Here’s What It’s Like To Visit New York City’s Pastry-Serving, French-ish McDonald’s

Outside of french fries, there’s nothing about McDonald’s that makes you envision a Parisian café or some bistro in Marseilles, but that hasn’t stopped the fast food goliath from testing a supposedly France-inspired location in the middle of Manhattan; just convenient enough for me to check out.

Sign on the corner.

Sign on the corner.

It doesn’t really look like a McDonald’s, but then again, this is New York City, where everyday fast food chains often get a facelift to appeal to tourists and locals alike.

Gray metal and pale wood on the outside, unassuming, with a flat McDonald’s McCafe sign posted above the sightline of passers-by.

I walked in and was greeted by one of many employees in black and grey uniforms, with yellow accents to recall the Golden Arches. Nearby, a few corporate types in suits hovered, watching our interaction closely.

img_4624“What are you looking for today?” a very nice worker asked me, indicating that I could either head to the bakery side or order lunch from one of the flatscreen kiosks on the wall. The first time through, I decided I’d just get that croissant I’d heard about, that’s what makes this place so French, right?

The Bakery?

I was directed to the bakery counter, where the menu — like the others in the restaurant — is a flat screen on the wall.



I ordered from another worker, and she handed me a yellow tag with a number on it, instructing me to take a seat and someone would be around to drop off my order.

The place is filled with updated booths of hard, wood grained plastic, with maroon fabric on the seat-backs and seats, as well as longer, high tables with modern stools of colored metal.

Low hanging lighting and modern gray flooring does make the place feel a bit less like Ronald McDonald’s house, and more like a Panera.

Soon after I took a seat at a back booth, a worker made her way toward me, looking for tag 59. She dropped off my order, but came by a few times to ask me and others nearby if everything was okay.

As for the croissant itself, it was on the small side, but that’s what you get for $1.29. It tasted much like a croissant should — extra flaky, perhaps, though wearing black and eating pastry is never a tidy endeavor — but I doubt the French will be lining up for this thing.

Chocolatine and croissant

Chocolatine and croissant

The chocolatine pastry, also $1.29, was a bit better, more moist and less messy to eat. Also, chocolate — as a rule of thumb — is good.

By the time lunch rolled around, the line for the bathroom was getting busy. Maybe these were the folks who can’t handle the office restroom’s lack of privacy.

A nice worker bringing people food.

At some point while I was sitting at my table, a loud, staticky noise came on over some standing speakers that were set up in the corner with what looked like a sound system setup. Is there going to be a concert? Apparently it was going to be some sort of actual press event — no one invited us, honest to god, and I had no real intention of sticking around for a corporate pitch from the Golden Arches folks.

Which is a good thing, because for the 20 minutes or so before I eventually left, we were all aurally assaulted with microphone tests like “Ahh, yeah, yeah. One, two. Yeah, ah, yeah.”

It reminded me for a moment of my days working at Penthouse Forum, to be honest. Not really what I want to be thinking about at McDonald’s.

Self-Serve Kiosks

On my way out, I decided to test out the wall of digital kiosks that let you place an order without dealing with too many human beings.

img_4637The ordering boards were pretty self-explanatory: You touch it to start the process, choose whether you want to eat in or take out, and then select from a menu of “Sandwiches & Meals,” with options like “Sweet Treats,” “Beverages,” “All Day Breakfast” and the rest on the side.

After I’d selected chicken nuggets, I then had the choice of whether I just wanted those nuggets or wanted to make it a meal, a drink option, sauces — you’ve ordered food before, you know what happens. The only difference is, I talked to no one.

The computer asked if my order was correct — while helpfully reminding me of how many calories per day the average person should eat — and whether I wanted to pay there or at the counter. I chose there, and was instructed to take a Table Locator and enter the Number.

Thanks for the nutrition info.

This was confusing, at first, but a worker swooped in and grabbed the locator from a little box mounted on the wall, and punched its number in. I paid using my chipped card, and went back to my seat.

About four minutes later, a worker brought my order, and I asked him what the deal with the Table Locators was — were they sort of like geolocators, was my position in the restaurant tracked?

“Yes!” he said with a smile.

My McNuggets, well, they tasted like McNuggets, and I ate them. I also got some ketchup packets from a nice worker who stopped by asking if I needed anything. I did feel a bit pampered, which is — I suppose — slightly better than how I usually feel after a trip to McDonald’s.

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