To fans of the comedy classic Coming To America, McDowell’s is legendary. The brainchild of one Cleo McDowell, it’s a testament to fast food served with a smile and with the highest quality ingredients. It’s also totally, 100% not like McDonald’s at all and if you think so you’re an idiot. Sure, Cleo might be in several legal disputes with McDonald’s lawyers over his suspiciously similar menu, but they’re just jealous of his success. Support your local restaurants cause the big clown is looking to shut you down!
I’m sure that many fans of the film have been waiting for years to try some of McDowell’s totally not rip-off menu items, and in honor of the sequel releasing to okay reviews, a pop-up McDowell’s restaurant appeared by me in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. It was an hour and a half away from me, but as we’ve established numerous times, I’m kind of a lunatic who will do that just to try some McDowell’s. So with the help of a fellow film snob and Coming To America fan, we descended down to Cherry Hill to sample the menu.
Upon arrival, the restaurant was set up in the back of an abandoned store with the gift shop firmly in front. You could buy some McDowell’s shirts, get some Sexual Chocolate merchandise, and even snag one of Cleo’s hamburger phones! Then you’ll see several remade sets from the film, like Akeem’s rundown apartment, Cleo’s office, and a super comfy throne of Zamunda, randomly placed throughout the place. They weren’t exactly extravagant, mostly just being sheets on walls with some set decoration, though the RC rat that was zooming around Akeem’s apartment was a nice touch, I just thought it was a stuffed animal but when it started to zoom at me I jumped off of Akeem’s busted bed in shock.
But we’re not here to talk about the set dressing, which got the job done. No, you want to hear how the food was! Well, before we can get there, I feel obligated to tell you that my friend and I had to order our food well in advance in order to eat there. For $32(!!!) each, we collectively got two drinks, a chocolate and vanilla milkshake, two orders of fries, 10
Mcnuggets Chicken Chunks, and a Big Mick, which is two beef patties with lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, and special sauce on a non-seeded bun. All of that for basically $64.
The first thing that I noticed was just how sad the portions looked. I mean, I wasn’t expecting a feast eating here, but a small order of fries for the price I paid was depressing. Even sadder was just how limp and soggy the fries were. They tasted like regret and made me actually pine for Burger King fries. Hell, I would have settled for White Caste fried compared to what I had. My friend made sad faces with the fries as he barely even ate half of his. Meanwhile, I felt obligated to eat all of mine because I’m going to enjoy every last ounce of food for the price I paid.
But then we get to the main meal and… well… it’s literally McDonald’s. I kid you not, my friend’s Chicken Chunks tasted and looked EXACTLY like Mcnuggets. Same texture, same flavor, same smell, same everything. They were Mcnuggets. As for my burger, I opened the box and found that the burger was just covered in lettuce. Like, the amount of lettuce was just ridiculous. Thankfully there were no pickles on my burger since pickles are disgusting and have no right to exist, so I didn’t have to worry about picking them off. But there were barely any onions on my burger and the special sauce had a decent tang to it that I just couldn’t place. It was a little bit sweet but not in an overpowering way. Not bad, but hard to really form an opinion on one way or the other. But, like I should have known, it tasted just like a Big Mac.
As for the milkshake, it certainly was a milkshake by the barest definition. While my friend’s chocolate shake had a thick consistency to it, with him showing me the gaping hole he sucked out of it, mine was more liquid than shake, going down nice and easy without much fuss. Both shakes were wildly different in terms of texture, so I really have no idea what was even going on there. Were they good shakes? Were they bad? Should I have asked for a McFlurby instead? Maybe I should just be grateful their ice cream machine was working when I was there.
And that was it. There wasn’t anything terribly unique or impressive about any of the food we ate. If it didn’t taste exactly like McDonald’s food, then it tasted worse than McDonald’s food. And I straight up have no idea whether I should be disappointed or impressed. I mean, the running joke of the movie is that Cleo is just ripping off McDonald’s and only avoiding their wrath through moronic technicalities, and this is exactly that. The food is virtually identical in texture and taste except for some lame-ass fries, and I really didn’t know what I should expect from it.
Should I be mad for wasting $32 on what I can easily go to McDonald’s and get for a fraction of that price, and probably even more for the gas I needed to drive down to get there, or should I be applauding just how perfect of a joke it is? I am Boo Boo the Fool for thinking it would be anything more than an off-brand McDonald’s. My friend said it was “$32 for tendies and atmosphere,” which I can’t argue with him on. It’s perfect and brilliant, a living joke of a restaurant that made me into the joke. Congratulations Cleo, you played me. I expected the world and got a Big Mac instead. I can’t even be mad. I played myself, and now I shall hang my head in shame.