We left early in the morning on our third day of the trip with the goal to cover more than 800 miles and reach Chicago area before midnight. As such, we tried to to be efficient as we also wanted to stop at several places along the way. Since we decided not skip The Rock Cafe for breakfast, we looked for an alternative place to get a bite to eat without spending much time. As I looked for options along the way, one caught my eye as the ‘perfect’ place to stop given the situation. It was right on Interstate 44 that we would pass, very likely would be a fast service, and yet it sounded interesting… the McDonald’s in Vinita, OK.
What’s so special about going to McDonald’s, you might ask. Well, according to the Route 66 guide books that I had in hand, this particular McDonald’s at one point claimed to be the largest McDonald’s in the world. Formerly a restaurant called The Glass House and built in 1959, it occupied about 30,000 square feet. I learned that in 1990 there was a bigger McDonald’s opened in Russia that supposedly contended for the ‘largest’ title, and more recently another McDonald’s in Orlando, FL, actually beat both locations hands down as the largest restaurant. Oh well.. it’s a (former) largest restaurant — still some history to be proud of there I guess.
When we reached Vinita, we saw the familiar McDonald’s golden arches from a distance, and the restaurant actually sat like a bridge across the Interstate highway. It was pretty much like some of the rest area / travel plaza that you find in some Interstate Highways; except that typically it would be a shared space with many stores, restrooms, and a visitor center. I thought for a moment, the arch of the bridge was painted McDonald’s yellow, so I suppose if the whole bridge was one big McDonald’s then it would make sense that it’s the largest one you could find.
It turned out that when you get inside the building, the space inside the large structure was shared with several other stores, and the actual McDonald’s restaurant portion was about the same size as an average McDonald’s store you could find anywhere else. There seemed to be a lot of unused spaces as well. A little disappointing for those like me who were expecting something different given the ‘hype’ but I suppose business sense prevailed that you should only scale the restaurant to be as big as the demand, and it had probably gone passed its glory days.
We had our standard McDonald’s breakfast, served in efficient manner as a reminder to the modern ‘on-the-go’ culture. On the way out, at the parking lot we did see a group of colorful hot rod cars. They looked like the real life version of the Hot Wheels toys, and reminded me to the characters that Lightning McQueen encountered on the highway just before he veered off and ended up at Radiator Springs. So there was something interesting found at this stop after all.