What’s All the Hype About the ‘Travis Scott Meal’ at McDonald’s? Vulture Investigates.

Here’s the thing about the Travis Scott Meal, now at participating McDonaldses near you: It’s not just a Quarter Pounder combo with Sprite. Oh no. It’s an “unprecedented collaborative partnership across food, fashion, and community efforts, launching with [Scott’s] signature order on menus across the U.S.,” according to the press release. It just looks, smells, tastes, and costs the same as a Quarter Pounder combo with Sprite. That’s the genius behind the success of both McDonald’s and Travis Scott: They’re masters of branding. Maybe that’s why when I first heard Scott’s latest collab would be with a fast-food chain, my reactions were:

• That makes sense.
• I would like very much to engage with that culture, please.

There’s something very ’90s-nostalgic about McDonald’s releasing a celebrity-themed tie-in meal; it’s the sort of can’t-miss fast-food event the company used to pull with Michael Jordan or Batman. The kind that would come with souvenir collectible glasses, expanding the Happy Meal strategy to target the kinds of adults who … enjoy things like souvenir collectible glasses. It’s the exact right vibe for Scott, who named Astroworld after a defunct Houston theme park, hitting the exact same sugar-crash ’90s-nostalgia dead-mall aesthetic pleasure center that eating McDonald’s does.

The ad for the Travis Scott Meal, which was released today, features Scott as a Happy Meal toy of himself showing off the combo, which he touts as his “same order since back in Houston.” This gesture toward authenticity (eat the very same thing Travis Scott eats!) wrapped within so many layers of artifice (a Happy Meal toy, in itself a miniature of a regular-degular toy, representing a rap artist promoting food from a brand that has become synonymous with processed and fake) is a real chef’s kiss, a super-playful way to drum up excitement for what is essentially the following:

• A Quarter Pounder with lettuce, pickles, onions, ketchup, mustard, cheese, and bacon
• Medium fries with a side of BBQ dipping sauce
• A medium Sprite

Would this endorsement from a Robot Chicken–ized Scott be enough to draw back customers now accustomed to eating at home in quarantine? If Brian Cox’s voice-over ad campaign couldn’t bring in the youths, will this stand a chance? And would it make my sensitive tum go Sicko Mode? I had to go review the Travis Scott Meal for myself, for the public, and, mostly, to participate in an “unprecedented collaborative partnership across food, fashion, and community efforts.”

The first McDonald’s I went to, on West 3rd Street in Manhattan, didn’t even have the Travis Scott Meal, which was strange because the Travis Scott Meal doesn’t include anything that McDonald’s doesn’t already normally carry. I can’t say I was surprised, though; it’s one of those McDonald’s where the ice-cream machine has been busted since the ’80s. I asked the extremely nice woman working there if anyone else had asked for the Travis Scott Meal, and she told me there had been “a lot, like 20 today.” She advised me to download the McDonald’s app: There I could see which locations have it.

My time on this earth is worth literal poo, so of course I thanked her and left the store and found a park bench and sat down and downloaded the McDonald’s app and signed up for email alerts and entered my credit-card information and found the Travis Scott Meal right there on the front page of the app and placed my order and walked to a different McDonald’s at [redacted] to pick it up.

I knew I was in good hands in McDonald’s No. 2 because it had a big menu screen touting the “limited time collab” Travis Scott Meal, informing me that, because this is New York, it will be $7 instead of $6 and that it’s 1,240 calories total, which was fine by me because I ate Boursin cheese with my hands for breakfast this morning and I’m really past the point of caring. When my order was ready, it said “TRAVIS SCOTT” on the receipt, and it transported me to a fantasy life where I was Stormi’s au pair and I was just picking up an order for Travis on an errand.

The best way to enjoy a Travis Scott Meal is to eat it on your bedroom floor with Astroworld playing and the AC running. The Quarter Pounder was really kind of onion forward. They didn’t use those tiny, little chopped-up onions they put on Happy Meal burgers; these were big, oniony onions. The acid bite of the pickles paired with the smoky bacon atop a pleasantly spongy bun should have pulled off some sort of Houston-adjacent, Texas-BBQ effect. Unfortunately, fast-food bacon is usually a disappointment and rarely worth the upcharge, and here it was crispy, brittle, and tasted of all salt, no pig. In 2018, McDonald’s switched the patties in its Quarter Pounders to “100% fresh” beef, and honestly, I prefer the fakey flavor of the old kind of patty, which I believe is still being used in Big Macs. This was probably just a one-off, but the bubbles in that medium Sprite did not hit hard enough. I dare say, it was almost flat. I usually avoid McDonald’s Sprite because those bubbles are so sharp they teeter into spicy, but I think I just got a bad draft this time around. The fries were McDonald’s fries, which is to say platonically ideal, and totally elevated by Scott’s inclusion of BBQ sauce for dipping. TIL McDonald’s makes a great BBQ sauce! I didn’t need to open a single ketchup packet.

Before you ask: The Travis Scott Meal does not come with a toy. I was disappointed to find this out because I could’ve sworn the first press release said something about a toy, and Scott really led us on with that action figure in the commercial, and remember all that stuff I said about collectible souvenir glasses? Something would’ve been nice. As it stands, I think this is good marketing for McDonald’s and great marketing for Scott, because what’s more “trying to be God” than developing a McDonald’s combo in your likeness? It was a fun diversion, but it’s really just a pretty normal Quarter Pounder combo, so I think I’ll go back to ordering the Rebecca Alter Meal: a large Diet Coke, a strawberry sundae, and a Happy Meal toy.

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