I’m a vegetarian. I’ve been meat-free for almost 25 years. I’m not militant about it, and I’m not the kind of vegetarian PETA approves of; I still eat dairy products, and I’m not as active as I should be in ridding my life of leather. I mention all this because, occasionally, I need to visit the drive-through in order to make it to work for an early meeting.
Superficially, it would seem pretty simple to go fast-food drive-through vegetarian for breakfast. Just say “no meat,” and some biscuit or sandwich would be made safe. Well, sort of.
Here’s the deal: I prefer McDonald’s because I like their Diet Coke best, and because there’s one at the highway oasis on my drive to work. I have done the “no meat” thing, and it works fine—to a point. The problem is this: Breakfast sandwiches without meat kinda suck. They’re dry and kinda lame.
Now, the McGriddle is interesting, as the “pancake” buns make almost anything taste good. However, if you’d rather avoid all that sugar, and you’re in any way weirded out by the chemical marvels the pancake buns with “suspended syrup” pockets in them are, maybe you pass on the McGriddle.
An egg and cheese biscuit is pretty good, but anyone having experienced the biscuit at McDonald’s knows that it’s a crumbly mess pretty much unsuitable for in-auto dining.
That leaves the Egg McMuffin, a breakfast standby since—are you ready for this?—1972. The egg-and-cheese-only McMuffin does what it needs to do for a vegetarian; it’s meat free and reasonably tasty. Reasonably. It’s not actually good, though. Without the Canadian bacon, the sandwich is a little dry and crying for some salty goodness.
I presented my 12-year-old daughter with the challenge of making the meatless McMuffin more palatable. Her immediate response was “ketchup.” Well, we tried it, and it’s good. Not great, but better than the dry McMuffin. Unsatisfied, we thought about it some more, asking ourselves, “What’s already at McDonald’s that can be used to spruce up this breakfast classic?” Then it hit us—well, her actually.
See, I was singing the old Big Mac song in the car one day—you know the song: “Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun”—and my kid asked about the special sauce. As she is also vegetarian, Big Mac special sauce was a complete mystery to her. We soon fixed that.
The first time we ordered “two Egg McMuffins, no Canadian bacon, with special sauce,” we seriously confused the order guy, who eventually charged us 50 cents for a packet of Thousand Island dressing in addition to the price of the muffins. Still, the sandwiches were delivered exactly as we had hoped: meatless and with “special sauce.” (Note: Pretty sure that this particular ordering experience was a tacit corporate confession that special sauce is just Thousand Island dressing. Mystery solved.)
So, how was the McMuffin with special sauce? Awesome. Eggs, cheese, and special sauce working together are so much more than the sum of those parts.
The second time I ordered my new favorite McMuffin, I had no problem at all. No questions asked—just a tasty McMuffin that was car safe and early-morning-meeting convenient.
My goal is to get the “Tom McMuffin” onto the McDonalds “Secret Menu” alongside the official-unofficial McKinley Mac (Big Mac made with Quarter Pounder patties) and the Pie McFlurry (an apple pie blended into a McFlurry).
Even if you’re not vegetarian, I encourage you to order your next McMuffin with special sauce. You’ll be helping hurried vegetarian commuters spruce up the drive-through menu, and you’ll love how much better your breakfast tastes.