McDonald's brings back a cult classic: the McRib
Fast food giant McDonald's is bringing back a sandwich - the McRib - that gained cult acclaim over the last three decades, in a move lauded by fans known to travel great distances in the hunt for the coveted treat.
The boneless pork chop between a bun and slathered with tangy BBQ sauce, topped with onions and pickles, was first launched in 1981, and with rare exceptions has only been offered for sale in select McDonald's for a few weeks at a time.
From Tuesday, it will be available nationwide, and for an entire month.
Among the sandwich's cult base - there are some 300 fan groups on Facebook - the reaction is close to ecstasy, not surprising as it's not unheard of for some to drive 10 hours at a stretch to get their hands on the sticky fast food delicacy.
"The McRib is like that really hot chick you hook up with every few years when she swings by your town," wrote fan "TJ" on an Internet forum.
"You never really know when she's coming back, she never stays long, and the reason she leaves again is never that clear, but man, good times when she's around."
Americans have seen the McRib become a part of popular culture, with mentions on the classic animation series "The Simpsons" and in the movie of "Charlie's Angels."
Comedian Stephen Colbert, on his popular eponymous show "The Colbert Report," heralded the McRib's return last week to wild cheers from his audience.
"I don't know what there is inside, but it's delicious," he said of the sandwich.
Colbert also insisted the move was political, as it arrives on the day of the key US mid-term elections, noting: "You can't turn out to vote if you're waiting in line for a McRib."
"My like of the McRib goes back to when I was a child," super fan Alan Klein, of the website www.mcriblocator.com, told AFP.
Klein recalled his youth raising hogs on the family farm near Mission, South Dakota, and the moment he first tasted a McRib.
"I went with my dad to nearby Winner... so we could sell some of our hogs. Following the sale, we went to McDonald's and they were serving the McRib," Klein said.
"It was as if our work had came full circle, where we brought our product to market, and now were supporting ourselves by buying our product from the market."
Klein said he has heard stories of people driving 10 hours "to get a taste of the McRib," although he admitted driving only four hours out of his way for a hit.
To make the fans' life easier, he created the website so more people could find the sandwich - with a daily average of around 5,000 visitors, and a one-day peak in recent weeks of over 89,000.
The Wall Street Journal identified Ryan Dixon from California as being one of the fans who once drove 10 hours, north to Oregon, upon hearing a select restaurant was selling the McRib.
"It has a ghostly quality," 30-year-old Dixon told the Journal. "You don't know when it will appear. It's the girl who you are in love with who has always been a tease to you."
McDonald's spokeswoman Tara Hayes told AFP that the McRib's limited availability "helps to keep fans passionate about the product."
Only a sandwich "so delicious, so special, so elusive and so legendary could create such a widespread affection among its fans," Hayes said, pointing out the last time it had been offered in all restaurants nationwide was in 1994.
"The unmistakable taste of McRib has inspired many to go to heroic lengths to get their hands on one over the years.... Bringing it back to all US restaurants in 2010 will introduce McRib to an entirely new generation of fans," she said.
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