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My least-favorite state

Over the last 6 months (since I installed Google Analytics), Free Refills & Why I Love America has had thousands of visitors from nearly every corner of the globe. Hits came from 6 continents, 75 countries and 49 states. Virtually every nation and state that is home to a McDonald’s sent visitors to this blog, save one: Wyoming.

I know Wyoming is the smallest state and all, but still I have to admit I am a little offended. Sure I was always a little suspicious of The Equality State. After all, it is full of people who don’t seem to mind calling Dick Cheney their neighbor.  But really, there is no one in Wyoming sitting around googling “cell phone bans” or “Big-Gulp sizes” or any of the other key words that frequently bring visitors to this site?

Since Wyoming apparently has no love for this blog or the things that make America Great, I’ve decided that I’m no longer going to have anything positive to say about Wyoming (not that I ever have in the first place, but…). From now on it will be my least-favorite state.

Refills, Big Macs and free Wi-Fi for all [McDonald’s]

Now all of these McDonald's restaurants have free refills and Wi-Fi!

Internet access, just like water and soda refills, is something that wants to be free. And thanks to the good men and women at McDonald’s, the dream of free Wi-Fi is now available at hotspots from coast to coast.

Last week, McDonald’s began offering free Wi-Fi at 11,500 of its 14,000 locations nationwide. Previously patrons had to pay $2.95 for 2-hours of access.

The free Wi-Fi rollout is likely another shot in McDonald’s ongoing war with coffee giant Starbucks (where patrons only get limited free Wi-Fi if they have a registered Starbucks card). But whatever the reason, the fact that McDonald’s locations blanket the nation means that many small towns and truck stops across America will be getting their first free Wi-Fi access.

God Bless America and God Bless McDonald’s.

Frank Luntz on the most American products

I’m reading pollster Frank Luntz’s new book “What Americans Really Want…Really.” It is a great read, just like his previous book. I’m only about a chapter in, but am thoroughly enjoying the grand pronouncements Luntz makes about Americans and Americanness.

Take, for example, the lengthy table in the introduction answering the question “What  Do Americans Really Want Right Now?” that I’ve posted an excerpt from below:


For the most part I think Luntz is spot on (though it is unclear what these pronouncements are based on, but that doesn’t matter). What, after all, is more American than Coca-Cola, Walmart, Pick-up Trucks and McDonald’s?

I’m a little less sure about the beer pronouncement. Bud Lite, after all, tastes like, well… Bud Lite. But the fact that Bud Lite comes in a can gives it a serious edge over the fancy bottled competition: it can be shotgunned. And everyone knows that is the most-American way to drink a beer.

Free Refills Roundup [The Land of the Free edition]

Only in America can a drink this big be considered a medium (30 ounces/900 milliliters)Free Refills are part of the American spirit and we tend to talk about them a lot–-particularly on Twitter. So once I week I post the best of the “Free Refills” chatter from the web. The third edition of the Free Refills Roundup features people longing to be back in the Land of Free Refills.

If u keep a McDonalds cup can u get free refills 4ever? @lenci812

My heart is a little broken because today is my last day to use my kum & go more free refills @bwtucker

Free wifi at mcdonalds… why did I pay $15 a day for this?! I love mcdonalds. Mmm coffee. Soda refills. @alliterating

recommends signing up for Starbucks Rewards if you got a gift card for Christmas.. you get free coffee refills & wifi. @kansasbob

Would you spend all day at a fast food restaurant to see how long it takes before you have to pay for your ‘free’ refills? @dmcromance

Free refills on coffee = happiness @eddysteddy

happy to be back in the land of the free … refills @charityk

Link Roundup [Meat eater edition]


Photo: Eating The Road

THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT: New York City may be famous for its extensive regulations and labyrinthine licensing processes covering just about every aspect of business. But that doesn’t mean New York lets a little bureaucracy get in the way of Christmas. According to the Times, in the 19th century the city passed a special provision that allows for anyone to sell Christmas trees on any public sidewalk in the city—no permits or licenses required!

VEGITARIAN MECCA STARTS SERVING MEAT: Red Bamboo has long been a popular restaurant with New York’s vegetarian and vegan crowd. It was particularly known for its imitation meat dishes—like soy fried chicken—which it charged steakhouse prices for. But it turns out that people who forsake the most delicious parts of human culinary expression don’t actually make the best restaurant customers. So Red Bamboo is going to rebrand itself—and start serving meat.

SPEAKING OF MEAT: The folks over at Eating The Road have the latest installment of their “Will They Build It?” series up. In it, they convince some poor McDonald’s clerk to custom-build them a “Big-McSausage-egg-surf-turf-Mac.” It’s got beef, pork, egg, chicken and fish, all under one bun for a mere $7.71. God Bless America!

Free Refills roundup [welcome to Paris edition]

23 Free RefillsFree Refills are a cornerstone of American culture. So naturally we tend to talk about them a lot, particularly on the internet. Today I’m starting a new feature where every week or so I’ll roundup the best free refills related comments from the trusty twitter feed and post them here.


I think Congress should reform the restaurant industry next. Its not fair that everyone doesn’t offer free refills. –@Rhodymike

Many White Castle locations offer free refills on sliders as long as you retain the boxes. –@whitecastlefact

if it’s not free refills. You’re not in America. “MERICA!” –@normajeanband

Just had a $1.50 hotdog and 20oz drink with FREE refills at the greatest store in the world… Costco!!! I love America –@anthonypond

Hotel had mix-up and no room for us. Starbucks charges for wi-fi and refills. McDonalds has free wi-fi but no plugs. Welcome to Paris! –@runkeeper

Let me know about any good ones I missed in the comments.

Why Happy Meals are safer than school lunches [fast food]

Happy Meal toy phase one.There is nothing the organic tofu crowd likes to complain about more than how fast food is harming our children. Fast food, they say, is making our kids sick and the “mystery meat” that goes into the burgers and sandwiches is below dog-food grade.

But it turns out that your kids eat much better meat when you take them through the drive-thru than they do in the school cafeteria.

This is according to an article in USA Today, which found that fast food giants like McDonald’s, Burger King and KFC buy higher quality meat than the stuff that ends up in our schools. What’s more, most fast food companies have much more rigorous testing and food safety regulations than what the USDA mandates for school cafeterias.

Of course this makes sense. McDonald’s has an incentive to serve your kids high-quality meat so that they come back and eat more Happy Meals. Schools, on the other hand, don’t particularly care if one or two kids disappear with E. coli poisoning—after all, it decreases class sizes.

And besides, how could something called a Happy Meal be bad for you?

[USA Today, via Consumerist]

These two maps look shockingly similar

Reader-mapI was looking over my blog readership stats on my Google Analytics account earlier today when I noticed that the global distribution of hits to my website over last quarter looked shockingly familiar. It took me a moment to realize why the map looked so familiar.

Then it came to me: the heavy concentration of readers in the United States, followed by Western Europe and the generally even sprinkling of readers across the rest of the globe (save for most of Africa, Central Asia, Burma and the crappy parts of Latin America) bears a striking resemblance to the map of global McDonald’s locations.


The only glaring difference is that the McDonald’s map shows the fast food giant as having outlets in Iceland. But McDonald’s is closing its three Icelandic outlets, so I don’t feel too bad about the lack of interest in this blog from what was once one of the world’s most prosperous countries.

I like to think that the close correlation between the two maps means that visitors are coming to this blog from places where the seed of Americanism—in the form of a McDonald’s restaurant—has taken root. But more likely than not it just has to do with rudimentary levels of development and internet access.

Which fast food should I eat? [important questions]

Questions, Questions, Questions

Questions, Questions, Questions

Perhaps the greatest triumph of American Capitalism was the invention and proliferation of Fast Food. From humble beginnings, visionaries like Roy Kroc have taken stand-alone burger stands like the one owned by the McDonald brothers and transformed them into multi-national food empires that serve free refills and cheap eats in almost every corner of the globe (sorry Iceland).

But Roy Kroc was not alone, and today there are so many options available that sometimes choosing can be difficult.

To help you decide which fast food restaurant to visit next time you pull off the interstate, the good folks over at food blog Eating The Road have put together an amazing flow-chart.

There is no drive-thru, but at least the Wi-Fi is free [consolation prizes]

Chelsea McDonaldsGoing through the drive-thru and then pulling into a parking space to scarf down your Big Mac in the air-conditioned solitude of your own (running) car is the best way to enjoy McDonald’s.

In order to encourage this behavior—and discourage you from dirtying their dining rooms and bathrooms—McDonald’s has been a leader in advancing drive-thru technology. They developed better drive-thru windows, fast no-signature-needed credit card machines and multiple order lanes.

But despite their best efforts, there are some places where building drive-thru lanes and vast surface parking lots is a bit difficult. Top among these places is Downtown Manhattan, where astronomical land prices and uppity neighborhood associations make building drive-thrus all but impossible.

In order to lure folks in to these unfortunate drive-thruless restaurants, McDonald’s has started remodeling them. They’re adding free wi-fi, stylish lighting and trendy new chairs. You can think of the new amenities as a consolation prize. Sure there is no drive-thru, but at least the wi-fi is free. If that is not enough to lure you out of your apartment, then remember: in New York, McDonald’s delivers.

God Bless America!

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