REVIEW: McDonald’s McCafé Strawberry Lemonade

McDonald’s McCafe? Strawberry Lemonade

Part of me feels guilty for buying McDonald’s new McCafé Strawberry Lemonade because I’m probably driving some little girl’s lemonade stand out of business and killing her budding entrepreneurial spirit.

But part of me doesn’t feel guilty because I’m probably teaching her valuable lessons of business innovation which will allow her to up her game and develop sound marketing and costing principles for future lemonade stand expansion. So you might say I have mixed feelings about my purchase. Just like I have mixed feelings about the taste of McDonald’s newest McCafé beverage.

The fast food chain says that their new take on lemonade is “hand shaken for a perfect balance of sweet and tart,” but neither of those points are actually correct. The woman making my lemonade didn’t shake it so much as she pushed a few buttons on a big machine with strawberry lemonade in it, which is a real bummer because everyone knows lemonade is a lot like martinis -— better shaken, not stirred.

Also, the strawberry lemonade is really only the “perfect balance” of sweet and tart if your definition of balance means tasting more tart than sweet, which for a lot of people isn’t the preferred ratio for fruit-flavored foods and drinks (thus, why we have Sweetarts and not Tartsweets.)

Still, the strawberry lemonade is definitely refreshing and unexpectedly sophisticated in its flavor. The tartness, while outweighing the sweetness, isn’t mind blowing like a Warhead, and actually tastes reminiscent of eating a Lemonhead and a Swedish Fish at the same time.

There’s definitely a nuanced strawberry flavor that rounds out the lemon’s acidity, while the three slices of strawberry I received in my lemonade made for a favorable presentation that I really doubt most little boys and girls setting up lemonade stands this time of year can match.

McDonald’s McCafe? Strawberry Lemonade 3

Still, I can’t get past the tartness, nor can I get past the big machine of lemonade that serves up one of the most quintessentially homemade beverages with what I can only describe as “questionable” freshness. The strawberries, while aesthetically very nice to stir around with your straw, are actually pretty insipid and obviously frozen, with a thawed-out sliminess that screams for added sugar. More than anything else, I thought that added sugar would have helped bring out the inherent fruitiness of the strawberries, and justified the $1.79 I paid for a small.

There’s been a lot of McDonald’s Secret Menu talk as of late and I’d like to add a little tip to the conversation. If you’re lucky to live in an area where McDonald’s soda dispensers come equipped with both Minute Maid Light Lemonade and Strawberry Fanta, you can get a sweeter, more strawberry-y lemonade drink for less money.

McDonald’s McCafe? Strawberry Lemonade 2

I like what McDonald’s is trying to get at with their McCafé Strawberry Lemonade, even if the execution is off and the tartness overpowering. Given my guilt over contributing to the decline of brother and sister lemonade stands, I can only hope that our country’s next generation of venture capitalists responds by correcting this imbalance and reclaiming the lemonade market through fresher strawberries and more sugar.

(Nutrition Facts – Small – 120 calories, 0 calories from fat, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 10 milligrams of sodium, 32 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 28 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Item: McDonald’s McCafé Strawberry Lemonade
Purchased Price: $1.79
Size: Small (12 oz.)
Purchased at: McDonald’s
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: More sophisticated flavor than usual takes on lemonade. Nuanced strawberry taste. Comes with real strawberry and lemon slices. Chilled and refreshing on a hot day.
Cons: Too tart for general lemonade drinking public. Strawberry flavor isn’t as concentrated as it should be. Pricey. Questionable freshness, including lack of discernible pulp. Supporting corporate giant over youthful small businesses.

REVIEW: McDonald’s McCafe Oreo Frappe

McDonald's McCafe Oreo Frappe

It took 27 years but I’ve finally learned you can’t always have your cake and eat it too. Sometimes you just get to have the cake, and you can’t eat it, you just get to possess it. We all have to settle at times.

Like how the escaped prisoners in New York had to settle for eating Pop-Tarts without a toaster. Cold Pop-Tarts?! Bleh! You’d have to be pretty desperate to eat those. Oh…yeah…escaped prisoners on the run. Ahem.

Or how in a fantasy draft you have to settle because the jerk picking before you takes the player you had your hopes and dreams set on, and you have to instead draft your fallback option. I cringe just thinking about the time Buster Posey was picked right before I could get him, and I panicked and blurted out John Axford. Please don’t laugh at me too hard, baseball fans.

My most recent case of settling came when I tried to save a few extra bucks by opting to go to McDonald’s for a tasty frozen beverage instead of Starbucks. I know what you’re thinking…life can be a real bitch! Yeah, I’m thinking the same thing!

But McDonald’s Oreo Frappe ended up being so good that I didn’t have to settle for anything. And being cheaper than a Starbucks drink it’s a win in both taste and price. Of course it’s also a win in the sense that I get to say “small” like a normal person, instead of “tall” at Starbucks, which sounds like it’s a large drink, but as most of us know it’s the smallest size.

McDonald's McCafe Oreo Frappe 2

At first glance it’s clear there are Oreo cookies blended throughout the drink. It also has Oreo chunks on top of the whipped cream. I suggest stuffing the whipped cream and cookie chunks into the drink and then mixing it, but that’s just my style. You do you, faithful TIB reader.

The cookie taste is strong with this one. Right away you’ll get a heavy chocolate cookie flavor. Along with frappe, I also noticed notes of vanilla. The drink is made with a cookies & crème syrup, and the crème flavor is definitely noticeable. To put it into fractions, it’s 3/5 Oreo cookie flavor, 1/5 frappe flavor, and 1/5 Oreo cream flavor.

I got a small since I was headed for a Dibella’s sub right afterward, and though my intentions were to sip on it so there would be some left to have with the sub, the Oreo Frappe was so good that it lasted only about a minute and thirty seconds.

There were a couple of issues with the drink. It has a thinner consistency compared with other Frappe flavors. It also has a higher calorie count and much higher fat count than my normal Starbucks choice, the always trusty Green Tea Frappuccino. Normally this would be a huge turnoff for me and I wouldn’t get the drink again but the taste is such a win that it easily negates these issues.

We all do have to settle at times, but when it comes to the Oreo Frappe, there isn’t any settling involved.

(Nutrition Facts – Small – 540 calories, 180 calories from fat, 20 grams of fat, 12 grams of saturated fat, 1 gram of trans fat, 60 milligrams of cholesterol, 170 milligrams of sodium, 82 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 68 grams of sugars, and 7 grams of protein.)

Item: McDonald’s McCafe Oreo Frappe
Purchased Price: $3.01
Size: Small
Purchased at: McDonald’s
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Great Oreo flavor. Can taste both cookie and crème flavors. Cheaper than Starbucks. Possessing cake. Not having to say “tall” when asking for a small drink.
Cons: Thinner consistency than other Frappes. Not the healthiest drink. Panic picking John Axford.

REVIEW: McDonald’s Red Velvet with Oreo McFlurry (Canada)

McDonald's Red Velvet McFlurry

Mike Myers. Justin Bieber. The McFlurry.

If your answer to this Jeopardy question is “What are things that came from Canada,” then you are correct (and no, we won’t take back Bieber — he’s yours now, America. Enjoy).

Yep, according to the cup (and from now on, I want all my information to come in McFlurry cup form, FYI), the McFlurry was “born in Canada. Loved around the world,” and is also celebrating its 20th anniversary. I very distinctly remember the introduction of the McFlurry — it certainly doesn’t feel like twenty years ago, but why would the cup lie to me? I feel old.

And what better way to celebrate a 20th anniversary than jumping on a years-old fad? I remember red velvet being a pretty big deal a few years ago, but is this still a thing that gets people hot and bothered? I was under the assumption that we, as a society, had reached our red velvet saturation point at least a couple of years ago, but apparently not.

And McDonald’s doesn’t even really seem to get what makes red velvet so appealing: when I think of a red velvet cake, aside from its eponymous dark-red hue, I think of abundant cream cheese frosting. It’s the combination of the mildly chocolatey cake and the sweet tang of the cream cheese frosting that makes red velvet such a comfort food classic.

McDonald's Red Velvet McFlurry 2

So it’s weird that McDonald’s has elected to not even try to replicate that particular flavour, sticking to the cake alone (and throwing in Oreo cookies for some reason). You’d think this would lead to so-so (at best) results, but this was surprisingly tasty.

Certainly, the cashier at the McDonald’s I went to liked it. Right after I ordered, she asked me if I had tried it before, and I told her I hadn’t. She leaned in closer, as if to tell me a secret: “it’s really good,” she said, adding almost comical emphasis to the word “really.”

It’s fairly rare that a cashier at a fast food joint even cares enough to offer their opinion on the food, so I took this as a good sign.

McDonald's Red Velvet McFlurry 3

And once I got over my disappointment that the cream cheese frosting was MIA, it actually was quite satisfying. It does a pretty decent job of recapturing the red velvet cake flavour — though I’m not sure how much of that is triggered by the fact that I knew what the flavour was, and by the colour. If I ate it blind, would I have been able to tell that it was red velvet? Or would I have just tasted chocolate? I’m honestly not sure, but either way, it tastes good.

It has a pretty good chocolatey taste without being overwhelmingly sweet, the Oreo bits add some crunch and flavour, and the soft serve is nice and creamy. It’s nothing too mind-blowing — it’s basically just an Oreo McFlurry with chocolate syrup and red food colouring — but sometimes the simplest things are the best.

So thanks, McDonald’s cashier, you were right. This was really good. Did the world really need its 976,874th red velvet flavoured dessert? No, probably not. But it’s here regardless, and it’s pretty tasty.

(Nutrition Facts – 530 calories, 17 grams of fat, 10 grams of saturated fat, 0.3 grams of trans fat, 45 milligrams of cholesterol, 340 milligrams of sodium, 87 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fibre, 66 grams of sugar, and 10 grams of protein.)

Item: McDonald’s Red Velvet with Oreo McFlurry
Purchased Price: $3.79 CAN
Size: Regular
Purchased at: McDonald’s Canada
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Tastes like red velvet cake. Crunchy Oreo and creamy soft serve is a tasty combo. Not too sweet. Cashier approved.
Cons: No cream cheese frosting. Red velvet flavour might be psychological. Cup factoids that make you feel old. Justin Bieber.

REVIEW: McDonald’s I’m Greek-ing Out Salad Bowl with Grilled Chicken (Canada)

McDonald's I'm Greek-ing Out Salad Bowl with Grilled Chicken 3

There’s something inherently wrong about a salad at McDonald’s, isn’t there? I mean, it’s McDonald’s — their whole M.O. is supposed to be serving burgers and fries and other tasty junk that might just kill you if you eat them too regularly.

If you told the ten-year-old version of me that McDonald’s would one day be serving salads with kale in them, I’m going to guess that he’d angrily call you a liar. He’d also probably wonder who you are and why you’re giving him useless factoids about 2015. Oh and also, while you’re there? Could you tell him to major in something a bit more useful than political science? What’s that? This is just a rhetorical device? You’re not actually a time-traveller out to blow the minds of ten-year-olds with news from the future? Darn.

Of course, salads aren’t anything particularly new at McDonald’s, but this Kale-fueled relaunch does have an air of desperation about it. This feeling is especially pronounced when combined with the recent high-profile launch of the 21st century take on the Hamburglar; the once-cute cartoon character has been transformed into a generically handsome fashion model (who was almost instantly dubbed the “hipster Hamburglar” by the media).

Clearly, McDonald’s has lost whatever cache they once had (along with loads and loads of money), and it’s easy to think that they’re just throwing random things at the wall to see what sticks.

All that being said? I loved this salad.

It feels weird to even type that. It’s a salad… at McDonald’s… and I loved it.

I know that even mentioning that I love a salad probably means I have to turn in my junk-food-lover’s gun and badge to the junk food angry captain, but hey, if it’s tasty it’s tasty.

McDonald's I'm Greek-ing Out Salad Bowl with Grilled Chicken 2

There’s a lot going on in this salad. There’s the lettuce blend (a whopping eight different types of lettuce, as per their website), kale, sliced cucumber and red peppers, crumbled feta, a couscous blend (which has stuff like sun-dried tomato and olives), chicken, a packet of pita chips, and the creamy Greek feta dressing.

It seems like it should be too much stuff, but it all works together surprisingly well.

The kale is actually baby kale; this is a good thing, as regular kale is a bit impenetrably fibrous and can be tough to love. The lettuce mix otherwise tastes like any number of ready-to-eat mixes you’ll find in a plastic box or bag at the supermarket.

All the other stuff works together quite nicely: the creamy dressing, the fresh veggies, the salty pop of the cheese, the hearty quinoa…

Wait, I think I’m going to have to call a Zack Morris-style time out: I never in a million years thought I’d be applauding quinoa and “fresh veggies” when I signed on to write for this site. Seriously, what’s happening right now??

Okay, time in: the pita chips — essentially this salad’s take on croutons — are a little heavy on the garlic powder, but otherwise work pretty well.

McDonald's I'm Greek-ing Out Salad Bowl with Grilled Chicken

The weak point is probably the chicken. You have the choice of grilled or crispy chicken, but since their promotional shots showed grilled, that’s what I went with. It’s not bad, and it does give the salad much of its substance, but it’s a little dry and stringy.

The salad costs seven bucks, which on the surface seems a bit pricey — but I could imagine paying double (at least) for this exact same salad at a restaurant with waiters and menus, so it’s not as bad as it seems.

When all is said and done, however, is this salad even that healthy? I mean, it’s got a bunch of healthy stuff in it, so yeah, probably?

But McDonald’s is sneaky with the way they present the nutritional information on their website; if you look up this salad, the info neglects to include the dressing. In fact, the dressing doesn’t even come up when you click on salads — you have to specifically search for it.

When you add up the creamy Greek dressing and the salad, you’re looking at 420 calories and 26 grams of fat, which is a 110 calories less than a Big Mac, and only three less grams of fat. It’s still much healthier than a burger, I’m sure, but more calorie and fat-laden than you might expect. So maybe I can keep my gun and badge?

(Nutrition Facts – Greek Salad with Grilled Chicken – 280 calories, 12 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, 0.2 grams of trans fat, 80 milligrams of cholesterol, 770 milligrams of sodium, 17 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fibre, 3 grams of sugar, and 27 grams of protein. Greek Feta Dressing – 40 grams – 140 calories, 14 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 310 milligrams of sodium, 3 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Item: McDonald’s I’m Greek-ing Out Salad Bowl with Grilled Chicken
Purchased Price: $6.99 (CAN)
Size: N/A
Purchased at: McDonald’s Canada
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Fresh-tasting ingredients. Tasty combination of flavours. Good value for the quality of food. Healthy?
Cons: Stringy chicken. The embarrassment of praising a salad on a junk food site. Bastardization of beloved mascots. Scientific impossibility of time travel.

REVIEW: McDonald’s Steakhouse Sirloin Third Pound Burger

McDonald’s Steakhouse Sirloin Third Pound Burger

I distinctly remember the day McDonald’s Angus burgers were rolled out.

Actually, I don’t, but I vaguely recall the hoopla surrounding them. This was 2009, mind you, when doing something as simple as giving a cow a Scottish name was considered particularly epicurean in food culture. It was also a day and age when a good many people actually went to McDonald’s for hamburgers, which, in case you haven’t heard, is totally not cool anymore.

I had a few Angus burgers in my day and they were decent, but they never seemed to live up to the hype. So when the Angus burgers went out with a whimper and not a defiant mooooooo in 2013, I didn’t see reason to mourn.

Still, something has been missing. You can talk my ear off all you’d like about streamlined menus and classic sandwiches, but have you eaten a Big Mac lately? If I wanted to ingest three hamburger buns and a bunch of lettuce, I would have gone to a vegan cookout. No, every once and a while—ok, every day—a guy like me just wants to eat an oversized and juicy patty of dead and delicious cow. Something like the the new Steakhouse Sirloin Third Pound Burger.

There’s no use beating around the bush when it comes to the Steakhouse Sirloin Burger: I am shocked by how much I liked this cheeseburger. From McDonald’s. Wait, did I really just say that?

Yes, I did, and I don’t say this lightly. I’ve spent the better half of the last decade building burger connoisseur status amidst friends and family. In other words, I know that by admitting I not only tolerated, but enjoyed, a McDonald’s burger, I risk bringing my credibility down to a notch just above Tom Brady.

But like George Washington, I cannot tell a lie. So let me try to break this down. For starters, the sirloin burgers live up to the hype when it comes to size. Heck, I even received mine in one of those big brown bags and not the dopy white ones they use for Dollar Menu items. The five minute ride home from McDonald’s was unbearable; seriously, the aroma of the burger alone conjured primordial petroglyphs of scantly clad stick figures throwing spears at wild cattle. The carnivore in me knew something good was coming.

McDonald’s Steakhouse Sirloin Third Pound Burger 3

Dare I say it, the meat was juicy. Yes, juicy. I know because I squeezed the patty and juice ran out of it (and no, it wasn’t water.) The taste was beefy and meaty and cheesy and altogether very savory, with just the right sweet and sour relief from those incredible grilled onions to make each bite satisfying and complete. The surface of the patty wasn’t flabby and broken up by “tenderization” marks as I remember from the Angus burgers, and while the grind was very tightly packed, there was enough surface browning to lend a slightly sweet and complex flavor to the beef.

McDonald’s Steakhouse Sirloin Third Pound Burger 4

Every other component came together nicely. The two slices of cheese were positioned and melted for optimal gooeyness, but unlike the standard American cheese salt-bomb one expects (and sorta likes) from a fast food burger, there was a mellow but savory flavor from the cheese. Don’t get me wrong, this burger is still salty, but unless you’re oversensitive to those kinds of things I don’t think you’ll walk away from it with that sentiment.

Instead you’ll be trying to pin down the je ne sais quoi of whatever is in the creamy peppercorn sauce. Like an exceptionally thick steak sauce with a little black pepper kick and a fruity tang, it might just be my favorite sauce at McDoanld’s. No, really, as in, “Can I get this to dip McNuggets?”

McDonald’s Steakhouse Sirloin Third Pound Burger 2

Oh yes, and the mushrooms.

I’ve deliberately withheld comment on them to this point, but I have to say, they are not bad at all. Slightly overkill and a bit messy? Well yes, but I’m not exactly a sauteed mushroom on burger guy, but in this case they add just another level of umami flavor and help round out the toppings.

I’ve been hard on anything over a buck at McDonald’s in the past, but this is without a doubt a real step in the right direction and the best burger from the Golden Arches since, for me anyways, ever.

At $4.99 for the Steakhouse version it’s also an exceptional value for its hefty size. I’m not saying its going to surpass your favorite fast casual burger, but when it comes to the similarly sized fast food burgers, the new Sirloin Steakhouse Burger proves McDonald’s can still craft a very good and meaty cheeseburger at a price which isn’t going to break the bank.

(Nutrition Facts – 730 calories, 320 calories from fat, 36 grams of fat, 16 grams saturated fat, 2 grams trans fat, 135 milligrams of cholesterol, 1560 milligrams of sodium, 62 grams of carbohydrates, 05 grams of sugar, 4 grams of fiber, and 39 grams of protein.)

Item: McDonald’s Steakhouse Sirloin Third Pound Burger
Purchased Price: $4.99
Size: N/A
Purchased at: McDonald’s
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Beefiest tasting burger yet from the Golden Arches. Pretty solid browning and juiciness from the sirloin patty. Cheese was nicely gooey and intermingled with other components. Sweet and sour grilled onions are outstanding. Sauce is complex and savory. Sesame seed bun has a pleasant and classic taste that’s just the right size.
Cons: Most expensive tasting burger yet from the Golden Arches. Pretty uniform and tightly packed grind. Awesome source of trans fat and sodium. Risking my burger expert credibility by declaring how much I enjoyed a McDonald’s hamburger.