a blogumn by Ryan Dixon


The McRib

mcribwideThis past Sunday I was driving down the long, wide stretch of San Fernando Blvd in Burbank, CA, searching for a place to buy a salad for lunch, when I passed the local McDonald’s and noticed that the “McDouble” sign that had graced the windows for the past few months had been taken down. In its place was a poster advertising a new item, but because of my poor eyesight, all I could make out before I rolled on by were the words “IS BACK.”

A moment passed. Then, the synapses of my brain revved up and one immortal phrase rushed through my cerebral cortex with the fury of Hell’s Army:

The McRib is Back.

Could it be?

Without flipping my turn signal, I took the next right like Jimmy Johnson on the final lap of the Daytona 500, zoomed around the block and pulled into the McDonald’s parking lot where, upon gazing at the signage, my heart filled with the splendor hitherto known only to suicide bombers who’ve been greeted by the 72 Vestal Virgins in Paradise.

The McRib is indeed back (at least in Southern California). And with its return, it gives me (though not my diet) the great pleasure to present you with:


1. The McRib is the Last of its Kind.

005-mcrib-cleantopLet me come right out and say it: The McRib has no ribs. It is a patty of pork product with rib-shaped strips pressed into it. Even then, the rib-shaped strips don’t look like actual ribs as much as they do french toast sticks, yet that’s all the more reason to love it.

We live in an all-natural, organicized society where coastal dwelling disciples of the Michael Pollan cabal want their food farm fresh, free range and, whenever possible, real. In a world where McDonald’s now sells apple slices, KFC heralds its grilled chicken from on high, and Subway’s Jared has become the most famous calorie killing Jedi since Richard Simmons, the McRib stands alone, a fast food Fortinbras.

The McRib’s annual re-appearance is a ghostly reminder of a time (known in some circles as the late 1970’s and 80’s) when synthetic, overtly unhealthy, “better than real” food was in fashion. All you really need to remember about the dietary choices of this era is that Country Time Old Fashioned Lemonade Drink Mix used the fact that it tasted just like real lemonade as a selling point.

The arrival of the McRib should be a cause for celebration, not scorn, for it bears witness, is in fact the last witness, to a woebegone age when we liked our fast food fake.

2. The Mysteries of the McRib are Unfathomable

the-mantuary-mcribNationally released in 1981, the McRib was originally a regular item on McDonald’s menu until low sales caused the restaurant chain to change its strategy and start bringing it out sporadically for a “limited time only.” For many years after the sandwich was paired each spring with the Shamrock Shake, but then that winning combo was discontinued without explanation and the McRib’s arrival grew ever more unpredictable– sometimes the sandwich wouldn’t appear for several years, then it’d be seen multiple times in the same year or, as was the case in 2006, its arrival was called a “farewell tour,” but it was back again in 2008.

While some saw this inconsistency as a misguided marketing strategy, others began to see patterns within the seemingly patternless morass, giving birth to a host of McRib conspiracy theories (including one that had McDonald’s basing the release of the sandwich on the price of pork) that would befuddle even Robert Langdon.

The enigma that is the McRib has also created so great an epidemic of rumors and apocrypha revolving around which locations are currently serving the sandwich that the website “McRib Locator was created to separate the lies from the truth. Despite these heroic efforts, the mystery remains. The McRib is our first Cryptofood, a culinary cousin to the Sasquatch and Chupacabra, lurking within the restaurant of our imagination.

The ephemeral nature of the McRib also reminds us all of our own mortality. With each bite we both fall back into the past– to that rainy spring day when we ate them with a father now long gone or the romantic evening spent sharing one with a college-aged girlfriend still-missed– and dream about the future, pining for the day when a yet-to-be-born son unwraps his first McRib. When finished with the sandwich, we all pray that, in the final autumn of our lives, there will be enough time to take one last bite.

3. Eating a McRib Is Nothing Like Eating a Real Rib—and That’s a Good Thing

mcribopenHow many times have you gone to a BBQ restaurant, saw the ribs on the menu, began to salivate at the thought of eating them, but stopped just as you were about to order upon the realization that by doing so the mess involved would cause you to end up resembling an underfed zombie who just dined on a trio of kids at a fat camp?

Like its younger, and more universally accepted cousin, the boneless buffalo wing, the McRib gives you the sweet barbecue tang of ribs without the threat of sartorial besmirchment. And, let’s face it; you get a hell of a lot more meat with a McRib than you do on actual ribs. It’s no contest really, you might wanna date real ribs, but you’ll end up marrying the McRib.

(What? You think that the McRib is actually the messiest fast food item of all time? Well, you’ll be happy to know that this year’s pork patty seemed decidedly smaller than the faux-balloon bread bun it rests between and the distribution of the sauce was far more judicious than in years past.)

4. The McRib is THE Polarizing Force in Fast Food

mcribNo one is ever neutral about the McRib. Go ahead; ask your friend, lover, parent or child about it and you’ll hear one of two things:

“I love it!”


“I hate it!”

Let’s get real here folks, this isn’t an argument about whether BK’s Whopper or Wendy’s Bacon Double Cheeseburger is better, we’re in Republicans vs. Democrats, Sharks vs. Jets, Catholics vs. Protestants (circa 1600, that is) territory.

Developing the palette to enjoy a McRib is really no different from having dinner at elBulli, gulping down a piece fugu or munching on a pack of chocolate covered ants. Quite simply, this sandwich separates the posers from the true fast food connoisseur.

And now, for the fifth and final reason that the McRib is the Greatest Fast Food Item of All time…

Need. To. Eat. McRib. NOW!

Sorry, I can’t hold out any longer. I’m starving! It’s off to McDonald’s for me. Read the rest of the blogumn and then meet me there.


Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Oakland Raiders

Raider Fan Photo Credit: JJ Hall

Raider Fan Photo Credit: JJ Hall

When I started my “City Smackdown” section in early October by mercilessly mocking Detroit and their toothless Lions, the Pittsburgh Steelers were in the beginning stages of a five game winning streak and looked like they had a legitimate chance to repeat as Super Bowl champions.

It is now December and the Steelers are 6-5 and desperately grasping for a playoff spot as the 3-8 Oakland Raiders come to town. And while my hands tremble with desire at the thought of writing a few hundred words making fun a city that has been nothing more than San Francisco’s bitch for the past half century, I have decided to refrain.

And so, dear readers, I am announcing that starting today, the Fierce Anticipation “City Smackdown” is being retired for fear of causing anymore undue harm  to the Steelers, their “Nation,” or the city of Pittsburgh.  I realize now that you can take a joke too far, unless of course your punchline is Cleveland.

P.S. Want to know every time I eat a McRib? Then follow me on Twitter! I can be found @ryanbdixon.