In the 1988 comedy Coming to America, Eddie Murphy played a prince who sheds his royalty to look for true love. In Queens, Akeem (Murphy) takes a job at a fast food place to meet women who are not interested in his money. The fast food restaurant was called McDowell’s.
This week in Los Angeles, a real McDowell’s popped up for Halloween. Fat Sal’s, the sandwich shop owned by Entourage star Jerry Ferrara, became McDowell’s at their 1300 Highland Ave. location, so Monsters and Critics went to check it out.
In the noon hour, lines were reasonable. That is, an hour long wait for lunch seemed reasonable by L.A. popup standards. And there’s plenty to see before you get inside.
Employees dressed in McDowell’s uniforms kept stepping outside to take out trash or bring to go orders to patient customers. Yes, they would pose for selfies with people in line.
The golden M (not arches) is visible from the street and sit down customers were happy to let anxious diners take pictures of their meals to tide them over.
The joke is that Cleo McDowell (John Amos) insists his restaurant is completely different from McDonald’s, even though it’s obvious from the food to the font that it isn’t. That joke plays as well in 2017 as it did in 1988.
McDowell’s served three items from Coming to America. The Big Mick is their signature burger. It’s completely different from the Big Mac. Know why? No seeds on a Big Mick bun.
Another difference, of course, is no “special sauce.”
Signage continues inside McDowell’s, with a big M hanging on the wall, and the slogan above the counter. Coming to America plays on three screens so you can watch McDowell’s while you’re in McDowell’s.
Music is blasting, mostly modern stuff but while I was in there I was lucky enough to hear the film’s theme “Coming to America” by The System in rotation. Waiters in plaid call out order numbers and names while other staffers in black McDowell’s T-shirts and caps handle cleanup and maintenance.
Perhaps the menu items were not intended to be ordered together. Each one is a full meal, and you’ll spend $36.10 on all three.
The Big Mick is the length of two burgers with two patties, and has french fries inside. The Zamunda Fries are an even bigger meal themselves, and the shake is both a dessert and a drink.
Zamunda Fries are smothered in habanero aioli with chicken pieces. It’s a spicy dish with a surprise bit of protein. The chicken is so smothered by sauce you think you’re just having fries, but you get a tangy treat.
The Sexual Chocolate Shake, named after the film’s crooner Randy Watson and his band, has a piece of chocolate cake balanced on top the cup. The shake is thick and sweet, the cake soft moist. You can never have too much chocolate.
Fat Sal’s did a great job playing up all the fun elements of Coming to America’s McDonald’s spoof. For a 29-year-old joke, they had plenty of Easter eggs for fans to find in the store.
Akeem’s picture is not hard to find. He’s touted as Employee of the Month. Guess he got the day off as a reward.
Chicago’s Weiner Circle also did a McDowell’s makeover in 2015 (with Louie Anderson’s character Maurice as Employee of the Month) which they are bringing back this year too.
Fat Sal’s McDowell’s at 1300 Highland Ave. in Hollywood, CA runs through Halloween, October 31.
Images: Fred Topel/Paramount