Bombay McDonald's

True to our stated mission we happily sought out the Bombay McDonald's just a day or two before we left India. Indian food had lost its charm, and we were looking for a taste of the familiar.

The Bombay McDonald's is hard to find, but our friend Joe knew the way. It is not in the tourist section of town, but a fairly upscale part of Bombay--where chic western designer shops are next to street stalls selling designer knock-offs--and there are graduate school students as well as savvy shoppers to supply the business.

We walked into a small cement courtyard with a big statue of Ronald McDonald at one end and bright yellow and red painted chains and stanchions to keep the crowds orderly (an unknown concept in India where everyone is used to pushing and shoving to get on trains, buses, etc.) A McDonald's "cop" is stationed in the front of the courtyard, presumably to remind folks that order will prevail here. Two young women are stationed at the front of the chains to allow small groups in to the restaurant as spaces are vacated, and to provide balloons for the kiddies in line.

Once in the restaurant, we were greeted with signs proudly announcing "no beef used here." We ordered a Maharaja Burger (a double decker similar to a Big Mac, but made with ground mutton), a Veg Burger (made with a chick pea patty), a vegetarian Chili-cheese Burger (which we expected to be a veg patty with a western-style chili-bean mixture over it--instead it was a bun with mayo, cheese and a thin red chili sauce) and Veg McNuggets (the same chick pea patty, breaded and fried). Various chicken dishes were also available (a McChicken burger and chicken nuggets), but we thought we'd try the stuff we usually can't get. In addition to ketchup, they offered the same thin sweet spicy chili sauce as on the chili-cheese burger as a standard condiment. George also checked out the hot pie--which was not apple, but pineapple. Although we were pleased to try something new, I note how happy we were to get the familiar standard McDonald's-issue fries, shakes and cokes after our month in India.

George spoke with the manager who told him that they serve 10,000 meals each day at this single McDonald's. Judging by the traffic we saw, it has got to be true. Although the meals are expensive by Indian standards, it is Indians--mostly the young and affluent who eat here.

The place was clean, air-conditioned, had an outside patio for those who could stand the heat, and the bathrooms were some of the best we encountered in India--certainly better than most McDonald's in the U.S. There were plenty of people cleaning up and controlling traffic who had clearly been to McDonald's school of happy, smiling service. All-in-all pretty pleasant, and, at that point in our travels, a welcome escape.

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