my love for mcdonald’s is very well known. i’ve eaten it since i was a kid, had a birthday at a mcdonald’s nearby, attended elementary fundraisers there, collected happy meal toys and glasses… the list goes on. jake actively stops me from buying mcdonald’s memorabilia often. i don’t know what exactly keeps me coming back, but i have a hunch it’s the salt content.
almost every day, i drive past the mcdonald’s on international drive (or i-drive, for short). over the past few years their facade has changed quite a bit, but it still remains a gigantic building situated at one of the worst intersections in the tourist corridor. their major remodel happened in 2015. before that, the building looked like this:
up until all fast food restaurants went through what i call the “box phase” a few years ago, there had been little change in restaurant design since the late nineties. then, fast food restaurants relied heavily on color and individually stylized logos. now, most of them share the same basic oudoor design scheme, with muted colors on rectangular shapes. i don’t know if this is an effort to class up the joints or whatever, but as none of them have really drastically changed their menus in years, it seems like a weird choice. anyway, this definitely affected the i-drive mcdonald’s but somehow… not enough. let me explain!
the sides of the building you can see coming from the highway display the newest version of the mcdonald’s logo. but if you come at it from international drive or florida mall, it gets a little weird.
i don’t know if you can tell from the photo, but that’s a gigantic neon ronald mcdonald. next to a logo mcdonald’s hasn’t used on new restaurants in years. why would they update 3/4 of the building but not this side?? i didn’t know at the time, but this was the theme of the world’s largest entertainment mcdonald’s.
the decor is immediately bonkers. lots of archways and weird lamps, juxtaposed between the clean lines and sparse design of a more “modern” mcdonald’s. i know a lot of the older buildings were just knocked down and completely rebuilt, and it becomes glaringly aware why the further you walk into the building. at some point, they added a fish tank. not sure if this is from the new or old decorations, but i love it. completely useless and miserable. the fish tank is backed up to the mccafe bar, where you get all coffee/smoothies but also hand dipped edy’s ice cream? i didn’t even see if they had a normal ice cream machine. i’m sure it would be broken anyway, but who cares when you have a literal hard pack ice cream counter!!! they also had cake. nothing says “i’m lovin’ it!” like cake.
in front of the counters is a large bank of ordering screens. there were a couple of employees guarding the cup hoard in the middle of them all. if the purge ever happens, this is where i’ll be.
as we made our way upstairs with our pager (yes, the food was DELIVERED to our seats) i met eyes with a friend hiding under the playplace! the decor upstairs only gets weirder.
our food was delivered after about ten minutes. and this is where i know i may lose you, but i ordered linguini with alfredo sauce and a cheese pizza. they were available, and so i had to experience them.
my honest review: to the surprise of no one, the pasta is very very bad. the noodles were overcooked and mealy, and the first piece of chicken i bit was so rubbery i actually put it back down. i ate a few mouthfuls just to be able to describe it best, but your money can get you such better food here. i made a mistake, for your sake. don’t buy this.
the pizza was actually pretty good. i would put it on the level of a bowling alley or roller rink pizza. it was thin and cheesy with really sweet dough. basically, perfect for kids. it felt extremely blasphemous to see a pizza sitting next to a sleeve of fries on a tray, but this was a day of blasphemy!
next to the playplace, there was a bigger area with a lot of ceiling space. for some reason they filled that space with a gigantic mac tonight (a mcdonald’s character from the 80s) and a big fake neon burger and fries. cohesive? no. beautiful? also no.
moving towards the entrance to the playplace itself, you have to pass through an arcade. i seem to remember that this used to have more traditional games, but it’s now the standard giant versions of games from your phone. what intrigued me, though, was the sprinkling of mcdonaldland characters behind and around those machines. there have clearly been design changes, but it’s like they’ve only added and never subtracted. everything is just… still there.
the entire building is a surreal fever dream, and i’m happy i finally explored it. i’m glad i learned the pizza is palatable, since this mcdonald’s is open 24 hours, but their prices for standard meals (burgers, fries, etc) are inflated here so i will continue to visit other local mcd’s otherwise. i will leave you with a photo of me i was trying to take on the stairwell. a mom saw me and wanted to do the same with her kids so her great idea was to just sit behind me and wait… right in my photo. the classic orlando experience!
the views in this post are not the views of the world’s largest entertainment mcdonald’s. also, that’s what it’s called on yelp.