Thinking of iconic fast food joints, McDonald’s is among those that stand out among the rest. It’s become one of those places that you expect to find in every town, no matter how big or small. One of the ways that they have become so ubiquitous in the fast food game is by striking that balance on its menu between classic feel-goods like the Big Mac and outside-the-box options like the Guacamole Buttermilk Crispy Chicken burger. Just because something is a “classic” or a “game-changer”, though, it does not mean that all the options are beloved by all! So here, let’s take a look at some of the best – and worst – options that you can find on Micky D’s menu. What are the options that cause a double-take and what are the options that make people come back for more?
10. Southwest Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Salad
Here we are, kicking off this list with a salad that maybe should have been left on the drawing room floor. It surely has its fans, but this Crispy Chicken Salad is not likely to become a classic in McDonald’s history books. McDonald’s deserves some credit for wanting to diversify into healthier options – although the amount of sauce in those salads might prove contrary to such an attempt – but this menu option should be skipped. For the most part, salads are awesome and they deserve to be defended forever! They’re so very versatile and make for either a great side dish or a main meal in-and-of-themselves. They can go beyond simple Caesar salads into being a complex explosion of flavors. That being said, the intention of creating a mix of smooth and spicy options in one salad is admirable, but it just comes off as an overly-complex item. To its credit, the Southwest Buttermilk does somewhat respect what McDonald’s represents: an array of food options that serve more of a feel-good and guilty pleasure role than an actual high-end option. The buttermilk tones down the spicier southwest taste that you hope to get when ordering something like this and the crispy chicken makes the salad much more decadent than healthy. Some might enjoy the lower levels spiciness in a salad, but for many, that boldness is what is sought out. Salads are great, but this one can go through another review though!
Simple, yet effective! That seems to be what the people who conceived of the Filet-O-Fish were thinking when coming up with this one. A slab of fish and some tartar sauce between a bun is pretty much where this one ends. It’s clearly been an option that has had some staying power as it’s been around since the 1960’s, but in today’s day-and-age, it comes off as lackluster. When comparing it to other items, the Filet-O-Fish is like that cousin at family gatherings that you like, but that doesn’t quite stack up to the cooler cousin with the motorcycle. It’s cool and has its place, but there’s more interesting, right? There are, in fact, things that can make this menu item stand out! Let’s take a brief moment to appreciate that insane ad from a dozen years back where a decorative fish comes alive and sings about the simple burger to confused onlookers. It’s extremely weird and is completely disproportionate to how the Filet-O-Fish elicits as a response! We can also talk about the famed Secret Menu items at McDonald’s – one of which features the straightforward fish burger. The under-represented “Land, Sea, and Air Burger” features, as might be expected, some beef, chicken, and fish – land, air, and sea respectively. Now, the Filet-O-Fish is pretty generic on its own, as we’ve established. Mixed with chicken and beef, though, it becomes a bizarrely excessive item that perfectly fits with McDonald’s. Strength in numbers never sounded so good!
8. Baked Apple Pie
This might be an unpopular choice this high up on a “Worst to Best” list but there is a reason why it deserves a not-so-stellar mark, trust us. America’s love affair with apple pie is not exactly the best kept secret. Apple pie has been pretty much mythologized in the country’s lore and McDonald’s wants to keep that idea of warm and fresh pies sitting on the windowsill going. Seriously, hamburgers and apple pie sound like the perfect combination, but the pie you find at McDonald’s falls short of the status of “classic”. Aside from the fact that it consistently gets cold way too fast for some unknown reason, the sheer amount of sugar within it cinches its place on this list. Now, of course, the point of eating an apple pie is to satisfy that sweet tooth that creeps up every-so-often. This one doesn’t just satisfy it though… it blows it into the stratosphere! Combined with a greasy burger, it just creates too much of a contrast between sweet and savory flavors. To be fair, the crust holds up pretty darn well if the pastry is eaten without too much of a wait time. With all of that in mind, perhaps it holds up nicely as an individual snack, like an ice cream cone or something. Now there’s something to investigate this summer!
We’re getting closer to the better items on the list, sure, but the cheeseburger is not among those that reach the top of the mountain. This one can be summed up as a hodgepodge of things that were said about other items before it. It’s certainly had some staying power and is a bona fide classic in the eyes of many. It gets straight to the point and is not one of those items that will make its customers question what flavors will stand out. It’s cheese and meat and that’s pretty much it! When ordering a cheeseburger then, there’s a logical expectation that this burger should really be all about the cheese. It’s the main ingredient after all! Short of putting it into one of those mysterious “secret menu” categories, the cheeseburger doesn’t quite deliver, mainly because the cheese used is not the type that is meant to be tasted almost solo. That being said, the cheeseburger, fitting nonchalantly in the palm of a hand without being a risk for extra toppings falling out, is one of those items that is easy for an on-the-go lunch or a midnight snack that hits that hunger just enough to tide someone over to the next proper meal. Never underestimate the power of a menu item that can double as both a snack and a meal!
6. Garlic White Cheddar with Buttermilk Crispy Chicken
Okay so here’s another McDonald’s item with buttermilk and crispy chicken, but this one seems to work better than the salad! Why? Well, mostly because garlic is clearly one of the best food items in the world and makes everything taste better. Another reason is that there is more thought put into the cheese than the regular cheeseburger. The irony is indeed phenomenal to behold. A possible downside to this member of the “Artisan” series is that figuring out what exactly it pairs with is surprisingly difficult! Not exactly the typical menu item to go alongside some fries. Anyway, as established, garlic is an interesting addition for a principal ingredient but it does overwhelm the taste of the chicken and white cheddar just a bit too much to make this a balanced choice. Nevertheless, between the two buttermilk chicken options named here, this is surely the one to go with.
5. Hot Fudge Sundae
The climb to the top has begun and kicking things off on our way to number one is the item that works just as well in the summer as in the winter – the Hot Fudge Sundae! This list has been critical of some items so far, but this ice cream with a twist is where things get exciting and feature less potentially controversial opinions about McDonald’s foods that might be someone’s favorite. Where the Baked Apple Pie has just to much sweetness for one small dessert, the sundae comes off as just right to counterbalance the savory flavors of a typical McDonald’s meal. It was no joke either that it works at any time of year! In the summer heat, it can be enjoyed in the shade. In the winter, the fudge, which actually stays warm despite it being on something frozen, can be that little bit of comfort that helps get us through the cold snaps! Alright, that might be stretching it a bit, but the point is that the Hot Fudge Sundae is great any time of year and is a fantastic snack or dessert for that person with a sweet tooth or for the one that just wants a little treat after downing a couple of burgers. All-in-all, it’s the go-to sweet item on the Mickey D’s menu!
4. Big Mac
The ultimate classic at McDonald’s, the undisputed flagship hamburger of the multinational fast food empire is…not at number one? This choice might rile up the millions of fans who swear by the Big Mac and your outrage is heard. There is a strong case to be made that the grand-daddy of McDonald’s burgers deserves a higher spot, but not this time! Don’t misconstrue this, the Big Mac is great. There’s a reason why people remember it and it keeps popping up on all kinds of “Best Of” lists. The secret sauce continues to inspire the imagination and speculative powers of fans, and it never leaves a customer hungry or bloated because it’s just the right size. The Big Mac reigns supreme in recognizability and, most importantly, it tastes great. What more could it ask for? How about being an excellent pairing with nearly everything on the menu – not a small feat, actually. It’s time in the spotlight was very well deserved, to be sure. The only thing going against it is the lack of variety inside in terms of condiments and flavors. The special Big Mac sauce is good, but it covers up many of the tastes that could be potentially added, making for a more… streamlined taste. For decades the Big Mac stood tall, but it just might be dethroned by the next generation of burgers as the best at McDonald’s!
3. Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese
Hold on…this is the best hamburger on this list?! Spoiler alert about the top two spots, by the way. Yes, the Double Quarter Pounder is indeed the greatest of that category! Without any bacon to boot, just cheese and beef. That might be a heretical statement for many, but it is a truth that they must face. The addition of bacon to this burger would just make it way saltier than it actually needs to be. That’s right, this is a burger that is good enough to stand on its own without the need for bacon – which by addition would actually be detrimental, shocking! The Quarter Pounder is one of those burgers whose seasoning has been absolutely perfected. It’s just salty enough and especially explodes with flavor when the onions and pickles are placed on top. It may be simple, but those two elements add the tang necessary to make the burger pop. Also, and this is something that gives it a leg over something like the Big Mac, the meat patty is actually thick and juicy enough to provide a joyous feeling with every bite. There is time to taste it before swallowing because every bite is a filled with meaty goodness. This, combined with the crunchiness that the vegetables add to the squishier patty, make this the perfect burger on the McDonald’s menu. Hands down! By far! Don’t even try, the race is won!
2. Chicken McNuggets
There’s been some controversy with this item over the years. Let’s be honest, McDonald’s as a whole has seen some negative press in its over 60 years in business, but they always overcome and continue to move forward. The Chicken McNuggets are no different, but golly when they are the among the tastiest items of McDonald’s menu, they continue to get a pass! They are bite-size pieces of heaven that come directly from the fryer and no trip to McDonald’s is complete without them. Fun fact about their popularity, actually, is that the fast food chain could not keep up with the demand for a while back in the early 1980’s! They were selling out across America and if that does not say something about how good these nuggets are, probably nothing at this point will. They feature just the right ratio of fried batter and chicken. They can be eaten literally anywhere and are even good after they cool down a bit, which is not something that every item can claim on the McDonald’s menu (we’re still looking at you, Baked Apple Pie). Of all the reasons that make the Chicken McNuggets a main stay that is not going anywhere anytime soon, it’s the sauces that they come with help the most. Seriously, no matter which one is preferred, those dipping sauces elevate the already-delicious snack to a new level.
1. French Fries
By now, expecting anything else from the McDonald’s menu to top this list except their French Fries would be folly! The Fries at McD’s have been, alongside the Big Mac, the restaurant’s defining menu item since their inception. Served in that iconic red box with the giant arched yellow ‘M’ on it, these fries are world-renown for being among the best. They are always just crispy enough and never, ever, a disappoint. It is with the utmost confidence that the French Fries can be claimed to be the greatest item on the McDonald’s menu, all categories combined. Even when they are eaten with a massive burger that really fills up that empty stomach, there is somehow always a little extra room for those salty fried potatoes. The slight crunch and the pleasure of eating even just one (or six) at a time will ensure that McDonald’s French Fries will stay at the top of a list like this for a very long time. French fry purists might say that a thicker and more potato-based version is the superior product but there’s something about the ones at McDonald’s – probably the decadent and shamelessly greasy taste – that sets it above them all.