercial for McDonald’s new McPick 2 for $2 menu. McDouble, McChicken, small fries, sure fine, nothing new there, but when they showed the Mozzarella Sticks I almost jumped out of my seat. They looked really good too. Granted, mozzarella sticks always photograph well, but these looked at a sit-down restaurant quality.
Toward the middle/end of last year, there was a lot of talk about McDonald’s losing market share and being at somewhat of a crisis in terms of which direction to take their menu. Then McDonald’s bounced back in a huge way, opened up their playbook and offered breakfast all day long.
This has been a big hit, sales have gone up, the stock price has gone up and, most importantly, millions of people are lovin’ it. My concern, though, was that all day breakfast would be a hit album they could never top. Expectations would get too high and there are only so many times you can bring the McRib sandwich back on stage.
With the announcement of the mozzarella sticks, McDonald’s is showing the world they are just getting started.
I saw the commercial again…
This time, I watched a little bit closer. I could only see three mozzarella sticks. No need to panic, sometimes this happens with our TV. We have a non-wide screen, non-HD so occasionally during a football game part of the scoreboard doesn’t show up. I’m sure that’s what was happening here. There had to be a reasonable explanation.
I dug in a little deeper. Went to their website. Still three sticks. You don’t, think? The inevitability started to sink in. I clicked on the menu and there it was, the chilling words hidden in parenthesis: (3-piece).
That fourth mozzarella stick makes a world of difference. With three, you eat #1 and think, “This is amazing!” Halfway through #2 there’s a sadness, a revelation that starts to sink in, “This is all coming to an end.”
With four, it’s like Jim Gaffigan’s bit about the McDonald’s bonus fry. You hit #3 and think, “Alright, I could use one more” and lo and behold there it is! As long as you didn’t get greedy on the earlier marinara dips, there should be just enough left for that final bit of deep fried cheesy goodness.
So what should I do?
A seemingly easy solution would be to order two orders of three. That’s still only $2. The problem is mozzarella sticks significantly drop off at #5. At #4, I’m still feeling good, #5 and #6 enters a wave of shame and guilt. I could split the two orders with someone, that way I get four, but setting someone up with only two mozzarella sticks seems like a cruel punishment.
The solution, for now, would be to go in a group of three, order four and each has that perfect serving size.
And maybe I’m acting spoiled, complaining about three when a couple weeks ago the number was zero. Maybe so. At the end of the day, I love this addition to the McDonald’s menu, but I can’t help wanting just a little bit more.
I should have a new post up every Monday from now until the first week of March Madness. Thanks for stopping by, feel free to subscribe below and I look forward to sharing 2016 with you.