Everyone has their own guilty pleasure when it comes to fast food. There’s no point denying it Dubai; we’ve seen the amount of delivery drivers on the road at 2am on a Friday.
Words and burger-building by Miles Buckeridge
It’s OK, we’re not here to judge. The constant stream of fabulous five-star brunches and visiting chefs from Michelin-starred restaurants serving up every conceivable cuisine can get a little overwhelming. It’s only natural we want to make way for a dirty burger every now and again.
But after tasting your way through the menu of a local chicken shack or shawarma joint, it can feel like you’ve explored all to there is to explore with a particular restaurant. This, however, is not necessarily true.
We often hear whispers of secret menus. These are meals you can order from food outlets that don’t appear on any list. Rumours, that are sometimes well-founded, there have been several journalistic gastronauts, that have led intrepid investigations into the matter and uncovered all sorts of shushed-sustenance. But we wanted to see how easy it would be to order and consume some off-menu dishes, here in Dubai.
We couldn’t think of a more appropriate place to launch our investigation than at the old faithful Golden Arches themselves, McDonald’s.
The Land, Air and Sea Burger at McDonald’s
What is it?: A pile of Fillet O’Fish, Quarter Pounder and Grand Chicken patties. Sort of like a budget version of a ‘turducken’ (a chicken stuffed into a duck, which is then stuffed into a turkey and roasted).
Ease of ordering: As you might imagine, it’s not a straightforward task. The staff at the McDonald’s we use as our testing ground were unaware of this burger (first rule of secret menu club, there is no secret menu). So we have to buy the various burgers and assemble the giant sandwich ourselves.
How to order: One Fillet O’Fish, one Quarter Pounder, one Grand Chicken Deluxe. But having tested this out, we can offer a few pro tips. First – use the buns from the Quarter Pounder or the Grand Chicken Deluxe. They offer the most satisfying coverage for the monstrous mouthful. You won’t want to mix all the sauce together; the tartar sauce from the Fillet O’Fish is not the palatable pal of ketchup. We’d recommend sticking with the tartar, even asking for some on the side – or going rogue with a sachet of spicy mustard.
Taste experience: It’s a party in the mouth. A party which has been gatecrashed by a lot of older kids, minutes before your parents arrive home early from their trip abroad.
Cost: AED 41
The McChicken Mac at McDonald’s
What is it?: It’s a traditional Big Mac, with the buns replaced by McChicken Sandwich patties.
Ease of ordering: Again, it was not as easy as we have fantasised about; leaning over the counter – and whispering the burger’s name into the server’s ear. Once again, we buy the individual sandwiches and self-assemble.
How to order: One Big Mac and three McChicken Sandwiches. We recommend retaining the cheese, lettuce and (insanely good) Big Mac sauce as your topping here.
Taste experience: Actually not bad. We’re essentially recovering carnivores here in the Dubai Week office, and it’s a great way to get two of your five meats a day (which zero qualified nutritionists recommend). If you’re really in need of a meat fix, you can take this burger to the next level by replacing the Big Mac patties with Quarter Pounders and the McChicken Sandwiches to Grand Chicken fillets. The Mega McChicken Mac. You won’t need fries.
Cost: AED 32 (or AED 76 for the Mega McChicken Mac)
The McKinley Mac at McDonald’s
What is it?: A Big Mac, but with Quarter Pounder patties replacing the regular ones. The name comes from Alaska’s Mt McKinley, as they are a perfect 1:1 ratio in size (obviously not, although it does not feel like that two-thirds of the way through).
Ease of ordering: Actually pretty easy. The staff are very helpful and put it together for us.
How to order: Just ask for a Big Mac with Quarter Pounder burgers. Tell them to use the Quarter Bounder buns, but Big Mac sauce and garnish.
Taste experience: Great. It tastes the same your standard Big Mac, there’s just a bit more of it. You do feel like you’re entitled to some sort of certificate after finishing it, or at least a prolonged sit down. Either way, we’re lovin’ it.
Cost: AED 28
Other options to try from fast-food outlets:
‘The Dirty Chai’
We ordered ours from Costa Coffee, but you can certainly get the same thing from other coffee outlets too. Essentially it’s a chai latte with a double shot of espresso in it. A strange taste, but not unpleasant. AED 21
‘The Nando’s Calzone’
This was easily the best menu hack we experienced, but requires patience and a bit of leg work. You’ll first need to visit a Nando’s and ask for a chicken Espetada (thigh meat on a skewer) to go (with your preferred sauce spice level of course).
You then need to take the grilled chicken to a pizza outlet. We choosee the one next door to the Nando’s we visited (names withheld to protect the innocent), because we literally can’t wait. After a bit of pleading and bargaining (they’re not really supposed to do this sort of thing) we persuade the chef to cook their usual spicy chicken pizza with our take away from Nando’s. We then instruct them to fold the pizza in half in the traditional (folded) Italian calzone style for the final part of the bake. The result… fondly mind-blowing. AED 106