Most good things must come with a price, as longtime fighters in the crusade for an all-day McDonald’s breakfast menu can attest. As of today, the fast-food chain has bent to the will of their vocal customer base, nixing the 10:30 am service cut-off for such beloved items as the egg McMuffin, sausage burrito, and hotcakes. But as Buzzfeed reports, not all items on the menu will be available at every location, depending upon the region—and the item people are most upset about not having all-day, every day, is the hash brown.
Depending on the setup of their kitchens, about 10% of restaurants will not be offering the golden, crispy delight, meaning customers may end up pairing their Egg McMuffin with fries. Fries!
The author, Venessa Wong, writes this as if it’s a travesty, an unconscionably huge step backward immediately following a giant leap forward in the movement for equal breakfast for all. And as a lover of nearly all forms of spud, I get it. McDonald’s hash browns are fine. But there’s a more important war to be won, and that is over the McDonald’s French fry. Forget your all-day hash browns: Give us your all-day fries.
There are clear business reasons why we can’t have both. Hash browns cannot be served all day at certain locations because there aren’t enough fry vats to accommodate them and French fries. The cost of adding vats to make both would be enormously expensive and contingent on space—many New York City locations would be hard-pressed to find room for more friers. And it seems likely that the market for people who want breakfast sandwiches post 10:30 am. is greater the market for people who want fries before 10:30 am.
But as this is less a calculated business proposal than a cri de coeur, I’d say: forget the hash browns altogether. Perhaps McDonald’s, which has never been afraid to experiment with its products before, could start a revolution in breakfast food, and declare its fries the new hash brown all the time. While McDonald’s hash browns are a reasonable substitute for fries when there’s no other choice, there is nothing inherently special about them. A McDonald’s hash brown could be a hash brown anywhere else. I’ve had superior hash browns in diners. There is just no comparison to McDonald’s French fries: those slender little flavor bombs, at once absorbent and firm, equally delectable when eaten fry-by-fry or guzzled in bunches. Even the most finely cut fried potatoes at your fanciest artisanal restaurant don’t come close to capturing the same addictive qualities. They’ve even inspired a chapter in a New York Times bestseller about fast food.
As a kid, I recall getting very excited whenever my parents made pancakes for dinner; nighttime breakfast made me feel like a rebel. But as far back as I can remember, I also longed for a time when I could walk into a McDonald’s and order their hot, exquisitely salted fries whenever I got that hankering, even when it occurred at 10 am. And even for those of us who don’t prefer lunch, dinner, or even late-night snacks to pancakes and egg sandwiches, McDonald’s french fries are a great breakfast food. Placing fries inside an Sausage McMuffin would be the perfect meeting of textures. Fries do the best possible job of sopping up breakfast sauces, from syrup to ketchup to hot sauce to yolk. Hash browns are dense, doughy potato paddles, basically redundant alongside buns.