I never really thought about McDonald’s all that much. I figured that the menu was always pretty much the same, except for the elusive Shamrock Shake and a few Lenten specials. That was until I lived in Athens, Georgia and realized that there was a southern-style chicken sandwich with PICKLES! and sweet tea. And even if you think that McDonald’s symbolizes everything that is wrong with the modern world, it’s worth at least looking at McDonald’s menus in different countries, because you will find totally wacky and sometimes outright cool menu items. For example, in Japan, there’s a shrimp burger. In Israel there’s a McKebab served on a pita. And in Hungary, there’s the pretty good McSertes, which a good pork burger.
But once a year something even more dazzling happens. Okay dazzling is a little too strong of a word, but it’s still fun. The different McCountries come up with regional menu specialities for a limited time. Hence last month’s Hazai ízek in Hungary, which means domestic flavors. So for STRICTLY scientific reasons, Gyorgyi, Andi and I got together to sample the domestic flavors.
The first thing we tried was the Vasalt Csirkeszendvics, which is an ironed chicken sandwich. The things that are supposed to make this sandwich Hungarian are some cucumbers and other veggie mix, paprika-like sauce, and a Hungarian spices bun. But in reality there was nothing reminiscent of Hungarian flavors in this thing. Actually it was kind of gross.
The next item was the Retroburger. If you have ever been to Hungary and tried to find a good burger, you were most likely left wanting. I know that those are fighting words, but it’s the truth. Other than the zillion dollar burger at the Four Seasons, there really is no respect for burgers in Hungary. And the stands that sell them are some of the biggest burger sinners. These burgers, which are often called American burgers, are GIANT, smushed, flavorless burgers with unmanageable buns and off-flavored seasoning. The worst is when you see the lady behind the counter take your burger out of a vat of water and microwave it. Oops. It happened once. I never had another burger here again. Anyway, there is a silver lining to this rant. The Retroburger at McDonald’s was a damn fine burger (if you like onions). Though a paltry patty, it was very deliciously flavored. And the paszka bun was sweet and soft. A little wink to the old times with the modern, soul-crushing commerce giant that is an American fast-food empire.
The Házias hasábburgonya potatoes were probably the menu highlight. They come with a dipping sauce, but now I can’t remember what it was. Even though these were the highlight, McDonalds Hungary regularly serves spiced curly fries, so I would say it wasn’t a supreme star. Still, they were good. And unlike in America where you would get 5 pounds of potatoes, it is a decent portion, so when you finish eating them you don’t feel like you’re heart is going to explode.
The next side item is the Kislángos, which is a mini mini version of the cherished and quite delicious “snack” that is found all over the country, but especially in markets, beaches and fairs. Okay look, this kislángos, little langos, is no where near the quality of a central market lángos. And I’ve lived here for almost 3 years, so when I think it over, this is bordering on offensive. One of my favorite Hungarian food blogs, Chew, called it downright terrible. Like italicized terrible. And to add insult to injury, we didn’t even get the sour cream topping that we should have gotten. Anyway I didn’t think it was quite italicized terrible, but you can get so many truly great lángoses here that I would be doing every potential visitor a disservice by even considering fair marks.
The dessert on offer was Somlói galuska. In the wild, it’s sort of a triffle made up of leftover cakes, cream and chocolate sauce. I’m not really a fan of this desert so I let Gyorgyi be the taste tester on record. She’s not the best person to recommend desserts, though, because she’s someone who might seriously consider eating a donut she found in a trash can if it didn’t look older than a few hours. But she said it was pretty good. Milk shake good? I don’t know, I didn’t ask her.
So, in all, Hazai ízek was just so-so. We thought that the only thing truly Hungarian tasting was sadly, the langos. Maybe next time they should do a kolbasz or a chicken soup. Remember when McDonald’s had soups?
If you’re dying to try something, I’d go with the Retroburger. But get the curly fries. Until Hungary gets an Arby’s, these are as good as it gets.