My McDonald’s Moment

December 4, 2022

I finally had my “McDonald’s Moment.” It’s a moment that happens on almost every trip I have had abroad when I crack under pressure and need a break from foreign food, language and eating customs. Sometimes it’s just a craving for familiar food, other times it’s a desire to dine without having to translate menus or respond to the questions from waiters or bartenders speaking a foreign language.

Sometimes it’s just a craving for familiar food, other times it’s a desire to dine without having to translate menus or the demands of waiters or bartenders speaking a foreign language.

Today’s McDonald’s Moment was actually a Taco Bell Moment — no Mickey Ds was nearby, but the largest Taco Bell I’ve ever seen is just across the street from my hotel in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain. Burger King, KFC and Starbucks are other American options I’ve seen frequently in Europe that offer similar comfort.

I had ventured out for a midday Sunday excursion into the city’s historic center. Thinking I’d find only bars open serving beer and pinxtos, I was pleasantly surprised to find several cafe bars posting a menú del día. This midday offering in Spain typically provides an appetizer, first plate, second plate, dessert, drink and bread at an affordable price. The offerings may be diverse or simple, but are usually a tasty sampling of the cafe’s best local dishes.

The cafe bars were packed with few empty seats available, so I wandered the narrow streets and perused posted menus for one I liked while waiting for crowds to disperse. My choice cafe finally cleared, and I proceeded to claim an empty seat. There was no wait service anywhere to be seen — typical for Spain. No worries, I took the time to sort out and Google Translate my selections from the menu. Ten minutes later a waitress appeared. “Tienes una reserva?” she asked. Shit. No mention of the need for reservations was posted anywhere. I didn’t have one and the waitress explained that nothing was available for another two hours. I grabbed my daypack and left.

I was already a little frustrated that everything else was closed on this Sunday afternoon. Museums and cathedrals I wanted to visit were either shuttered for the day or would reopen at 4 or 5 p.m.

Screw it. That Taco Bell across from my hotel sounded pretty good. I knew it would be open, I wouldn’t have to translate the menu, the taste of the food would be familiar, the price would be affordable and the service faster than any cafe or restaurant. There’s the added attraction of being able to order a beer with my meal. One burrito supreme, one crunchy taco and one beer later, my stomach was full and I was satiated.

See more posts from Spain.