Of the many guilty pleasures of my youth, none are remembered with quite the same fondness as the original El Maco burger and fries from Mcdonald’s. The concept was brilliant: make a burger with taco ingredients! Everyone loves Tacos!
And so Maccas’ keen food design team went to work. The burger they produced was a juicy patty with grated cheese, sour cream, lettuce, mild taco sauce. It might have even been quarter pounder sized; I don’t really remember the meat specifically, except that it was your generic Maccas meat.
With its sidekick the Spicy Shaker Fries, a hot mexican-themed powdered flavour sachet that you actually shook into your own fries (bag provided), it was nigh-on the perfect meal. In fact, the spicy shaker fries were so revered that I heard a friend of a friend of a friend that worked at Maccas took a box of the stuff home with them, and enjoyed it for years afterwards on fries from various vendors. Tasty.
Everyone I knew loved it. We were all amazed when it didn’t make the permanent menu. Hell, Filet’o’Fish made the menu, and it must have sold a whole seventeen during its pilot (er, actually, I’m a fan, but haven’t had one for oh, ten years or more); the El Maco was a phenomenon.
Sadly, the promotion ended, the shaker fries went away, and it was gradually forgotten. Generation 2 came and went a while later, with no significant revisions.
I think we’re up to the fourth- or fifth-generation El Maco at this point – maybe more – and bluntly, they’ve ruined it.
It’s called “the Legendary El Maco” on the small cardboard box it comes in, but is it really the legend we came to know and love? No, it’s verging on a travesty. Kids that weren’t around ten years ago will taste this BlandBurger and wonder why their parents wanted to try it out in the first place.
It doesn’t taste as good as the old ones – perhaps to keep the caloric value down, given McD’s new mildly-health-conscious marketing push. The lettuce is crisp and valueless. The cheese is now standard cheeseburger cheese, not the grated stuff they used to use. The burger patty is cheeseburger-sized. The sour cream is OK, but nothing’s there in sufficient quantity any more. It’s not a taco burger, it’s a meat sandwich with a thin smearing of sauces on it. It’s just Not The Same any more, and even the burger bun has that “parted hair” look on top, rather than being the sturdy bap we once devoured so heartily.
From a wet, dripping, overloaded-with-flavour burger, we’ve gone to dry, crisp, minimum-slop minimum-taste burger. Well done McDonald’s, the legend is well and truly dead, I won’t be buying another one again. Not if they’re like this one from now on.
And – where are the spicy shaker fries? Hello? Who’s making these cocked-up decisions? Was it just the restaurant I was at, or was it that the spicy shaker fries were deemed to environmentally unfriendly?
Score-wise (Maccas-adjusted chart):
- El Maco of My Distant Past: 8.5/10
- El Maco of Current Times: 5/10
- Quarter Pounder: 7/10
These days, I prefer Hungry Jack’s / Burger King for most burgers, but I went back to Mcdonald’s just to try it out. Verdict: Nope.