FAST FOOD FLASHBACK: McDonald’s Pizza

McDonald s Pizza

Do you remember McDonald’s Pizza? If you don’t, you’re apparently not alone. In fact, if you’d Googled “mcdonalds pizza” before March of this year, your resources would have been scarce. Since then, the subject briefly went viral – there’s even a podcast extensively devoted to the subject.

The reality is, McDonald’s Pizza was test marketed in over 500 locations between 1989 and 1991. From the jump, it seems like it was doomed to fail – a special oven was needed that took up precious space, it reportedly took 11 minutes to cook (a lifetime in fast food minutes, obviously), and special drive-thru windows had to be installed so the family-size pizzas could fit through.

In the end, it did indeed meet its demise, for any of these reasons or just because it wasn’t popular enough. But one franchisee refused to get the message, and continued to sell pizzas in two locations – Pomeroy, Ohio and Spencer, West Virginia. Unfortunately, McDonald’s corporate eventually caught wind of this rogue hero, and those two locations shut down pie production in August of this year.

McDonald’s Pizza is now well and truly gone, even if you never knew it was there to begin with.

McDonald s Pizza 2

The pizzas were available in personal or family size, and the toppings offered were cheese, pepperoni, sausage, and deluxe (sausage, peppers, mushrooms, and onions). Here’s the thing – for the first time, I’m writing about a food I never actually had the opportunity to taste.

From all the resources I’ve gathered, feelings about McDonald’s Pizza range from “bland” and “the sauce was too sweet” to fond memories of it rivaling the taste of big chain places like Pizza Hut. For the record, the podcaster previously mentioned got to try it this year, and called it “everything I had hoped for”.

McDonald s Pizza 3

I knew about the two locations still serving McDonald’s Pizza before they were forced to stop, but I just didn’t have the resources to travel 2,000 miles to try it. I sure wish I could have, though, just for the novelty of the experience.

Given the logistics, I doubt we’ll ever see McDonald’s Pizza again, and that’s probably for the best. While I never did get to try it, I doubt it could compete not only with the big chains that deliver today but also with the ability to order from mom ‘n’ pop places that can now deliver via apps like DoorDash.

FAST FOOD FLASHBACK: Pizza Hut Priazzo Italian Pie

Pizza Hut Priazzo

We’ve all got our favorite foods. If I had to pick just one thing to eat for the rest of my life, it would definitely be Chicago-style deep dish pizza.

I mean, it’s pretty much the perfect food – you’ve got an infinite amount of cheese to work with, all kinds of sauces to add to the equation and a practically unlimited number of topping possibilities. Which is why I’ve always been surprised that pies of the like have so seldom been offered by the big name carry-out pizza chains. Granted, they take longer to prepare, but you mean to tell me there isn’t any consumer demand for stuffed pies and that middle America would rather eat pan pizzas with pigs-in-a-blanket crust instead?

Yes, we do have quasi-deep dish pies available today at Little Caesar’s and Papa John’s, and in the past, big name chains like Domino’s have given the concept the old collegiate try. But it’s always been a bit suspicious that Pizza Hut has largely steered clear of deep dish offerings over the last 15 years.

Indeed, the last time Pizza Hut even attempted to go national with the idea was in 2002 with their short-lived Chicago Dish Pizza…which, as fate would have it, was far from the Hut’s first tango with heavyweight pies.

Enter the Priazzo Italian Pie.

In 1985 Pizza Hut unveiled not one but four deep dish offerings. Now technically, they weren’t 100 percent traditional deep dish pizzas – rather, they were sort of a fusion between a deep dish and a stuffed pizza. Regardless, the format of the pies were the same: you had one layer of sauce, meat and extra ingredients with another layer of crust atop it, which was then doused with even more sauce, cheese and toppings.

There were four variations, as briefly outlined below:

ROMA – Italian sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, beef, pork and onion topped with mozzarella and cheddar.

FLORENTINE – Ham and spinach topped with cheddar, ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan and Romano cheese.

NAPOLI – A mix of cheddar, mozzarella, Parmesan and Romano cheese topped with tomato slices.

MILANO – Bacon, beef, pork, pepperoni and Italian sausage topped with mozzarella and cheddar.

Interestingly, some Internet sleuthing suggests the Hut actually tested a fifth Priazzo product – a sausage, pepper and onion strewn variation codenamed the Portofino. Regardless, all four (five?) pies were not long for this earth, and the Priazzo line-up got 86’ed – ironically enough – in 1986.

Internet hearsay and musings from old-school Hut employees indicate the pies were just too much of a hassle to remain menu staples. The pies took much longer to prepare and required costlier equipment to cook correctly, and apparently fast food consumers circa ‘85 just weren’t keen on pizzas that took upwards of 40 minutes to prepare.

Still, the Priazzo pies have developed quite the cult following over the years, perhaps because it’s a concept that neither Pizza Hut nor its top competitors have since attempted to resurrect. But with so many retro-food-fanatics rediscovering the Priazzo online, is it only a matter of time until Pizza Hut is goaded into relaunching the fabled array of proto-artisanal pies?

Hey, if Internet fandom can bring Crystal Pepsi back to life, anything’s possible.

FAST FOOD FLASHBACK: McDonald’s McDLT

McDLT

With hot burger vegetables being an issue in the 1980s, McDonald’s rolled out the McDLT, a burger that promised to keep the hot side hot and the cool side cool.

It came in a white styrofoam container with two compartments. The bottom bun and the quarter pound beef patty were in one compartment and the lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise, cheese, and top bun were in the other. The L in its name stood for lettuce, T stood for tomato, and I can only assume the D stood for dumb idea.

Its commercials claimed it could be the best lettuce and tomato hamburger ever. Well, it’s not around anymore, so I guess that’s a sign it’s not.

Even though I had it more than once, I don’t think I was ever enamored with it. Maybe it was the extra work I had to do to bring together the two sides. Or maybe I still didn’t like vegetables then. Or maybe the McDLT could pull me away from my beloved Chicken McNuggets, which debuted a couple of years earlier and was part of the McDonaldland universe.

Maybe if the McDLT had its own McDonaldland character, I would’ve liked it more. But I think it was developed for grown up palates.

Besides its container, another interesting thing about the McDLT was one of its commercials. It starred a guy many of you older folks know as George Constanza on Seinfeld and some of you younger folks know as George Constanza on Seinfeld reruns. Before Jason Alexander was George Constanza, he was singing and dancing his way through a McDLT commercial.

Oh, that jingle will be stuck in your head all day.

You’re welcome!

FAST FOOD FLASHBACK: McDonald’s McLean Deluxe

McDonald s McLean Deluxe

Carrageenan.

If you’ve looked at the ingredients list on an ice cream container or chocolate milk carton, carrageenan is probably familiar to you. It’s a food additive extracted from red seaweed and it’s used as a gelling, thickening, and stabilizing agent in food products. So thank Mr. Carrageenan for helping make chocolate milk possible.

Carrageenan was also in the beef patty of McDonald’s McLean Deluxe.

The burger, introduced in 1991, was McDonald’s answer to the critics of fast food’s unhealthiness. It featured a 3.75-ounce, 91 percent fat free beef patty that used carrageenan to hold the beef together and allow water to replace fat. The beef patty was developed by food scientists at Auburn University. Along with the mostly beef patty, the burger was topped with lettuce, tomato, ketchup, mustard, pickles and onions on a sesame seed bun. It was also available with cheese.

Thanks to that lean beef patty, the McLean Deluxe had 10 grams of fat, which was 10-16 fewer grams than a Big Mac or Quarter Pounder. A McLean Deluxe without cheese had 320 calories, 10 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 1 gram of polyunsaturated fat, 5 grams of monounsaturated fat, 60 milligrams of cholesterol, 670 milligrams of sodium, 35 grams of carbohydrates, and 22 grams of protein.

I ate one McLean Deluxe burger in the 1990s and I remember thinking the beef patty didn’t have any flavor. If it weren’t for the toppings, providing some flavor, I wouldn’t have eaten the whole thing. Maybe it was at this point in my young life I realized that fat = yummy.

Even though its use of carrageenan got it teased by Johnny Carson and other fast food companies, the beef patty’s flavor was off, and there were complaints about the patty’s dryness, the McDonald’s McLean Deluxe stayed on menu boards for FIVE years. It was discontinued in February 1996.

Even though I didn’t care for the McLean Deluxe, I like the idea of a lower fat burger. And I’d really like to see McDonald’s take another stab at it, because food technology has improved, more people know what carrageenan is, and I’m getting tired of ordering a McDonald’s Southwest Grilled Chicken Salad when I want to eat health-ish at McDonald’s.

Did you try the McDonald’s McLean Deluxe?

FAST FOOD FLASHBACK: Jack in the Box Colossus Burger

Jack in the Box Colossus

Fast Food Flashback is a series that looks back at discontinued fast food menu items.

The Jack in the Box Colossus Burger was introduced in 1994. It featured two 1/4 lb beef patties, three kinds of cheese, and EIGHT slices of bacon. I remember eating a couple during my college days, when I thought I was invincible. So invincible that I ignored all the calories, fat, and sodium the burger had and didn’t care about the 1993 Jack in the Box E. coli outbreak that happened prior to the release of the Colossus.

Speaking of the 1993 Jack in the Box E. coli outbreak, apparently the Colossus was originally the Monster Burger, which was found to be the cause of the outbreak. A promotional price caused a great demand for the Monster Burger, which in turn caused employees to not cook the beef for an adequate amount of time or at a high enough temperature to kill the bacteria.

The Jack in the Box Colossus was the first burger I purchased that made the Big Mac seem so small. It really was Colossus and I vaguely remember having a hard time wrapping my mouth around it. I don’t remember what it tasted like, but I imagine I must have enjoyed it if I ate two of them. According to Calorie Count, the Colossus had 1100 calories, 84 grams of fat, 220 milligrams of cholesterol, and 1510 milligrams of sodium.

I don’t remember how long Jack in the Box’s Colossus Burger was around, but it somewhat lived on in the late 1990s in Jack’s Bacon Ultimate Cheeseburger, which at the time had two 1/4 lb beef patties, three slices of cheese, and eight slices of bacon. The current version of the Bacon Ultimate Cheeseburger has just three strips of bacon, but I’m sure I could purchase extra bacon and experience the Jack in the Box Colossus once more, if my arteries wish to go down memory lane.

Do you remember the Jack in the Box Colossus?