Chicago’s Rock ‘N’ Roll McDonald’s sat at the corner of Ontario and LaSalle, just west of the Magnificent Mile and blocks away from The Takeout headquarters. The supersized faux-futuristic, golden-arched restaurant, which looked like what someone in the 1960s thought the 21st century was going to look like, was an amusing way to amp up your typical fast-food experience. I used to meet a friend there for lunch every Christmas, the better to enjoy McDonald’s then-annual chicken nuggets with orange sauce and eggnog shakes. The vast memorabilia in the multi-leveled McDonald’s was always fun to look at, and seemed to fit right into that tourist-friendly corner of Chicago, alongside the Hard Rock and Rainforest cafés.
So it was a surprise to me, and I imagine, many others, when it was announced that the Rock ‘N’ Roll McDonald’s was about to be revamped. And by revamped, we mean totally destroyed. I was shocked riding by it in a Lyft recently; the demolished wreckage looks like it was struck by a wrecking ball (and it probably was). And all the musical memorabilia has been scurried away for safekeeping.
A Chicago Tribune story this week ambitiously predicts that the replacement McDonald’s will be ready by “late spring” with “more trees and a sleeker, more contemporary design, courtesy of Carol Ross Barney, the renowned architect who co-designed the Chicago Riverwalk.”
The new space will be a 19,000 square-foot single-story space, as opposed to the 24,000 and two-floors of the RNRMcD. It won’t have the giant golden arches so often seen in McDonald’s franchises, but it will have a “floating glass garden of ferns and white birch trees above the area where customers will place their orders, either at kiosks or at the counter.” So architecturally, we’re going from something from The Jetsons or Disneyland’s Tomorrowland to something Apple Store-esque.
Architect Ross Barney tells the Trib that she’s excited to design for such an icon, and is embracing the environmental theme of the new giant home for the fast-food franchise. She enthuses, “You’ll be able to look up at the apple trees while you’re eating your hamburger or whatever,” although it seems like that would just remind you that you’d be better off eating an apple. We never had such conflicted thoughts while looking at the old Beatles records or whatever.