Please sign in to post.

Ah yes - fast food

So, we don't darken the doorstep of McD's too much at home, but sometimes on holiday, we just eat too much pizza and pasta and need something fast while sightseeing, so it's almost always McD's and almost always chicken nuggets.

We had an interesting conversation with our airbnb host in Vienna - he said when he goes to visit his son in USA, he actually enjoys going to McD's, because over in Europe, they try to make the fast food healthier, so there is less fat in the burgers - of course, fat being what makes the burgers juicy and gives them flavor. (His words).

And I will say, the chicken nuggets we had in London (I know, I know, but we had 25 min to get to the John Soane's museum and I was starving) were quite bland compared to the ones we had in other parts of Europe...maybe because they forgot to give us dipping sauce, but even the texture seemed - less firm...

Has anyone else noticed the diff in Europe vs USA/Canada vs UK fast food?

Posted by
3117 posts

One of the things I enjoyed regarding Vienna fast food are the numerous carts on corners with vendors selling very long wursts on short rolls. No part of that was healthful at all but it was delicious!

Posted by
365 posts

Timely post Nicole. Almost as a rule we don't darken the doorway of any North American chains when overseas. EXCEPT...for today. We are on our second day in Kiev and so still sorting out the time change and as a result get unusually tired midday. We ended up in the Globus mall under the Maidan at noon today and didn't have the energy or patience to decipher the Cyrillic on the menu boards in the food court, so bellied up to the McDonalds. It's good that the burgers were so bad (...although the fries were exactly like in North America) because it's a reminder to do things differently in the future.

Posted by
1790 posts

This topic comes up a lot, honestly I am surprised Americans find it so interesting to see American Fast-foods in foreign countries. Even here in the States there are numerous TV programmes about this very thing.

Fast food does not have to be bad food, nor does it have to be American, I think of it as more street food. While travelling around the world, I enjoy trying the various local "fast-foods", I do notice big differences, whether it's Curry-wurst in Berlin, Takoyaki in Osaka, or Empanadas in Buenos Aires. They're great on the go, yet tasty too!

I think people (especially Americans) need to expand their notion of "fast-food" ;-)

PS: Peter, instead of McDonalds, you should have gone with Puzata Hata, a Ukrainian chain, self-service (so no need for Cyrillic) cafeteria serving local foods.

Posted by
4855 posts

Being of the socioeconomic class and age of people who grew up eating and working in fast food, I make a point of visiting McDs in every country I visit. Its a neglected area of cultural studies. I think the comment about healthier fast food in Europe is urban folklore, as is the notion that all Europeans are superior in their dietary habits (I've had some pretty unhealthy fish 'n' chips in the UK). But if you examine a Big Mac, for example, the fat mostly comes from the special sauce and the cheese (a dietary staple in Europe) not the beef. Fat content of beef (much of which cooks out) is a critical factor in how well it cooks - leaner is harder to cook. You cant have a decent bratwurst without a high fat content. I see a difference in the menus, and maybe the local providers are a bit different (not sure corn-fed beef is that available outside North America), so that may account for taste.

And who knows what's in that UK Brown Sauce anyway.

Posted by
5817 posts

Chicken nuggets are always going to be bland if you don’t have a dip with them.

There is good food and bad food everywhere you go. I don’t think “European” fast food is particularly healthier than the fast food in the US but, to generalise, it does seem to have less rubbish in it, eg bulking agents, the seemingly ubiquitous corn syrup, and as for washing chicken in chlorine....urgh!

Properly cooked fish and chips is not as unhealthy as you might think. Fried at the right temperature the fish is basically steamed in the batter with a limited amount of oil on the outside. The chunkier style of chip have a much healthier potato to oil ratio than any french fry you will find. Mushy peas are full of good fibre. It’s never going to be a diet or health food but it’s better than a cheeseburger and fries.

If you think the ingredients in brown sauce are disturbing, what goes into Worcestershire Sauce will petrify you!

Posted by
5163 posts

Oh heck what goes into ketchup/catsup would disgust most....and in the U.K. I use Mickey D’s for their loos.

Posted by
630 posts

Weinerwald! And Currywurst! Open face sandwiches! Shrimp on stick... Pulque (ok I admit you don't eat it, but from the guy on the street this is a good memory.) That rolled dough and egg thing they do in Qatar... Those spicy red sausages in Czech Republic. Hecima with lemon and chili pepper. Fresh street doughnuts. Mystery meat with peanut sauce.

Street food (which is what fast food mutated from) is GREAT!

And yes, less than 24 hours back in the USA, after almost four years in Germany, I tried ordering a beer at McDonalds.

Posted by
3766 posts

We did get some of those hot dogs in Vienna that come with the hard roll where they stuff it in the middle...I found it actually pretty dry and we didn’t even finish them (too used to our soft hot dog rolls). In Prague we got some...I guess it was like a fried hash brown/potato pancake. We did have some street food in a few spots, as well as frequenting family restaurants (with varying success) and some chains (that aren’t in our area) like Pizza Express.

And after hubs getting a case of what I assume was food poisoning that pretty much wiped him out for 2 days of our 4 in Prague (he basically stayed in bed for 24 hrs), he didn’t want to try anything too far from his comfort zone. Best guess was a hamburger he got at a restaurant...I had the same burger with no ill effects.

He wouldn’t even touch another burger until we got to London more than 2 weeks later and went to five guys.

Posted by
3317 posts

I ate some wonderful tacos at “Nachos” in Rouen and Angers, France this year. The set-up is similar to a Qdoba. I chuckled that both locations tried to talk me out of having their hot red sauce! And, it was actually very spicy and tasted great like I usually choose. When I mentioned stopping at a taco shop to a Parisian friend I ate dinner with in Paris, she worried that I went to a different fast-food chain that uses mayo as their taco sauce - ugh!

Posted by
3317 posts

Nicole P, I had a very bad experience with some McD’s chicken nuggets in Oregon many years ago, so I wouldn’t eat them anywhere. I did like their salads when we were in Spain - stopped in a few times in Madrid.

Posted by
20565 posts

All international food chains adjusted their food offerings to match local taste preferences. So we hit them from time to time to see, taste the differences. Sometimes it is very good. Sometimes you can get a good beer or glass of wine at the same time. An innovation that should be adapted by the US.

Posted by
242 posts

Honestly I don't taste much difference between staple items at McDonald's in the States versus the rest of the world, beyond the regional menu variations. While I don't seek out American chains abroad, I agree that it's often interesting to visit. Sometimes they have menu items I wish I could get back home!

That being said, any time I'm out of the States for a longer period of time, the one thing I almost always miss is Mexican food, whether it's fast, sit-down, or gourmet. Unless I'm in Mexico, in which case I've already achieved my ultimate level of food satisfaction.

Posted by
68 posts

Just had to eat at McD's on Champs-Elysee. Pleasantly surprised with good (sweet & large) pastries and hot tea in a decent quantity. Had snacks a couple of times in other French McDs - same offerings. The Dutch, Italians & French do many varieties of fries and, except for offering mayo, usually excellent. Different story in Greece & Turkey - soggy, limp, cold and tasteless (oil not hot? not in vat long enough? Not dried first?). Totally bumbed out. Bad case of ED must be the preferred potato fry there. But a McD in Istanbul delivered the goods. Tried lots of street food in Asia, Europe, Central & North America over many years - usually tasty and with care safe. Eating local is one of the pleasures of travel.

Posted by
5544 posts

I don’t eat fast food in the US so didn’t think I would ever end up eating it abroad. Driving through the Champagne region of France there were no restaurants open and we were starving. We pulled into a McDonald's and were thrilled that they had Moroccan food. The workers in the vineyards are mostly from Morocco, a nice surprise.

Posted by
5235 posts

If we are flying home from Paris, our routine is last night at the CDG Ibis and dinner in the airport at McD (but they DO offer table service.)

Noticed "frappes" instead of "shakes" outside Versailles.

Posted by
3904 posts

Has anyone else noticed the diff in Europe vs USA/Canada vs UK fast food?

Yes, size!!!

I don't eat chicken nuggets so can't comment on the difference. Having seen what they're comprised off I have no desire to eat them. McDonalds burgers have tasted the same wherever I've eaten them (although I've only tried them once in the US and that was NYC). I do enjoy a burger so I like to try out the well recommended local places. I remember the first time, years ago, when I had a Five Guys and was very impressed. They've opened stores in the UK now but the prices charged are so more expensive than those in the US that I refuse to eat there out of principal.

However, what I do find in the US is that Mexican food, particularly the further south you go is often excellent and is a far better option than most of the other offerings in the area so much of the food I eat in the US is Mexican. Unfortunately we don't find anything that quite matches it in the UK.

Posted by
506 posts

One of the things I always do in Italy is visit McCafe - love their pastries and coffees!! (And cafe crema in summer!!) 😋

Posted by
3117 posts

I think people (especially Americans) need to expand their notion of
"fast-food" ;-)

Don't lump "Americans" as all being the same. In NYC, fast food isn't just McDonalds; it's also walking into a Japanese grocery store and picking up sushi, sashimi and freshly prepared cooked items. It's going to a store that specialized in salads and picking up a salad you can either customize or ones that are pre-made. It's going to a small café/counter that only sells varieties of oatmeal all day long.

Posted by
1790 posts

Hi Continental, my comment you quoted was not directed toward American eating habits in the USA, of course they're diverse! :)

My comment was more referring to the habit of Americans defaulting to McDonalds while on holiday abroad: https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/general-europe/eating-at-mcdonalds

As you can see from that previous topic (among many), Americans from all corners of the USA, even NY, seem to relish in admitting to going to McDonalds, after they're tired of the foreign food or need a quick bite etc. But I think if they just put a little more effort, and seek out the local fast food alternative (which is no less fast), they will have a more rewarding experience, as per Peter's experience in Ukraine above ^

PS: McDonalds is not the only place with restrooms in Europe, plenty of local places also have this newfangled innovation of a toilet ;-)

Posted by
3904 posts

Carlos makes a very good point. My recent trip with friends to Berlin saw some of us opt for a late night currywurst (I still can't stand them despite trying an 'artisan' one this time round, I like the wurst I just hate the nasty, astringent curry sauce) whilst the rest opted for a shwarma from the Turkish place next door. Chicken and falafal wrapped in a flatbread with yoghurt and tahini was infinitely better than a McDonalds and for less than a BigMac meal. The toilet however was far from the standards of a McDonalds!

Posted by
4855 posts

Yes, Carlos is right. Its just that sometimes you don't want or need another cultural experience. You just want a Coke in a cup with ice, in a familiar environment.

Posted by
506 posts

Agreed, Stan. When you’ve been traveling for a long time or living abroad, sometimes what you need is a little taste of home. I’m the first one to want to try local specialties, but every once in a while, the familiar is what I crave. And I’ve said it before, McDonald’s provides three things that I need while traveling in extremely hot summer weather – air conditioning, bathrooms and free Wi-Fi!! (Also, lots of ice!!) I should also add that I never visit a McDonald’s in the United States! 🤣🤣

Posted by
2275 posts

When I do go to McDonalds or similar in Europe it’s for convenience- sometimes it’s the easiest way to get a bathroom! Or to get a meal at odd hours.

One big thing is that McDs in Europe offer gluten free buns for their burgers (they do NOT offer this in the US). This was very helpful when traveling with a newly-celiac child. Said child is now a teen who can find gluten free things he will eat on most restaurant menus. But McDs is still helpful inplaces like train stations where finding fast gluten free food is harder.

Posted by
1503 posts

We just returned from the RS Greece tour and whenever we had lunch on our own, we headed to the nearest Soulvaki place and had gyros. Two gyros, a beer, a sparking water for 10 euros. The Greek version of fast food is quick, delicious and inexpensive! We are going to miss it!

Posted by
7 posts

I can say that McDonald's is the most delicious fast food. Yes, it is not healthy, but its taste prevails over the desire to eat only healthy and wholesome food. Personally, I go there every two months.

Posted by
1007 posts

I sometimes will go to a McDonalds when traveling and the circumstances are right (I am hungry, want something fast, and don't want a lot). In my experience, the food is always better than the same offerings in the U.S. I can definitely tell a difference.