I Tried My First Big Mac And Was Underwhelmed
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I Tried My First Big Mac And Was Underwhelmed

Sep 29, 2023

It never actually occurred to me until fairly recently, but in a conversation with some colleagues, I realized that I'd never tried a Big Mac before — or at least, not that I can remember. How did I possibly manage to miss out on a burger that's been a McDonald's flagship item since, like, forever? No, the answer isn't that I'm some kind of food snob who'd never dream of dining at McDonald's. I've eaten there numerous times throughout my life. And as a kid, I was pretty thrilled by a trip to the Golden Arches.

The reason I've never tried a Big Mac, I believe, comes down to the fact that there have always been other options on the menu. In my much younger days, I went through a weird anti-burger phase (they were simply too mainstream for a proto-hipster elementary schooler like me), so I went for the Filet-O-Fish or McChicken, instead. As an adult, I realized that I actually did like burgers, but there was another factor at play: I was now paying for my own fast food, so in order for me to order a premium-priced item, it had to have something really special about it. Bacon would be good, or a better cheese option than American, or maybe just a few sliced jalapenos would do. Thousand Island dressing (er, special sauce), lettuce, and onions really don't do it for me, though. So, I'd just as soon order off the value menu.

When my son was little, we'd always go on half-price Happy Meal Tuesdays — he'd get a burger; I'd get the bun. These days, I generally get value menu burgers or McChickens and share them with my dogs. But just in time for National Burger Day, I headed on down to my local Mickey D' (which is just a few blocks away but I still drove because I'm lazy like that) for a Big Mac.

I placed my order, got my burger, then took it home to try. From the very first bite, I was ... not impressed. Not at all. Yes, I knew what to expect since back in the day, kids would compete to see who could rattle off "two-all-beef-patties-special-sauce-lettuce-cheese-pickles-onions-on-a-sesame-seed-bun" without taking a breath. Even so, the burger still managed to disappoint me.

It's just lettuce. And onions. Plus a few pickle slices, and something that tastes exactly like Thousand Island, a salad dressing that might as well have stayed back in the 20th century. The Big Mac, I guess, is very much a product of its times, but now that lettuce, onions, and pickles are no big deal, it seems laughable that this is considered a premium item. Even the burger patties are just the same thin, flat, fairly dry ones that come on the non-premium burgers. What, I wondered, was I really paying for here? Just the Big Mac name and the history behind it? Yep, that's pretty much it.

What would make the Big Mac a better burger? Just about anything since it's pretty plain and basic as-is. Why not make bacon an option? I'd also like to see some hot peppers in addition to the pickles, that would be nice, and a choice of cheeses would be very much appreciated, as well. (I've never been a fan of American cheese — classic though it may be.) If none of this is feasible, could the sauce, at least, be spiced up a bit? Maybe add some sriracha or Frank's RedHot — neither of these sauces is particularly incendiary, so they won't make the burger any less kid-friendly.

Okay, I do know that none of this is going to happen. Pretty much all the Big Mac has going for it at this point is its longevity, so it needs to remain the late '60s museum piece that it is. I do have one suggestion, though, that McDonald's could easily implement (but won't): Move the Big Mac to the value menu. What does it really offer, after all, that the McDouble does not? Just the lettuce, onions, and not-so-special sauce, that's all. While I paid nearly $6 for my Big Mac, the McDouble's only about $2.50. At half its current price, the Big Mac would be an okay option, but since it's one of the more expensive items on McDonald's menu, I won't be ordering it again.