Sept. 26, 2017
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Temple of the Golden Arches

A search for the prize at the bottom of Santa Fe’s McDonald’s

September 17, 2008, 12:00 am

Location: Pacheco Street and St. Michael’s Drive
Order: One three-piece Chicken Selects, one Southern Style Chicken sandwich, one medium fries, one large Premium Roast iced coffee, one bottle Dasani water

I’m waiting at the Pacheco McDonald’s for City Councilor Rosemary Romero, whose district contains two McDonald’s, including this one.
Initially, I had planned to interview the second district’s other councilor, Rebecca Wurzburger over lunch, because she just seems so proper. But, “Rebecca is very picky about what she eats,” a city employee warned me. (Plus, her name sounds an awful lot like “worst burger.”)

The city staffer was wrong: One can never underestimate the aura of the Golden Arches. Wurzburger loves McDonald’s (in small doses) sometimes even stopping by after yoga.

“I have a very strong emotional connection [to McDonald’s],” Wurzburger tells me over the phone. “My mother, who was very poor and died at 85, used to go to McDonald’s every morning for a biscuit, not an egg biscuit, not an egg and sausage biscuit, just a plain biscuit and a cup of coffee. So, when I’m feeling like I need an emotional connection, I go to McDonald’s and have a biscuit—and I do love their biscuits. And I added a Diet Coke.”

But Wurzburger never eats lunch at McDonald’s, so I rely on Romero who, as a mediator and conflict resolution specialist, drives out to remote rural areas regularly—the heart of McDonald’s Country.

“I’m totally surprised,” Romero, who usually only uses the drive-through, says. “Look how clean it is! I don’t know how many restaurants I get bugged by when I walk in and there are like four tables that are dirty and you can’t find a clean spot. But this one is neat, clean and aesthetically pleasing. It doesn’t have the garish stuff on the inside like you would expect.”

As it does for Wurzburger, McDonald’s also holds special memories of a departed loved one for Romero. Her daughter passed away from diabetes in 2006.

“My older daughter spent a lot of time at hospitals, especially at St. Vincents and the dialysis unit,” Romero says. “This is on the way. My kids knew Chicken McNuggets and, boy, that’d be a treat. ‘If you’re really good, do all your chores, you’ll get to go to McDonald’s.’ That was a big deal.”

Then she looks out the window and I ask her to tell me what she sees. It’s the same thing I saw the first time I ate inside a Santa Fe McDonald’s: that slice of community, as layered and diverse as the cross-section Qasimi cut into her Third Pounder.

“I’m seeing the diversity of the town driving through,” Romero says. “It’s working people, people in a hurry to get home. It’s moms, it’s construction workers, who are probably rushing because they get a half-hour lunch…It’s kind of interesting. People say construction is slow in Santa Fe, but you wouldn’t know it by that line.”

At the counter, Romero orders fries and the Southern Style Chicken sandwich, a new limited-time offer that is suspiciously similar to a sandwich served by its competitor, Chick-fil-A. Romero eats the fries as fast as she can snatch them. They’re only good when they’re hot, she says.

As for the sandwich: “It’s pretty tasty,” Romero says, holding it up for a closer look. “I do like it. Now, as a rule, I wouldn’t eat this much bread, but it’s not thick heavy bread. Look at it, it’s pretty light and most of it is chicken. So, I’m actually thoroughly enjoying it and I’ll probably finish it.”

I point out that this restaurant will probably be booming soon, when tenants start filling the affordable housing complex next door. The McDonald’s Playland will be the closest playground for the children. I’m not sure if it’s a good or bad thing, only that it’s better than nothing. Romero doesn’t say anything, but you can see the gears of civic duty tick in her eyes.

She does not finish her sandwich.

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