I recently went to Germany, Austria, Italy, and Switzerland and went to a McDonald's in each place.
I tried every item I could get my hands on that I haven't seen in my home country, the US.
I loved the chicken wings and curly fries, but wouldn't order the Chocovanilla pie again.
While visiting four European countries for the first time in 2022, I went to one McDonald's in each place.
When I travel internationally, I tend to avoid familiar fast-food chains to make sure I'm taking advantage of the opportunity to try new local foods.
But McDonald's is known for having select menu items in different countries around the world that I can't eat at home, from mozzarella sticks in Australia to sweet potato shakes in Japan. I was curious to see how menu items might differ in Europe.
So when I embarked on a 2-week train trip through Germany, Austria, Italy, and Switzerland, I stopped at a McDonald's in each country to try the sandwiches, sides, and desserts that I thought were the most unlike the items I've seen at home.
While the McDonald's locations I visited looked similar to those I've seen in the US, they had menu items I'd never seen or tried before.
I went to McDonald's locations in the cities of Berlin, Vienna, Rome, and Zürich.
In all of these cities, I thought McDonald's locations were easy to spot with the same iconic "M" logo on the signage out front, just like in the US.
Inside, the stores reminded me of the chain's locations around the US with similar large ordering screens to what I've seen at home.
From first glance, they didn't seem all that different from what I was used to. But once I started reviewing each menu, many items stood out as unique and different. There was still the tried and true Big Mac, but there were also things I'd never seen before, like chicken wings.
Here are the dishes that stood out to me most, ranked from best to worst.
All the locations I visited had the original McDonald's fries I'm used to. But in Germany and Austria, they offered additional fry shapes I hadn't seen before. These were the best things I ate at any McDonald's in Europe.
I'm a fan of the original, thin, straight, McDonald's fry. I saw these on all the European menus, but in Germany and Austria, I saw other shapes, too, which excited me. So I ordered fries in both countries.
In Germany, I was able to order curly fries, which cost $3 for a medium size. I found them to be crispier and more flavorful than the original McDonald's fry. According to McDonald's, the curly fries come with a spice mix, and I thought the addition of spices brought out more of the potato flavor in the fries, which I appreciated.
A few days later in Austria, I saw potato strips on the menu in addition to regular fries. They were about the same price as the curly fries in Germany. They looked to me like potato wedges with a ridged texture. Like the curly fries, I thought the strips were crispier than the original McDonald's fry. I also liked that they were thicker than both the curly and original fry, giving them more soft potato filling. I thought they were delicious.
I left these countries wishing that the McDonald's locations in the US had more fry variety.
I found the next-best dish In Germany and Italy — fried chicken wings, which I thought tasted better than the standard McNuggets I'm used to.
I've been eating McDonald's chicken nuggets since I was a kid, but if the chain's US locations had wings, I would have switched up my order a long time ago.
While dining at the McDonald's locations in Berlin and Rome, I spotted fried chicken wings on the menu, in addition to the standard McNuggets.
According to McDonald's, the wings are marinated and then freshly fried. It was not clear to me what was in the marinade, but I felt like the flavor of the marinate really enhanced the taste of the chicken overall.
Since fried chicken is one of my favorite foods, I ordered them at both locations. For five wings, I paid about $4 in each city. I thought the wings were moist with lots of flavor, although in my opinion, they were crispier in Rome than in Berlin.
In both locations, I thought they tasted like they came from a full-service restaurant rather than a fast-food joint, and I would definitely order them again.
A muffin stuffed with Nutella in Italy was my favorite McDonald's dessert I tried in Europe and ranks third on this list.
From pies to McFlurries, I've always been a fan of a McDonald's dessert item to top off my meal.
But none impressed me as much as the Nutella muffin I only saw in Italy for less than $2.
I love Nutella, so I thought I'd likely enjoy this pastry. But I thought the muffin was even more delicious that I expected because it tasted like a fresh-baked yellow sheet cake.
Each bite was moist, spongy, and light, and the center of the muffin was filled with Nutella, a creamy, decadent chocolate hazelnut spread.
To me, the ratio of Nutella to the muffin itself was ideal and each bite was simultaneously cakey and Nutella-filled. Five months later, I'm still thinking about this muffin, and I wish they sold it at my local McDonald's.
Germany's menu had the famous McRib I've been hearing about my whole life, and I was surprised by how much I liked it. It ranks fourth on my list.
A slab of boneless pork smothered in barbeque sauce on a bun with pickles and onions — this is the famous McRib sandwich I've been hearing about for years.
According to CNN, McDonald's first started serving the McRib in Kansas City in 1981 and discontinued it four years later. Since then, it's been an exclusive and widely-loved menu item offered at select times and select locations around the world in limited quantities, including in the US, according to the same source.
However, I'd never seen an elusive McRib on a McDonald's menu myself until I visited Germany. Since the sandwich is so well known, I knew I had to see what all the hype was about. So I ordered it for about $5.
I'm not a huge fan of barbeque, so I wasn't expecting much from this order. But I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Reminiscent of the sloppy Joes I ate for lunch in grade school, I found the McRib to be soft and loaded with sauce, making it easy to chew. The pickles and onions diversified the flavors and textures, which I appreciated. I would order the McRib again — if I can find it.
In Switzerland, the McDonald's paprika chicken sandwich tasted unlike any meal I'd had at the fast food chain before, and was the fifth-best item I tried.
I'd never seen a paprika-based McDonald's item before going to Switzerland, so when I saw the chicken paprika sandwich on the menu, I knew I had to try it. At $9, it was one of the more expensive items I ordered.
According to McDonald's, the sandwich comes with breaded chicken, cheese, and a spicy paprika sauce.
I thought the sauce was sweet and tasted like tomatoes with a slight kick. In my opinion, the sauce paired well with the crispy texture of the breaded chicken and melted cheese slice. I would definitely order it again.
While there were menu items in all four countries that I would order again, there were also a handful of dishes that I didn't enjoy as much, like the Chocovanilla pie in Austria: number six on my list.
I've enjoyed McDonald's apple pies in the US in the past, so I decided to try a different flavor in Austria that I hadn't seen before: Chocovanilla. I only saw it in Austria, and it cost me about $2.
The pie fit in the palm of my hand and had a chocolate outer layer with a creamy vanilla filling.
To, me the pie's flavor was decent. I thought it tasted like an Oreo, but not quite as sweet. However, I thought the pie was crunchier and greasier than the apple pies I've liked at McDonald's in the US.
It felt a bit like biting into an egg roll, and I wouldn't order it again.
I didn't enjoy the deep-fried stuffed olives in Italy that rank seventh for me.
I'm not a fan of olives generally. But I'd never tried one stuffed and fried before, so I decided to give it a shot in Italy to see if I'd enjoy it more than a fresh olive.
I ordered deep-fried stuffed olives, which is McDonald's rendition of the Italian appetizer Olive all'Ascolana, in which olives are stuffed with meat, battered, and deep fried, according to Brand Eating. I paid about $3 for the appetizer, which I only saw in Italy.
There didn't seem to be much meat in the olive and I found I could barely taste it in combination with the olive and deep-fried shell. I also thought the crispy outer layer seemed to dry out the olive.
For me, this was one of the lowest-ranking McDonald's items I tried, but a bigger fan of olives might have enjoyed it more, I thought.
To me the most disappointing item was the Big Rösti, a hash brown burger in Germany. But I'd still try it again.
Of all the menu items, the Big Rösti I tried in Germany disappointed me most because it was the one I was most excited about.
According to McDonald's, the sandwich has a burger patty, bacon, cheese, and a hash brown in the middle. I ordered the sandwich with fries and a drink for about $10. I saw this item on menus in Germany and Austria.
I've always loved stuffing my burger with a hand full of fries, and a hash brown is sort of like an extra large, extra crispy fry. So I thought this burger sounded amazing and would turn out to be my favorite item.
But the hash brown felt overcooked to me, making the texture dry and crumbly. In my opinion, this ruined the whole burger, which was otherwise pretty good.
But since it sounded so good to me initially, and because I liked the burger so much on its own, I think I would order it again to see if the overcooked hash brown was just a bit of bad luck.
And at the very least, I'd definitely order the sandwich without the hash brown inside.
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