Worldwide Favorites

McDonald's unveiled four new menu items drawn from its restaurants in other countries (left to right): Tomato Mozzarella Chicken Sandwich (Canada), Grand McExtreme Bacon Burger (Spain), Stroopwafel McFlurry (The Netherlands) and Cheesy Bacon Fries (Australia).

Fast food restaurants, of course, have proliferated around the world, so one can enjoy mediocre American hamburgers in some of the most breathtaking locales on the planet. Sorry, other countries!

But if American tourists tired of rolling the dice on local cuisine used to be the primary market for these restaurants, by now they’ve been fully integrated into other cultures. Those foreign fast food franchises will sometimes put their own spin on the standard menu — sometimes reflecting the regional cuisine, sometimes not.

In that spirit, McDonald’s unveiled its “Worldwide Favorites” at American locations last week. On the menu are four new items drawn from McDonald’s restaurants in other countries. To be clear, these are not necessarily menu items inspired by the native cuisines of their home countries. In some ways, they seem like a window into what foods other countries would think belong on an American fast-food menu.

Being Canadian, I was drawn immediately to my home and native land’s Tomato Mozzarella Chicken Sandwich ($5.79). That doesn’t sound particularly Canadian? Guys, we don’t sit around eating poutine and back bacon. Not every day.

The sandwich is basically a mass-market play on the caprese sandwich, with slices of heirloom tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and lettuce, along with onions and an herb and garlic sauce. Some basil would have made this the perfect blend and, honestly, onions on a chicken sandwich is gross. But this is otherwise a pretty good sandwich.

Much less successful is the burger from Spain with the name Grand McExtreme Bacon Burger ($5.79), which sounds like something Poochie would have come up with on “The Simpsons.” Sadly, it was neither grand nor extreme, not even McExtreme.

The quarter-pound burger features applewood bacon, Gouda cheese, something called a “smoky McBacon sauce” and onions. It may sound good on paper, but on the bun it’s sort of an undifferentiated mess of savory flavors that left me unsatisfied, especially for a burger that’s almost six dollars.

On the side, diners can order Cheesy Bacon Fries ($3.69), a product of Australia, which is just as it sounds — fries with bacon and cheddar cheese sauce. The glop of toppings is so heavy that the fries are difficult to eat with your fingers, especially as they get soggier. And similar items are available at other fast food restaurants in America, like Wendy’s Baconator Fries. So why would you waste your fast food dollars on domestic fries?

But I’ve saved the best for last. The Netherlands have given us the Stroopwafel McFlurry, which is so good it should cement our relations as close global allies. The McFlurry ($3.19) mixes bits of caramel Stroopwafel waffle cookie and a caramel swirl into vanilla soft serve ice cream.

It’s delicious, especially in summer. And, alone among the new Worldwide Favorites menu items, it’s truly connected to a popular food item from its home country. See, travel really does broaden your horizons, even if you’re just traveling through the drive-thru lane.

Rob Thomas is the features editor and social media editor for the Capital Times, as well as its film critic. He joined the Cap Times in 1999 and has written about movies, music, food and books.