Editor's note: All summer long, the Southern Foodways Alliance will be delving deep in the history, tradition, heroes and plain old deliciousness of barbecue across the United States. Dig in.
One of the great ironies of American barbecue history is that the world's leading hamburger chain, McDonald's, got its start as a barbecue restaurant.
Long before the golden arches, barbecue restaurants dotted street corners in cities and towns throughout the South and West. From California to Florida, impromptu barbecue stands had "grown as thick as filling stations" along the sides of highways, reported Collier's Magazine in 1937. America's first drive-in chain - the Dallas-based Pig Stand - featured barbecue, and by World War II, pit-cooked meat was a staple of fancy steak and chop houses, too.
So, when brothers Richard and Maurice McDonald opened their drive-in in San Bernadino, California, they naturally built a hickory-chip pit out back. The original menu featured sandwiches with "our famous barbecued beef, ham, or pork" for 35 cents and a barbecue plate for 60 cents. Hamburgers shared second billing, followed by chili, tamales and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
A few years in, the McDonald brothers' drive-in was barely turning a profit, and they closed down for three months in 1948 to retool. When they reopened, the china and silverware had been replaced by paper wrappers and cardboard cups. The carhops were gone, and customers ordered at windows. Most severe was the menu overhaul: hamburgers only, the toppings limited to cheese, ketchup, mustard, onions and pickles. The price of a burger had dropped to 15 cents. Sides and drinks were limited to french fries, milkshakes, coffee and sodas. The hickory pit was no longer needed.
The McDonald's "Speedy Service System" focused on convenience and value, selling a limited slate of low-cost items and making money through volume. The formula worked so well that Ray Kroc, a distributor of milkshake mixers, visited the brothers in person to see how one restaurant could possibly need eight of his five-spindled machines. Amazed by their volume, Kroc signed up to be the McDonald's franchising agency. We all know the rest of the story.
Barbecue simply wasn't suited for the new world of standardized fast food. It differed too greatly from one region to the next, took hours of hard labor to prepare and required a long apprenticeship to learn to cook. Throughout the 1950s and '60s, hamburger chains flourished, and barbecue - once the king of the American highway - was relegated to a small-scale regional specialty.
Today's installment comes courtesy of Robert Moss, a food writer and restaurant critic for the Charleston City Paper and author of "Barbecue: the History of an American Institution". Follow him on Twitter at @mossr.
Delve into more barbecue goodness from the Southern Foodways Alliance blog.
Anyone else ordering a McDouble and getting a bun that smells like the floor of a barn? Ive been to 3 different McDonalds that had farm-poo smelling buns, one was so bad that I could smell it through the bag.
That strange smell is the McFeces they add to their meat for flavor.
Note to the editor...the McDonalds restaurant pictured with this story is the first of the Ray Kroc founded chain of McDonald's restaurants, on Lee St. in Des Plaines, IL. They never, ever served BBQ beef at this restaurant (except maybe the McRib sandwich, but I think this location was a museum by the introduction of the McRib, and there is serious question if the McRib was really BBQ beef.) This location was all hamburgers and fries when it opened and for many years thereafter. This was not the location owned by the McDonald brothers in California which gave Ray Kroc the inspiration for this location.
"This was not the location owned by the McDonald brothers in California which gave Ray Kroc the inspiration for this location."
Who claimed that it was?
I don't see any caption claiming that it IS the original location owned by the McDonald Brothers...
No doubt there was BBQ in the mcrib, but I agree there is (or should be) some doubt if there was any meat in that sandwich. For that matter, I doubt that Mcdonalds sells ANY meat these days.
the McRib is "pork" and has always been pork. Just sayin...
I recognized this too! For years I worked in Des Plaines. I believe it is still there, including 1950's cars in the lot. Of course, all fenced up just for show. A current store is just across the street.
Chick Fil A!!!!!!!
I'm shocked! McDonalds meals use to contain meat?!?!
I LUV SAN BEE!!!
They've progressed. Now they sell diabetes.
And their hamburgers were made of real beef! Imagine that!
hey stwebb–Nixon wasn't impeached. Clinton was.
You are correct....Nixon was smart enough to resign
Nixon wasn't smart enough to resign - Congress stalled and dilly-dallied until he ran out of sweat. They should have proceeded. It was certainly a more compelling case.
I think that the picture is from one of the original McDonald's in Downey, California. Any comments or corrections? Sure looks like So Cal weather backing up the place . . .
I think you're right. The black and yellow license plates look like California ones to me.
I think New York had black and yellow plates also. Also, Newington CT had one of the first Mc Donalds.
The very first McDonald's own by Ray Kroc was built in Des Plains Illinois, and I know this for a fact because my dad was one of the bricklayers who built it, and Mr Kroc paid my dad half in cash and the other half in stock of his company, which my dad held on, never cashed them in.
Most of the people posting here act like they are about 12 years old.
Very interesting little piece of American history and I enjoyed reading it. I never knew Mikky-d's got started as a barbeque place. Didn't know the first drive-in started in Dallas. Thanks for the article.
Yep, In Dallas, we had the first drive thru, and the first drive by.(Kennedy).
Why doesn't the text of the article print? I can do the picture, and the comments, only!
Damn. Secret, given away
They found out?? Damn.
You people are not even funny. You're probably the same idiots that screwed up the Marquee blog.
We were trolled. So back off please. Do you think we like to wake up and see this mess under our names?
I think the only good thing at McDonald's is their black iced coffee! Mmmmm so much better than Starbucks!
Anything is better than the burnt taste of Starbucks coffee...
No kidding right!! The coffee tastes like cigarettes!
And all's they got now is the McRib?? Wow. I'd rather a great BBQ joint than a fast food burger place any day.
Don't get me wrong. If it was all about the money, then they obviously did the right thing.
What did they sell before hamburgers? Their soul. They sold their soul to the Devil.
Best burgers I ever ate were the ones I cooked myself..
I remember someone doing this to me a few years back around here, LOL
Subway is garbage..........
True. Anyone 'foodie' knows that Subway is Sub-par.
SUBWAY EAT FRESH!!!!
one of the greatest 'institutions' of all time! it really serves people so well and at the lowest cost that's why they thrive. If they could 'feature' microwave-pass safe food – for a few seconds – then no bacteria objections could be raised since the food will be like treated to be absolutely infectious agent-free and the company lawsuit-safe as well!
The best hamburgers I've ever had were from White Castle when I lived in North Jersey. They were the best.
1958 Wichita Kansas, The McDonalds's sign said "more than 100,000 Sold". way back when.
or Des Plaines Ill, the forst franchise.
Of course you do...Now change hands so you won't miss a Stroke,Momma's watching at the top of the stairs.
Listen to Mark Knopfler's song Boom Like That – it's tells this story and is a great song.
McD's did not sell french fries when they reopened in Dec. '48. They sold potato chips but changed to fries within the first year. My grandparents lived a mile away from the orig. store at E St. and 14th Ave, San Bernardino. Google the location, go to the street view and you'll see a 'copy' of the original marquee on the southwest corner by the Mexican restaurant. I remember the hamburgers, shakes and fries to all taste exactly the same in 1952 as they do now.
Actually the fries taste a tad bit different...
They were made with a fat greasy oil back in the day...
They are somewhat safer to eat these days!!!
I can't actually remember McDonalds selling an actual hamburger so the point is moot.
So that is the true origin of the otherwise mysterious McRib sandwich.
We make homemade McRibs all the time. Equal parts hair, filler and BBQ sauce.
Would be guaranteed if someone would start a Troll Burger chain. These boards are the true source for renewable energy.
Chick fil a had a record day yesterday and another on tap for today. Ohhh no but you wont see CNN communist news network talk about that. Doesnt fit their libtard agenda
Chik has the lousiest food. So that's why it is non-news
Hey Mikey, did you happen to open your eyes when peering at the internet today? The chik fil a thing is all over CNN you GOP tool.
Actually, it did report on that. There's more than one story on CNN.com. Who's the tard?
If you dislike CNN so much why are reading their news? FOX News network will give you all the lies you want to hear, so log on now!
They did talk about it... :P
CNN and CNN.com presented several stories about it. You're simply lying because it furthers your political agenda.
And "libtard"? What are you, eight years old?
Please leave brain dead mikey alone...
His life isn't complete unless he calls the majority of Americans LIBERTARDS!!!
Give it to Mikey. He'll eat anything the GOP will give him.
I bet their bugers tasted 100% better and were all real, no fillers.
Agreed. I'd love to go back to taste the burgers that made them famous in the first place.
The McD's in the photo is similar to the original San Berdoo store but isn't - as I remember it anyway; it was in a semi-residential area with more trees. Sigh.
That's "San Bernardino" not San Bernadino.... ok... so we slur it a bit when speaking. (Oregon now, SB Cal then)
Thanks for correcting the heathens. BTW I'm a San Berdoo Oregonian too!
Good ole bankrupt San Berdoo!!!
I remember the 15 cent burgers and one million sold signs on the arches in SoCal.That number went up fast! Except fr the fries, which have always been good, the food itself actually sucked and the ultra-thin rubbery meat patties were more like eating leather, but it was all about convenience in the early sixties. Good taste and/or healthy wasn't important – cheap and fast was!
That's all fine and good but all CNN really cares about is what side of the gay marriage debate McDonalds is on.
Because if we don't know every faceless owners' stance on the social topic du jour, how can we ever make purchases or know where to direct our hateful comments?
Young gay men are sometimes called chickens.
Oh Please . . .
Most business people are savvy enough to know to keep their mouths shut about hot button issues lest they offend one group or another.
In the early 70's a lot of people were ticked off at McDonald's when it was revealed Ray Kroc gave a large donation to Nixon's re-election campaign. There were probably people who boycotted them at that time.
Yeah, it's call sarcasm. Never goes over well on CNN boards.
But that was an interesting tid-bit about McDonalds/Nixon. I guess I like the Golden Arches more than I thought...
You've got a thing for impeached presidents!?!
Ronald McDonald, the Hamburger Happy Clown.
And with that, the global decline of the food industry...
At McDonalds, they do it all, for ME!
They don't donate $$$ to "Kreestyuns Whut Hates Faigs Jes' Lahk Jeezus Done"....er... I mean the Family Research Council
Nice. Stereotype much?
You a idiot Truthtm
In the Winter 2010 issue of its magazine, Intelligence Report, the Southern Poverty Law Center designated the FRC as a hate group, saying that the organization "pushed false accusations linking gay men to pedophilia".
Dave, Aside from your sarcasm. Your statement is factual.
Hey, Pedro. You are Not Very Nice.
Well Duh They invited the McRib
I see. So all I have to do is set up a drive-thru and defecate violently into a bag and sell it in large volumes. We'll have to eat a lot of Taco Bell to keep up with demand, I suppose.
Don't forget to bag up cat vomit & feces too.
Use Both hands and don't look back......Big Mike...SF 49'er's
What about those gross, ultta-greasy and tough, chewy tortilla shell Taco Bell tacos with that thin smear of something that looks like baby food mystery meat? They have a slice of not quite melted american cheese too and a few strands of wilted lettuce! You can put this thick, ketchupy "hot sauce" on it too!
Someone has a little I'm 16 and angry at my dad syndrome going on. Eat paint chips as a kid much, Angela?
Bbbbbbbbbut where do they stand on gay marriage???????????????
Between the Buns with a little Carolina White Sauce included.
Well played sir, well played.
Did you see where that chicken sandwich chain is offering chicken sandwiches with extra santorum on them?
Don't ask, don't tell! LOL
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