The McDonald’s McDLT gets mentioned on its fair share of fondly remembered food lists and for good reason. Of all the great, and horrible, things to ever grace the menu of McDonald’s, the McDLT was one of the best items they created. I was a fan during its all-to-brief run in the ’80s, and it’s the subject of this edition of Retro Ramblings.
McDonald’s McD.L.T. was a burger similar in size to Burger King’s Whopper sandwich and featured mostly the same ingredients. A quarter-pound beef patty, lettuce, tomato, mayo, cheese, pickles, and ketchup on a toasted sesame seed bun. The beauty of the McDLT though was its packaging. It came in one of McDonald’s signature styrofoam containers. But this one was slightly different from all the rest, as it featured two separate compartments instead of one.
On one side, the bottom bun and burger patty rested, while on the other were the rest of the toppings and the top bun. This allowed the hot parts to remain separate from the cold parts until you were ready to put it together and eat. And that was the brilliance of it all. A fresh-tasting McDLT when the hot patty met the cold toppings. What I could never figure out though, was why the slice of cheese was included on the cold side. To me, it would have made much more sense to put it on top of the patty on the hot side so it could get all melty. But apparently, I’m not a genius like the burger builders at McDonald’s.
It was released in the early ’80s to much fanfare but was eventually pulled in 1990 due to pressure from environmental groups protesting their use of polystyrene containers. Once the divided container was gone, so was the magic of the McDLT. It was later re-released as the Big ‘n’ Tasty burger, but without the separated ingredients, the burger fell flat.
When I first discovered it as a kid, I was at the age where I was getting a little old for Happy Meals and found the McDLT to be a perfectly acceptable replacement for it. I’m guessing it was basically the novelty of it that turned me on to it, but it was a great burger in its own right so that kept me coming back for more.
As a side note, McDonald’s lost a little luster to me with the fall of those original foam containers. Each container was a different color to represent what was held inside, and even the McNuggets had a little compartment built-in to hold the sauce cup. I understand the environmental impact and agree with the decision to stop using them, but dang, they looked cool, and figure prominently in my memories of McDonald’s and childhood in general.
The timing of the fall of the McDLT kind of lines up perfectly with my ascent to a teenager from childhood. Maybe that’s why it holds such a special place in my memories, and why I miss it so damn much.