The McRib is once again available at McDonald’s restaurants on Long Island, after what some have termed a criminally long absence. It was 2012 when the sandwich was last offered in our area, a matter as mysterious as the pressed-pork patty at the center of this fan fascination.
Experts on the intersection of social media and fast-food culture might say the burger behemoth is attempting to draft on the current wave of nostalgia for pre-pandemic life. Still, it’s an open question whether the same impulse behind the popularity of ’90s playlists on Spotify and phrases like "I miss" trending on Twitter will lead to a mass (re)embrace of the McRib, with its limited-time offer of unspecified duration.
Given my visceral revulsion at both its heavy varnish of barbecue sauce in photos and "lil’ slab of heaven" tagline, not to mention my love of actual pork ribs, I had always studiously avoided the McRib. Until now, that is. I may be a food critic but I am as susceptible to the nostalgic impulse as the next man, and so, like some Proustian trans fat-fanatic, I went in search of the sandwich and a remembrance of things 2012.
Upon opening the hotdog-oblong box, I was immediately assaulted by barbecue sauce, the quantity of which suggested not a sandwich but a crime scene. It spilled from the sides of a "special occasion bun," as McDonald’s has called the hoagie-like housing of its McRib, pickle slices and bits of onion trailing in its wake. Somewhere beneath this stickiness sat the rib rack replica I’d heard so much about, and I don’t mind admitting that the sandwich’s patty is an impressive feat of food engineering. If pork ribs came not from pigs but a Play-Doh extruder, this is exactly what they would look like.
Flavorwise, I doubt whether any accretion of ground animal parts could survive a downpour of McDonald’s barbecue sauce this torrential, but my patty didn’t even try. Indeed, your own opinion of the sandwich may well hinge on how insistent you are that its meat be more than a barbecue sauce delivery vehicle. For my part, I have a hard time believing that the McRib’s eight-year absence from local menus was anything but a blessing. Some might think it unfair to render such a harsh verdict based on a single sandwich, but for me, one McRib and 73 napkins were enough.
The McRib sandwich is available at all Island McDonald’s restaurants for a limited time. More info: mcdonalds.com