Like many in my generation, I grew up eating McDonald’s. I had my 5th birthday there, and still remember biting into my first Chicken McNugget, back in 1983. It was our go-to lunch destination lunch throughout high school, too — where you could score a variety of foods off the dollar menu with money earned from a minimum wage job.
After graduating, my trips to the arches became less frequent. McDonald’s strength has always been appealing to kids and broke teens. Remember that the Happy Meal was nothing short of a fast food revelation, after all. That’s not to say I never go anymore, I do. Usually when I need a jolt of nostalgia from days gone by.
But McDonald’s doesn’t just want me and my ilk when we’re craving a trip down memory lane. It wants us to visit on the regular again. And how does the fast food giant hope to unlock our customer base? Smart sourcing and ecological practices, that’s how. It’s a process that the company has been paying attention to for a long time (with the move to cage free eggs and less filler in the McNuggets) that peaked last week — when McDonald’s upped its menu offerings, with a new made-to-order burger that would never know the confines of a freezer.
The move seemed specifically aimed at the adult consumer and, in my case, it worked. I was intrigued and wanted to test it.
Named The Archburger, the new menu item seems to call back to the fast food giant’s mid-90s foray into food geared toward adults — the Arch Deluxe. Launched in 1996 with a $200 million marketing campaign, that burger featured a quarter-pound patty, leaf lettuce, and a mustard/mayo combination known as Arch Sauce. Despite the grand rollout, the relatively pricey burger (compared to the rest of the menu, anyway) never found its audience, and it disappeared a short time later.
In the 22(!) years that have passed since the Arch Deluxe came and went, fast food has gradually trended towards more refined tastes. It’s birthed the fast casual movement — lead by Shake Shack in the burger department — which successfully merges quickness and convenience with quality ingredients. With other fast food restaurants like Wendy’s and In-N-Out Burger already serving never-frozen patties, it was all but inevitable that McDonald’s would join the fray eventually.
This time around, instead of a massive, multi-million dollar rollout, the house that Ronald McDonald built decided to test its new Archburger in beef country. Multiple outlets reported these locations were isolated between Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Plano, Texas (a suburb north of Dallas). With no other information to go on, I called the McDonald’s 800-number to see if I could get any specifics. It turned out, I couldn’t — so I went down the list and called every McDonald’s in Plano to see if I could find out which one had the Archburger.
About half the restaurants didn’t come to the phone and those that did seemed to have no idea what I was talking about. They were keen on trying to sell me on the Bacon Smokehouse Burger, but while I appreciated the effort, it wasn’t the burger I was looking for. Naturally, I took to Twitter, and within a few seconds of going down the #Archburger hashtag rabbit hole, I seemed to find an answer.
The burger was being sold at a McDonald’s on Jupiter Road, in Plano. I hopped in my car and drove 3.5 hours… all to score a quick meal.
It turned out there were two McDonald’s on Jupiter Road in Plano — roughly nine miles apart. Both were attached to Chevrons, both were having their lobbies remodeled… neither had the Archburger. It wasn’t until after my drive back home that the original Twitter account reporting the Jupiter Road location (@ConsumerTC) wrote me again, explaining that the Archburger wasn’t being served in Plano at all. Instead, it was in Allen, Texas, just north of Plano.
After a day of rest I did what any normal, rational human being would do: I got back in my car and once again drove hours to find — and eat — a tasty-looking fast food sandwich.
After another grueling drive, I pulled into the parking lot at the Allen, TX location and noticed an Archburger sign out by the curb. This confirmed that I’d indeed found the burger’s testing ground — an enormous sense of relief. I ordered one regular Archburger and one Archburger L&T, which came with lettuce and tomato, for $2.19 and $2.69, respectively. There was also a Bacon Archburger available for $2.89. I also ordered a regular cheeseburger for comparison — eager to find out if McDonald’s newest menu item would rise above its typical fare.
It turns out, it did. The beef patty was juicier and more flavorful than I’d ever known at the franchise, while still tasting like McDonald’s. The best way to describe it is a fresher, all-around better taste. Honestly, it’s amazing the difference when your meal hasn’t been frozen beforehand.
What really elevated the Archburger was the split-top potato flour bun — not seen since the Arch Deluxe days. It lent a hearty flavor — really bringing home the idea that the Arches had gone upscale. And yes, the sauce, in all its mayo-y, mustard-y goodness, was back in play.
It’s the accessible price point, (it costs less than a Big Mac), that makes the Archburger a contender to win back former patrons who’ve left the McDonald’s in their rearview mirror. It could also become a staple with regulars, given that it doesn’t stray too far from what one expects from the brand. The Archburger L&T, for example, comes with the usual shredded lettuce instead of the leaf lettuce favored in the Arch Deluxe.
It’s still a McDonald’s burger. It’s just a fresher, tastier, all-around better McDonald’s burger.
Obviously, we won’t know how the Archburger does until it continues its rollout to more locations beyond the elusive Allen, TX location. At this point, I could see myself making it a part of my occasional fast food pit stop. Especially if I don’t have to drive seven hours round-trip to do so.