Elusive McRib to return to McDonald's for a limited engagement

In the world of fast food, it is rare that popular items disappear from menus. A clear exception to this rule, however, has been McDonald's McRib sandwich, which, since it was cut from the standard package of offerings in the U.S. in 2005, has resurfaced from time to time in outlets across the country. Now the company has announced that the sandwich will return to McDonald's menus across the nation for a six-week run beginning November 2.

The company claims that there is not enough consistent market demand to add the sandwich to its standing menu. However, in its absence, public demand for this $1.99 bit of porcine goodness has given rise to a website that tracks transitory sandwich spottings. This devotion also gave birth to a well-known satirical take on The Simpsons, in an episode in which Homer goes on the road as a groupie to Krusty Burger's Ribwich.

While there are those of us who believe that McRibs are to ribs as particle board is to wood, it is only one of several legendary McDonald's menu items that devotees long to see return. Among those mourned-over items in the company's culinary morgue are:

  • The McDLT. First marketed in 1985, this bifurcated burger came with a slogan, "Keep the hot side hot and the cold side cold." This was made possible by a partitioned Styrofoam container that kept the lettuce, tomato, pickle, cheese, bun top and sauce (the cold side) separate from the hot patty and bun bottom, until the consumer consummated the union. The sandwich was discontinued in 1990.
  • McDonald's fried pies. Prior to 1992, the dessert pies sold at McDonald's were deep-fried, not baked, providing an exceptionally crunchy crust that kept the gooey contents at roughly the same temperature as molten steel for hours at a time. Those who showed the good sense to allow them to cool were rewarded with a crispy-sweet mouth experience that current apple or cherry versions just can't emulate. Fried pies can still be found in a few spots in the U.S. and in overseas McDonald's.
  • McPizza. You may have never seen the McPizza, which was tested in 500 McDonald's locations in the early 1990s, but the item had its fans. The company's attempt to enter the ring against Domino's and Pizza Hut seems to have failed not because of taste, but because, unlike other menu items, the pizzas were made to order. This meant that customers cultivated to immediate gratification were forced to cool their heels waiting for their hot pizza pie.
There are dozens of other discontinued McDonald's menu items that died in sad anonymity, such as the Arch Deluxe, the Hulaburger (pineapple slice replacing the meat patty), McDogs, Philly Cheesesteak, Chicken Fajitas, Mighty Wings, and the Grilled Cheese Happy Meal.

If manufactured scarcity has served to keep American appetites whetted for the McRib during its long absence, this six-week return may be a very clever way to recruit a whole new generation of BBQ-loving customers. If enough customers say "I'm lovin' it" as they eat their McRib, don't be surprised to see this sandwich rejoin McDonald's standard lineup.

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