Friday, April 08, 2005

# Posted 9:36 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

RESTAURANT REVIEW -- McDONALD'S: Enough of this highfalutin talk about Bobos and documentaries and cultural analysis. Let's talk about what really matters: the food.

Yesterday, in Terminal Seven of the John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, I became a patron of McDonald's. Why? Because in Terminal Seven there is no Burger King or Wendy's. There is a nice deli, but who wants to pay $6.59 (before tax) for a tuna fish sandwich?

Actually, I didn't save all that much by going to Mickey D's because I decided to order one of their Premium Salads. To be specific, I ordered the California Cobb Salad with Grilled Chicken, which cost $5.09 before tax. I must admit that I have been especially curious about McDonald's' selection of salads, since director/guinea pig Morgan Spurlock eats salad at least twice during Super Size Me.

If Spurlock really wanted to know whether there is nutritous food available at McDonald's, why does he pay so little attention to the salads? One possible answer is that very few people actually order salads when they go to McDonald's. But according to Spurlock's own rules, he was allowed to order whatever he wanted provided that he tasted each item on the menu at least once during his 30 day experiment.

So, is a McDonald's salad nutritous? As Spurlock mentions in his film, nutritional information about all items sold at Mickey D's is available on the McDonald's website. Conveniently for bloggers, there are even permalinks to the webpage for each item. So, for example, my salad had 270 calories, approximately 100 of which were from fat. The low fat vinaigrette added another 40 calories, plus 60 for the croutons for a total of 370 calories.

I also ordered a medium fries (350 cal.) and Diet Coke (0 cal.), which brought my grand total up to 720 calories for lunch. Not bad. Not exactly the way to lose weight if you're on a diet, but otherwise reasonable.

On film, Spurlock mentions in passing that he ate approximately 5000 calories per day during his 30 days of McDonald's. Which forces me to ask one very simple question: What the f***, dude? Were you trying to ruin your health?

Naturally, I'm not the first one to point out that Spurlock's supposedly scientific investigation was designed to produce sensational results. Vic Matus had a good article about the film in the Weekly Standard and Tech Central Station has a whole site devoted to the Super Size Con.

So what can I add to all of this widely available information? An opinion, I guess. While you certainly can order a salad at McDonald's, the question still remains: would you want to? My answer is a qualified 'yes'.

The lettuce is reasonably fresh. The grilled chicken is edibly tender. The servings of bleu cheese, diced eggs and other Cobb salad ingredients are stingy at best, but what do you expect for five bucks?

Actually, if you happen to live near a Harris Teeter, you can get a pretty damn good Cobb salad for five bucks. In the shopping center where I usually go for lunch when I'm at my office, there happens to be a Harris Teeter within 200 yards of the McDonald's, so don't expect me to head back to Mickey D's for a Cobb salad anytime soon. But if you're stuck at an airport and want something that is affordable but isn't too greasy, you won't have any regrets about ordering a "Premium" Salad.

Alternately, if for some bizarre reason you decide to eat three meals a day at McDonald's for an entire month, you can probably stick to the salads and not wind up any fatter than you were before.

UPDATE: If this post was too un-highfalutin for you, check out Jake Young's post about McDonald's, Bobos and the Protestant ethic.
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