Most of us have probably been to McDonald’s enough times to know the menu by now. After all, the fast-food chain thrives on keeping things simple, with a handful of staple items sold alongside the odd limited promotion. But over the years, everything from McPizza to McHotDogs have been tested, rolled out and subsequently thrown under the Golden Arches, often never to be heard from again. And these menu items are frequently so crazy that we can’t believe anyone ever took them seriously.
20. Mulan Szechuan Sauce
In 1998 McDonald’s launched a tie-in promotion for Disney’s then-new film Mulan, adding Szechuan sauce to the menu. Nineteen years later, the sauce was featured in the hit animated series Rick and Morty, and so McDonald’s ran a one-day return in October 2017. Unfortunately, though, supplies were so limited that police were called to at least one restaurant to quell angry fans as they collectively chanted, “We want sauce!”
19. The Hula Burger
Back when McDonald’s was only just becoming a household name, owner Ray Kroc found himself with a dilemma in heavily religious areas in the U.S., where many Catholics were not eating meat on Fridays. Kroc’s solution? The Hula Burger – a bun filled with grilled pineapple and cheese. Unsurprisingly, the similarly meat-free Filet-o-Fish performed much better, and the reportedly unappetizing Hula Burger was canned.
Unless you frequent McDonald’s restaurants along Canada’s east coast, you may not have been aware that the McLobster was actually a regular on the summer menu. Until 2017, that is, when the roll was discontinued thanks to the rising price of lobster. Yes, while nearby restaurants simply raised their own prices to cover the cost, McDonald’s chose to do away with the commercial crustacean altogether.
17. Onion nuggets
If you can believe it, chicken wasn’t actually McDonald’s’ first choice for a nugget filling. You see, in the 1970s the chain rolled out onion nuggets to four different locations. The response? Well, clearly not good enough to warrant making the delectable treats a standard menu item. We’ll keep our onions in ring form, thanks.
McDonald’s first added McPizza to its line-up in the 1980s, but thanks to the 11-minute preparation time, it didn’t stick around for long. Think about it: have you ever waited that long for anything in Maccy D’s? Eleven minutes is not “fast.” That said, two individual McDonald’s restaurants, in Ohio and West Virginia, continued to offer McPizza to anyone willing to travel for it. Today, though, there’s only one branch of the Golden Arches still serving this culinary creation, so if you want a slice of the action you’ll have to head to Orlando, Florida.
15. Chopped Beefsteak Sandwich
The precursor to the fabled McRib, the Chopped Beefsteak Sandwich didn’t have quite the same impact as its pork-based counterpart when it launched in the late 1970s. Perhaps that’s because it was basically just a hamburger in a different dress, arriving in a rectangular bun instead of the classic round shape of the Big Mac. Either way, though, it never made McDonald’s history – unlike the popular McRib.
McDonald’s had enjoyed a long and prosperous history largely off the back of a menu derived from chicken and beef. But in the early 1990s the burger behemoth decided to introduce an Italian element to its menu. Yes, spaghetti – with the option of meatballs – plus fettucine alfredo and lasagna were rolled out in a handful of stores across the U.S. Six months later, however, the test was over, and McPasta never returned.
It may go down in history as the worst fast-food PR gaffe of all time – and if not, it’s definitely up there. Yes, we’re talking about the fabled McAfrika, which McDonald’s unveiled in 2002 to a momentous backlash. Even worse, the burger was launched in Norway – one of the world’s wealthiest countries. Meanwhile, 12 million Africans were starving. It’s therefore not surprising that the fast-food giant was accused by many of insensitivity.
Ray Kroc may have perfected the fast-food business model with hamburgers and French fries. But what about hot dogs? Well, in 1977 he essentially ruled them out of ever appearing on the menu. That decree didn’t last forever, though, and McDonald’s has indeed tested the McHotDog in a number of markets. Still, as of yet that’s as far as it’s gone…
11. McLean Deluxe
Despite its grand title, the McLean Deluxe contained around 11 percent less fat in its meat than a regular burger. Hailed in the early ’90s as a healthy alternative care of McDonald’s, the menu item was quickly rolled out across virtually every restaurant in America. But once the initial hype had died down, the burger flopped just as swiftly, potentially thanks to long wait times, a weird flavor, high prices or a combination of the above.
10. McSalad Shakers
Long before hipster restaurants had latched on to the idea of eating meals from slabs of stone rather than plates, McDonald’s was serving salads in plastic cups. The idea was that you could shake the salad to allow the dressing to disperse evenly. But in 2003, three years after it had been introduced, McDonald’s canned the gimmicky health food in favor of its Premium Salads.
There’s a reason why some McDonald’s staple menu items have stood the test of time. Most, like the Big Mac, are just quintessential fast-food choices. But you know what isn’t a quintessential fast-food choice? French bread stuffed with various fillings. That was the genius behind “McStuffins,” which were tested at three restaurants in 1993 – and seemingly never heard from again…
8. Triple-Double Burger
Have you ever heard a more ridiculous name for a burger? Well, the ’90s were apparently all about “bigger is better,” and McDonald’s naming conventions followed that logic perfectly. In reality, the Triple-Double Burger was three patties and two slices of cheese stuck between a sesame seed roll – perhaps not quite as impressive as the name might suggest.
7. Shanghai McNuggets
Ever tried eating chicken nuggets with chopsticks? Well, that’s exactly what McDonald’s tried to peddle in the ’80s with their Shanghai McNuggets. Essentially, they were just regular nuggets – but with mustard, sweet-and-sour and teriyaki sauces and, of course, chopsticks. And whether due to poor sales or just cultural insensitivity potentially approaching the level of the McAfrika, they didn’t stick around for long.
6. Chicken Fajitas
Adding to the growing number of attempts that McDonald’s has made at exotic food, at one point you could order Mexican food from the Golden Arches. And we’re not just talking about jalapenos on a burger – but instead, actual, straight-up chicken fajitas. Yes, the ’90s were a strange time. Nowadays, you’ll only find much simpler wraps at Maccy D’s.
5. Mighty Wings
A more recent McDonald’s misadventure came in the form of Mighty Wings – the spicy chicken wings that were eventually sold at a discount just to shift them. Yes, in 2014 then-CEO Don Thompson admitted that the item had been a flop. The premium price, strange appearance and intense spice were apparently too much for the restaurant’s clientele.
McDonald’s’ first-ever menu item to be named after a real person landed in the early ’90s and was dubbed the “McJordan.” And in case it wasn’t obvious, yes, the hamburger was named in honor of basketball legend Michael Jordan. Alas, though, it was only rolled out in a handful of Midwest locations – but its popularity apparently endured. In fact, in 2012 an expired jug of the burger’s BBQ sauce sold for nearly $10,000 on eBay.
3. Fish McBites
In 2013 McDonald’s introduced a new menu item to Happy Meals for the first time in ten years. But just over a month later, it was pulled. Yes, poor sales meant that Fish McBites – McNuggets, essentially, but with fish instead of chicken – didn’t make it past the initial promotional period, which was intended to tie into Lent.
2. Fruit & Walnut Salad
Back in the mid-’00s, the McDonald’s healthy eating campaign was really gearing up. So while its competitors pumped out larger and fattier burgers, the Golden Arches instead lit up with, erm, a fruit and walnut salad. The option didn’t really blow anyone away, mind you, and it was eventually retired in 2013. Frankly, though, we’re surprised it lasted that long.
For those who wanted a bit more than the “large” option, Maccy D’s of course used to offer “supersize” menu items. According to the McDonald’s website, few people in the U.K. took the restaurant chain up on its mega-menu, mind you, leading to it being dropped there in 2001. In the U.S., on the other hand, the marketing move was dropped six weeks after the release of blockbuster documentary Supersize Me (2004), which raised serious health concerns about eating so much McDonald’s at once.
While we may be grateful that these items are no longer an option on the McDonald’s menu, there are plenty of other fast-food restaurants that also have rather questionable dishes – especially when it comes down to how bad they are for our bodies. Well, luckily for us, the people who work there have given the lowdown on the meals we really shouldn’t be scoffing in hour lunch hours.
We’ve all been lectured by nutrition-minded friends about fast food, but when someone who has actually worked in the industry tells you to avoid something, it’s probably wise to heed that advice. And, through one reddit thread, many current and former fast food employees have leaked just such intelligence. Here’s what they say you should never order.
20. Dunkin’ Donuts – Frozen Coffee Coolattas
Donuts are, obviously, covered in sugar, but they’re reportedly not even the most sugary thing on Dunkin’ Donuts’ menu. Yes, its frozen coffee “Coolattas” are apparently loaded with sugar too. Indeed, a large one has 141 grams of the white stuff. But to make it worse, redditor 883Guy claimed that they’re “18 percent cream if you get a coffee one or vanilla bean.”
19. Cookout – chicken strips
Chicken strips are probably one of the most popular items on the Cookout menu, and they’re about to be ruined for you (sorry). According to former Cookout staffer CDC_, the strips take so long to cook that during busy stretches “people would pull them out of the fryers early and just throw them onto a tray. People brought them back for being undercooked all the time. Which tells me, lots of people were probably not paying attention and just stuffing them, half raw, into their facehole.”
18. Five Guys – bacon
Five Guys loves to talk about the quality of its beef and potatoes, but what about the bacon? Well, the quality might not be the issue. According to where_is_my_mind92, the bacon that was cooked in the morning is served right through into the evening. And to make matters worse, said the redditor, “We also kept it on a low shelf… so many times when we were cleaning the floor or mopping, the bacon would get covered with floor water.”
17. Applebee’s – oriental chicken salad
If you go into an Applebee’s in the hopes of finding a healthy option, you should probably just leave. But what you definitely shouldn’t do is opt for the oriental chicken salad. As one staff member put it, “It’s actually one of the most high-calorie items on the menu.” How high? Well, apparently it’s 1,240 calories and 77 grams of fat high. That’s equivalent to two and a half Big Macs.
16. Burger King – veggie burger
Grilled chicken and veggie burgers are perhaps some of the least popular items on the Burger King menu, and that’s precisely why you shouldn’t get them. Former employee matt_452 claimed, “They sit for hours (literally) and they become horrible dried out garbage.” Best stick to the actual burgers, then.
15. Dairy Queen – iced coffee
You can get an iced coffee of some description almost anywhere now, but one place to avoid is Dairy Queen. Apparently, it uses a “frappe mix” to make it. However, in the words of flacocaradeperro, “That mix smells horribly and in most stores is quite old, never leaving the machine. After a couple of days, it smells HORRIBLY BAD.”
14. KFC – beans and corn
Gravy is an incredibly popular side that KFC offers, but beans and corn are also viable options. Well, viable might be a bit generous. Once again, it’s an issue of how long they’ve been sitting there. Three-year KFC veteran L1ghterfeul said that they are “usually very very old. The timestamps were just changed every time one was coming to the end.”
13. Subway – tuna
It’s hard not to wonder exactly how long all the different components have been sitting there in the open air. In Subway’s case, tuna is perhaps the worst offender. DeweyCheatamandHowe claimed, disturbingly, “It just sits there all day, collecting whatever falls into it during lunch rushes such as crumbs, cheese, hair, etc.”
12. IKEA – pretty much everything
If you’ve ever been to an IKEA (and managed to find your way back out again), you’ll know that there’s a place to eat inside. The meatballs border on legendary, but how fresh is it all? “Literally all of the food that’s served hot comes frozen in sealed plastic bags that are then dropped in boiling water to heat them up. [Once] the bag is cut open… the food is dumped into a tray and put out on the serving line.” Well, at least it doesn’t come in flat packs.
11. Pizza Hut – pan pizza
It’s no secret that pan pizzas are worse for you than thin ones. But when it comes to Pizza Hut, you might as well be drinking from a vat of oil. “We squirt about two pumps of straight oil into every pan pizza and breadsticks. It’s so disgusting,” claimed cranimhead2. Next time you go to Pizza Hut, maybe bring a pair of gloves.
10. Wendy’s – chili
Given that proper chili is meant to be made using fresh meat, it’s hard to trust any chili from any fast food outlet. Still, a deleted redditor, formerly married to a Wendy’s employee, had some interesting insights into how Wendy’s make it. Basically, they said, if you eat Wendy’s chili “you are eating unused hamburger patties that have sat around for hours on end in a white five gallon bucket in a hot ass kitchen.” At least it’s recycling?
9. McDonald’s – anything with bacon
You knew Mickey D’s would make an appearance eventually, and once again it’s the bacon’s fault. If you’re going in for breakfast, you’re golden. But anytime after that is much more risky. Former employee Pandas_panic recalled that they would “make a few trays at breakfast. Maybe one or two more at lunch, and that’s it for the day.” Translation: any bacon you get in the evening has been sitting there for hours.
8. Papa John’s – anchovies
Yes, lots of fast food places will leave food sitting out pretty much all day if it doesn’t get ordered quickly enough. It’s pretty bad, but if you get anchovies from Papa John’s, you’re in for a worse fate than actually getting anchovies on your pizza. One ex-employee claims that any anchovies ordered have likely “been sitting in the walk in for at least a month.” Let’s hope they are salted.
7. Subway – guacamole
You would think that anything with avocado in it would be a pretty healthy/safe option, even in somewhere like Subway. Sadly, this doesn’t appear to be the case. Former sandwich artist SolariaSolacium413 reported, “The guac, is gross. Comes frozen, and takes a couple days to really turn brown. But if you stir it, it gets that bright green back.” That sounds to us like a curious science experiment.
6. Jimmy John’s – turkey and tuna
Jimmy John’s is one of the youngest fast food chains out there, having only been active for about 34 years. Sadly, though, it doesn’t seem to be any more well behaved than its forebears. Online redditor itsonlythreeyears reported that when slicing the turkey they’ve “seen pockets of preservatives that can be popped almost like pimples, for lack of a better analogy.” They also claim to have “pulled hair from the bucket of tuna” on “three separate occasions.” One is too many, really.
5. Dairy Queen – chicken strips
Yes, the infamous chicken strips strike again. In a practice reportedly similar to Cookout’s, these questionable chunks of poultry are made early in the day and then left to sit. Employee FantasyBloomed said, “By the time it’s noon, you’re gonna get the chicken that has been sitting in the middle of the bucket for four or more hours in a slightly warmer than room temperature room. In a bucket. Literally a paint bucket.”
4. Burger King – milkshakes
Some fast food joints offer some pretty outstanding milkshakes. Burger King is not one of them. But aside from just being fairly mediocre, the milkshakes are apparently birthed in some fairly unsanitary conditions. One reddit user reported that the machines the shakes are made in “are disgusting when you clean them out.”
3. Domino’s – sides
It can be tempting to bolster your pizza order with a few sides, if only to allow yourself a little reprieve between slices. But if it’s Domino’s you’re ordering from, you might want to reconsider. One employee claimed, “Most of it gets lathered in vegetable oil or “butter” as the GM calls it.” Add to that the observation that “it’s very common for employees to touch the food after it comes out of the oven,” and you’ve got a healthy/hygiene double threat.
2. Subway – cold meats
Oh, come on, Subway! That’s three strikes! So, we’ve heard about the tuna, but the cold meat options are seemingly even worse. One former staffer recalled how turkey, ham and other deli meats would “smell like rotten ass” coming out of the package. Another commented, “The smell is from the spice mix, plus you have a large amount of rework (ground up ends from the logs of meat) added back into the new material, so in theory part of the meat could be cycling through the process for months.”
1. McDonald’s – cheese
McDonald’s often leaps to defend its meat, but it rarely mentions the cheese. Still, that’s understandable when you look at the ingredients: sorbic acid, sodium pyrophosphate, sodium citrate and a few other chemical preservatives. One ex-employee said, “If you put that in an industrial microwave it becomes huge. It expands with heat.” Cheese isn’t really supposed to do that.