How's Bayou? Of McBaristas and Spam
There they were, hovering in front of the entrance to the park surrounding Tokyo's serene Meiji-jingu Shinto shrine: tiny, discreet Golden Arches, high above the bustling streetscape, whispering the presence of Japan's newest and trendiest McDonald's, a two-level extravaganza reached via a sinuous winding staircase or bright metallic sidewalk elevator.
Inside, it's as if Ian Schrager or Philippe Starck overdosed on McDonald's trademark Happy Meals and dreamed up the clean-lined space, blending a rainbow-hued case that cradles eye-popping, chromatic-wrappered toys with a streamlined second story that needs only staff from central casting to double as a sleek alcove in the New Orleans W hotel.
At the top of the staircase, a towering poster touted the Mega Mac burger and boasted, "Service in 60 seconds -- or FREE!" In the bigger and better McJapan of 2013, Faster Food is the goal; and, after taking our order, the exquisitely-polite server turned a red- and-yellow one-minute hourglass upside down.
Fewer than twenty seconds of sand had fallen before busy hands completed our order, so we had to pay a little more than seven dollars for the number-one choice Ebi (shrimp) burger, which lived up to its reputation, large fries and, from the 100 Yen (approximately $1) menu, Shaka Shaka chicken, which comes in a bag, to which you add a packet of Cheddar Cheese Powder and shake away, burning at least a calorie in the bargain.
Shuji, 27, our enterprising McBarista, presided over preparation of two excellent cappuccinos, commenting in the perfect English he'd learned as an exchange student in Salinas, California, that he works several jobs and hopes one day to own his own restaurant. At $3 apiece, the coffees were a bargain in high-priced Tokyo, and were accompanied by an amenity found in New Orleans at the upscale Windsor Court Hotel: small containers of sugar syrup to sweeten the drink. A creamy mango pastry for $3.50 topped off this unexpectedly fine repast.
Along the pathway in the park, displays of barrels of sake and casks of burgundy -- annual gifts from Japanese and French alcoholic beverage merchant societies to honor the spirits of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken, believed enshrined in the temple (completed in 1921, destroyed during World War II and rebuilt in 1958) -- made me wonder why McDonald's doesn't hop on the bandwagon and donate a vat of a fancy McCafe drink each year to these displays.
Across the international dateline in Hawaii, a shy young man behind the counter of the Hale'iwa McDonald's offered us 69-cent senior coffees.
We'd noted the crowing roosters as we lurched toward the entrance of the plywood- sheathed, cream and aqua, Wild-West-style building after our pre-dawn arrival on the island; and inside, my eye caught an elderly Hawaiian man, in shorts and a Sherwin-Williams painter's sweatshirt, black knitted cap reaching down to the edges of his unruly, grey-specked Confucius beard, chatting up a table of town seniors at a nearby table.
We were on our way to a hotel in lush surroundings, overlooking an expansive cove - a veritable paradise -- that was undergoing renovation.
"One reviewer on Trip Advisor thought the rooms looked tired," Millie said with trepidation in her voice.
"And we don't?" I replied, fighting jet lag as I approached the counter while perusing the breakfast selections.
There were the illuminated specials you'll find in any McDonald's; but to the side, on the type of board common in mom-and-pop operations, was a list of local Hawaiian specials, including the formidable Local Deluxe Breakfast Platter ($5.29) -- scrambled eggs, rice (with Aloha Oriental Blend Soy Sauce), Portugese sausage . . . and three slices of Spam, a fabled island treat. A deep-fried taro -- the purple potato of the tropics -- pie on the dollar menu added sweetness to this overwhelming breakfast package.
In Bangkok, we'd noted that Ronald McDonald mannequins greeted customers with a Namaste-like pose of his hands; but in Hale'iwa, his image hops onto a multicolored surfboard.
I can't imagine hitting the waves after downing a Local Deluxe Breakfast Platter. Echoing my computer's constant advice, I'd at least have to DELETE SPAM.
How's Bayou? the secrets of remaining sane while running an upscale B&B on Bayou Lafourche, is written weekly for NolaVie by Keith Marshall, a former Rhodes Scholar and graduate of Yale and Oxford universities who now runs Madewood Plantation House in Napoleonville.
How’s Bayou? the secrets of remaining sane while running an upscale B&B on Bayou Lafourche, is written weekly for NolaVie by Keith Marshall, a former Rhodes Scholar and graduate of Yale and Oxford universities who now runs Madewood Plantation House in Napoleonville.