The Best Pizza in All 50 States

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Though cities like New York and Chicago are most renowned for their pizza, every state in the U.S. has their own standout favorite. Whether it is a slice for the road, a piping hot pie, or a creative concoction of rare ingredients, there's a reason pizza is universally loved. Check out our list of must-try pizza in all 50 states.

1. ALABAMA // MATER'S PIZZA AND PASTA EMPORIUM

Location: Gadsden and Albertville, Alabama

COURTESY MATER'S PIZZA AND PASTA EMPORIUM

Since 1978, Gadsden’s Mater’s Pizza has been serving their "world famous" pasta and pizza. Using fresh, homemade dough and a signature blend of cheeses, Mater's is a family favorite in the town's historic district. They expanded the original location to include the Oyster Bar, and have a game room and TVs throughout the restaurant. A second location in Albertville opened in 2013.

2. ALASKA // MOOSE'S TOOTH PUB AND PIZZERIA

Location: Anchorage, Alaska

If you find your stomach rumbling while you’re driving along Seward Highway in Anchorage, stop in Moose's Tooth for breadsticks, oven-baked sandwiches, salad, and of course, gourmet pizza. Meat lovers will enjoy The Classic, which comes with heaping piles of pepperoni, Italian sausage, mushrooms, mozzarella, provolone and marinara sauce. Be sure to also try one of the 40 beers (or two sodas) crafted by their own Broken Tooth Brewing.

3. ARIZONA // PIZZERIA BIANCO

Location: Phoenix, Arizona

COURTESY PIZZERIA BIANCO

When you think of great pizza, Arizona may not immediately come to mind, but James Beard-awarded chef Chris Bianco changed that when Food & Wine called his first restaurant "arguably the best pizza in America" in 2009. A former New Yorker who headed west to work with farm-to-table champion Alice Waters, Bianco opened his own shop in 1988 and later expanded Pizzeria Bianco in downtown Phoenix. His simple and delicious pies, like the Biancoverde, use fresh, homegrown ingredients like fresh mozzarella, Parmigiano-Reggiano, ricotta, and arugula. For $3 more, add some wood roasted mushrooms for a slice of heaven in the desert.

4. ARKANSAS // VINO’S

Location: Little Rock, Arkansas

There may be no greater combination than a slice of pizza with an ice cold beer. At Vino’s pub and brewery, you can grab hand-tossed slices combined with a long list of toppings from ham and extra cheese to chopped garlic and fresh meatballs, all served on a hot and crispy New York-style thin crust. Enjoy your slice with a medium-bodied Firehouse Pale Ale, or a house-brewed Razor Bock.

5. CALIFORNIA // BARONE'S PIZZERIA

Location: Woodland Hills, California

For three generations, Barone's has been serving piping hot, rectangular pizzas (tagline: "We don't cut corners") to Southern California. Started by a few siblings in 1945 and using their grandparents' recipes from Sicily and Naples, Barone's combines fresh dough, homemade Italian sauce, and a secret cheese blend into their delicious pizzas—which once brought legends like Frank Sinatra and John Wayne to eat regularly. Start off with some fried zucchini or meatball sliders and then dig in to their specialty House Marguerite pizza (available at their Westlake Hills location). They have a list of ingredients to make your own pie, and also offer pizzas that are gluten-free.

6. COLORADO // DOWNSTAIRS AT ERIC’S

Location: Breckenridge, Colorado

If you happen to find yourself in the beautiful mountain town of Breckenridge, follow the locals’ advice and grab some grub at a family-friendly sports bar (and arcade) that has been serving Coloradans since 1989. At Downstairs At Eric’s, start off with some sweet chili wings, potato skins, or fried jalapeños stuffed with cream cheese. Take a chance on the Garbage Pizza, the house favorite which has a little bit of everything.

7. CONNECTICUT // FRANK PEPE PIZZERIA NAPOLETANA

Location: Various locations, Connecticut

If you are craving the variety of crispy, thin crust pizza referred to as New Haven-style thanks to Frank Pepe's original location, make sure to try the tomato pie at Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana. Since 1925, Pepe has been using coal-fired ovens to create a "crisp, charred, chewy crust" on pizza pies. The original tomato pie is made using simple ingredients—just tomatoes, grated Pecorino Romano, garlic, oregano, and olive oil—and is still available on the menu. (With or without anchovies.) Try the white clam pie, which over the years has become the most famous, with its flaky crust covered in olive oil, oregano, garlic, grated cheese and fresh littleneck clams.

8. DELAWARE // MARGHERITA'S PIZZA

Location: Newark, Delaware

On any given night, you’ll find college kids swarming this pizza joint, which is conveniently located on Main Street at the heart of the University of Delaware. It’s not just the location that makes this cheesy oasis so popular: The college staple churns out some of the best pizza in the state. You can find a wide variety of specialty slices behind the counter, but if you want something really special, order a pie of the White Buffy: a white pizza covered in buffalo chicken and slathered in blue cheese dressing.

9. FLORIDA // ANDIAMO! BRICK OVEN PIZZA

Location: Miami, Florida

Nestled in an enclosed glass building, a Historical Landmark building in Miami has been the home of award-winning brick oven pizza since it opened in 2001. Andiamo! offers many specialty pies using fresh and inventive ingredients. The Sunday pie includes meatballs, tomato sauce, mozzarella and ricotta cheeses, pepperoncini, parmesan, and basil. If you are feeling bold, choose Frankie Five's Special, which is topped with chicken, broccoli rabe, roasted potatoes and garlic, caramelized onions, mozzarella, and red pepper flakes.

10. GEORGIA // ANTICO PIZZA NAPOLETANA

Location: Atlanta, Georgia

Just steps away from Georgia Tech's campus on Atlanta’s Westside is Antico Pizza, home to some of the best food in Atlanta. The open kitchen and communal seating make for a vibrant atmosphere, but the pizza here is the main attraction. If you enjoy something rich and decadent, try the house specialty—creamy buffalo mozzarella, Cipollini onions, roasted mushrooms, and white truffle oil served well done with a charred crust.

11. HAWAII // KULA LODGE AND RESTAURANT

Location: Maui, Hawaii

Even those in paradise crave pizza for dinner sometimes. If you’re spending time on Maui visit Kula Lodge and Restaurant. Ask for seating in the Garden Terrace, where the wood-burning oven resides, and take in a sunset dinner with an open view of Maui’s Western side. Try the No Ka Oi, a crispy pizza with Portuguese sausage, Poblano peppers, sweet onion, and—of course—fresh pineapple.

12. IDAHO // ENOTECA

Location: Ketchum, Idaho

Enoteca Restaurant and Wine Bar in Ketchum has starters like house-cured meats and artisanal cheeses, but the wood-fired pizza is what you come for. They have various specialty pizzas for you to choose from, like the Wine Auction, which features gorgonzola and grapes, or the Strega, with homemade pesto and prosciutto.

13. ILLINOIS // VITO AND NICK’S

Location: Chicago, Illinois

When you think Chicago pizza, a deep dish pan pizza may be what comes to mind. The best pizza in the Windy City, though, is the cheese pizza at Vito & Nick’s. The cash-only South Side pizza spot was established in 1932, and serves the best thin crust, cut in square slices, and was featured on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.

14. INDIANA // MOTHER BEAR'S PIZZA

Location: Bloomington, Indiana

Mother Bear's has been serving Bloomington’s best pizzas since 1973. At Mother Bear’s choice is the key. Dine in or takeout, choose from 6-, 10-, or 14-inch pies made with a selection of cheeses and sauces, and even select from three types of pie: traditional pan, deep dish, or thin crust. If that is too many decisions to make on an empty stomach, just go for the "Paulie Pine Nuts" Pesto Pie with fresh pesto, tomatoes, mozzarella, and spinach.

15. IOWA // PAGLIAI’S PIZZA

Location: Iowa City, Iowa

Iowa City has been enjoying the family-run Pagliai’s Pizza since they first opened in 1957. The pizzeria serves beer as well as soft drinks, and a number of toppings are available on their pies. For the works, order the Palace Special (a cheese pizza with sausage, beef, pepperoni, mushroom, and onion), or select your own toppings like black olives, peppers, and Canadian bacon—or the less traditional sauerkraut or broccoli.

16. KANSAS // TOPP'D PIZZA

Location: Kansas City, Kansas

Topp’d Pizza is a Kansas newcomer that aims to serve pizza fresh and fast. This fast casual pizza joint serves 9-inch personal pizzas in less than five minutes, without skimping on ingredients. All their meats are grilled on location, and everything from dough to sauce to dressings are house-made. Enjoy a personal or large 13-inch pie with your choice of original, garlic and herb, honey wheat or gluten-free crust and choose from a wide variety of toppings (including vegan options), or try one of many signature pies offering unique flavors like peanut sauce or slow-roasted pulled pork. 

17. KENTUCKY // BOOMBOZZ CRAFT PIZZA

Location: Louisville, Kentucky

BoomBozz now has several locations, but was welcomed with excitement in Louisville in 1998. Since then, they've been named one of the best of Louisville. Of the many gourmet pizzas to choose from, the Tony's Supremo, Fire Roasted Fajita, and Smokehouse Brisket are standouts. Or opt for a classic like their 17-inch New York-style cheese pie.

18. LOUISIANA // CASCIO’S MARKET BISTRO

Location: Bossier City, Louisiana

COURTESY CASCIO'S MARKET BISTRO

The best pizza in Louisiana might also be the best culinary invention in the state, too. Cascio’s started out as a father-daughter run grocery and produce stand in 1945. Known for homemade sausages, they make thin crust pizzas three ways: Pies come in either 10- or 16-inch with your choice of classic Margherita, or sausage or pepperoni. But try the Pizzaletta, their own creation inspired by the state's famous muffuletta sandwich. They fill the pizza crust with salami, ham, olive salad, sliced provolone, and top it with another pizza crust that is covered in mozzarella cheese!

19. MAINE // OTTO PIZZA

Location: Portland, Maine

Portland's Otto Pizza has been using high-quality local ingredients and an out-of-the-box approach for their pizzas since 2009. One of their most popular pies, The Masher, is a pizza with mashed potatoes, scallions, and bacon. If you are vegetarian, try their mushroom and roasted cauliflower pizza, or opt for the four cheese concoction that combines ricotta, fontina, asiago, and mozzarella.

20. MARYLAND // MATTHEW’S PIZZA

Location: Baltimore, Maryland

Matthew’s is proud of their distinction as being "Baltimore’s first pizzeria," and has been a local institution since opening in 1943. They've racked up 76 awards for their amazing pizza pies in the past 30 or so years, and were included in Business Insider’s Best Pizza in Every State. They use traditional and regional ingredients like Maryland crab to enhance their pizzas and appetizers. Give the 4 Seasons Pie a try—it uses hand-grated mozzarella, artichoke hearts, black olives, anchovies, mushrooms, and prosciuttini.

21. MASSACHUSETTS // EMMA’S PIZZA

Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts

Cambridge’s Emma’s Pizza specializes in cracker-thin-crust pizza and has been doing so since the '60s. They offer two dozen different pizza combinations, or you can choose to create your own using one of their 30 toppings and three sauces. Start with the Kendall, named for their Kendall Square location: it combines roasted red peppers, caramelized onions, rosemary sauce, and mozzarella.

22. MICHIGAN // BUDDY’S PIZZA

Location: Detroit, Michigan

Buddy’s Pizza introduced their square pizzas to Detroit in 1946, and now have 11 locations in the metro area, serving some of the Motor City’s best pies. They've grown a lot in the last 70 years, and now offer gluten-free and multi-grain crust. For a classic though, order their award-winning Sicilian-style pepperoni pizza, where the meat is layered beneath Wisconsin cheese.

23. MINNESOTA // BLACK SHEEP PIZZA

Location: Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota

A full dining experience can be had at Black Sheep Pizza—they serve up wine, beer, draft root beer, and fresh squeezed lemonade, salads, and of course, plenty of pizza. Their pies come in 12- and 16-inch sizes, or order the Sicilian, which is essentially a Grandma: a square pizza with mozzarella, sauce, and extra virgin olive oil.

24. MISSISSIPPI // PIZZA SHACK

Location: Jackson, Mississippi

Pizza Shack has collected dozens of awards since opening in 2005, when three lifelong friends opened the pizza parlor of their dreams. Start off with an antipasta salad or Buffalo wings, and since you're in Mississippi, opt for the Cajun Joe for the main event: spicy marinara and andouille sausage, chicken, peppers, and onions.

25. MISSOURI // PI PIZZERIA

Location: Various locations, Missouri

Pi Pizzeria has multiple restaurants across St. Louis (as well as in Cincinnati and D.C.), and it specializes in craft beer, deep dish, and cornmeal crust pizzas. Next time you're in the Lou, start with a Bada Bing salad (which includes walnuts, gorgonzola, and the namesake dried bing cherries), and take a bite out of a slice of Bucktown, which is covered in mozzarella, roasted chicken, artichokes, peppers, green olives, red onion, feta, and sundried tomatoes.

26. MONTANA // EUGENE’S PIZZA

Location: Glasgow, Montana

The pride of Glasgow, Montana may be Eugene’s Pizza a family business that has been feeding locals for over 40 years. Purchased in 1967, the pizzeria was passed to the owner’s children in 1992. Choose one of their popular suggestions like pepperoni, tomato, and garlic or mushroom and black olives, or select your own. If you’re in the mood for something on the sweeter side try the BBQ Chicken pizza. It’s made with spicy chicken, a blend of mozzarella and cheddar cheese, and then topped with a swirl of homemade BBQ sauce. Yum.

27. NEBRASKA // LA CASA PIZZARIA

Location: Omaha, Nebraska

La Casa Pizzaria has been proudly advertising their "legendary pizza and pasta" dishes for over 60 years. Enjoy beer and wine tastings in the lounge, order some fried ravioli or eggplant parmesan, but don’t forget to try some thin crust Neapolitan pizza. For a taste of an Omaha classic, get the hamburger pizza. With ground beef, onions, seasoning and mozzarella and Romano cheese, this pie is a must.

28. NEVADA // SOUTH CREEK PIZZA COMPANY

Location: Reno, Nevada

Start off with fire roasted mortadella, garlic shrimp, and a wedge salad and move on to the aptly named Afterburner pizza at South Creek Pizza Company. This pizza special has Mama’s meatballs, tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, red onions, basil, and is topped with sea salt and SarVecchio parmesan cheese. Hot chopped cherry peppers come on the side.

29. NEW HAMPSHIRE // PIGTALE

Location: Nashua, New Hampshire

Farm to table is the draw at Nashua, New Hampshire’s PigTale. They use ingredients sourced locally whenever possible to create the small plates, salads, pizza, and delicious craft cocktails they serve. Their namesake pizza is a creative crispy pie loaded up with bacon, smoked pork, sausage, pickled onion and fontina cheese. For pescetarians, try the shrimp scampi pie which has Gulf shrimp, garlic, baby heirloom tomatoes, and fresh basil.

30. NEW JERSEY // RAZZA

Location: Jersey City, New Jersey

Razza is an upscale pizza joint in the heart of Jersey City, intent on serving you food with the utmost care. The bread—and the butter even—is homemade and all the ingredients they use are hand selected. Try the Project Hazelnut that combines fresh mozzarella, locally grown hazelnuts (care of Rutgers University), ricotta and local honey.

31. NEW MEXICO // BACK ROAD PIZZA

Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico

Back Road has remained a local favorite in Santa Fe since it opened in 1997. Everything you eat—from the pizza dough, roasted meats, and sauces to dressings—are freshly made in house each day. You can order a basic cheese pizza, one with your favorite topping, or choose from 11 Primo toppings they offer like Kalamata olives or Chevre. They also offer piping hot calzones, classic subs, and appetizers, depending on how hungry you feel.

32. NEW YORK // JOE’S PIZZA

Location: New York, New York

New York is a pizza town, so choosing the best is hard. New Yorkers are diehard about who makes the best pie and can argue the merits of Totonno’s, Di Fara’s, or Patsy’s with passion. But, if you want a classic New York slice you should have it with a classic New York experience, so grab a cheese or pepperoni from Joe’s Pizza in Greenwich village. Fold it and eat it while walking down the street. You might drip a little grease down your chin, and you’ll definitely burn your tongue, but the combination of perfectly melted cheese and crispy bottom crust is the very best.

33. NORTH CAROLINA // PURE PIZZA

Location: Charlotte, North Carolina

Pure Pizza’s philosophy is to provide healthier pizza by using fresh high-quality ingredients, to stay committed to the environment, and to provide fair wages to their employees. All in all, a positive atmosphere and mission. Stop in and have a She-Rex which is mozzarella, mushroom, onion, pepper, and topped with greens tossed in lemon vinaigrette.

34. NORTH DAKOTA // BLACKBIRD WOODFIRE

Location: Fargo, North Dakota

Truck Pizza was a mobile wood-fired oven that served pizza every summer at events and festivals and, finally, opened a brick and mortar restaurant, Blackbird Woodfire, in 2014. They serve tapas, salads, and a bunch of specialty pies like the Sausage Apple that is made with house-made sausage, Granny Smith apple, Béchamel cream sauce, fresh sage, parmesan cheese, and micro greens.

35. OHIO // BAR CENTO

Location: Cleveland, Ohio

Bar Cento is full-fledged Italian eatery with house made pasta dishes and house specials and sides, but their pizza was rated the best in Ohio by both Zagat and Food Network. The Sunnyside has pancetta (made in house) and provolone, and is topped with a fried egg and black pepper so it works for brunch or dinner.

36. OKLAHOMA // ANDOLINI’S PIZZERIA

Location: Multiple Locations, Oklahoma

Tulsa’s Andolini’s Pizza was established in 2005, and has since expanded to another two locations across Oklahoma, as well as in the form of a food truck doling out slices around Tulsa. If you feel like keeping it simple, go for the Marzano pesto pie. Pistachio pesto, mozzarella, and San Marzano tomatoes are cooked together to gooey perfection.

37. OREGON // APIZZA SCHOLLS

Location: Portland, Oregon

At Apizza Scholls picking up pies can take over an hour on busy nights. Luckily, they have an arcade with DigDug, Ms. Pac-Man, and Donkey Kong to play while you wait. Once you are seated there are tons of pizzas to choose from, and all of them are 18 inches of amazing. The Diablo Blanca has tomato pesto, mozzarella, ricotta, herbs, black pepper, extra virgin olive oil, and fresh jalapeño.

38. PENNSYLVANIA // PIZZERIA BEDDIA

Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

At 4:00pm most afternoons, lines start forming in anticipation of Philadelphia’s Pizzeria Beddia’s 5:30 p.m. opening. This place is cash only, has no seating, and rotates pies seasonally, but once 40 pies have gone out—they’re out. You can try the chewy, crispy cheese pie, or go with a special like a recent pie with asparagus, fresh cream, oyster mushroom, and ramps.

39. RHODE ISLAND // FRANK AND JOHN FROM ITALY

Location: East Greenwich, Rhode Island

Independently owned and operated by the same family for over 40 years, Frank and John’s is where you go for authentic Italian pie in East Greenwich. This is a no frills pizza joint that offers casual dining and top notch Italian food.

40. SOUTH CAROLINA // REBEL PIE

Location: Florence, South Carolina

Though they have many great items to choose from on their menu, Rebel Pie is all about pizza. They have white pies, pesto pies, build your own pies, and even dessert pies. You can’t go wrong here, no matter what you order, but take a chance on their rotating Rebel Pie of the month for a unique creation!

41. SOUTH DAKOTA // FIERO PIZZA

Location: Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Fiero Pizza has a number of specialty pies for you to choose from if you don’t feel like building your own pizza. I’d go with the Fresh Farmer. It has a spicy tomato sauce base and mozzarella, hot sausage, spinach, egg, parmesan cheese, and roasted pepper chili oil. Sounds like you’ll need to wash it down with a cold drink.

42. TENNESSEE // PIZZA PERFECT

Location: Nashville, Tennessee

With a name like Pizza Perfect, you better nail a plain cheese pizza. Though they have many creative pies (like the Dante’s Chicken Pie) you may be just as happy with a pitcher and a large thick Sicilian cheese pie, thick and gooey and baked fresh to order.

43. TEXAS // ANTONIO’S FLYING PIZZA

Location: Houston, Texas

For over 40 years the Rosa family has been making hand-tossed pizzas, pasta dishes, and desserts for Houston’s residents. Whether you’re in the mood for a traditional or deep dish Sicilian pie, you won’t leave hungry after visiting Antonio’s Flying Pizza.

44. UTAH // NICOLITALIA

Location: Provo, Utah

They call it Boston Italian style pizza here, and it is crazy good. Their specialty pies include the Italian Stallion and Eye of the Tiger, but if you really want to try something special, order the Queen Margotte which is topped with alfredo sauce, fresh tomato, chopped spinach, dry basil, parmesan cheese and Nicolitalia’s secret spice.

45. VERMONT // FOLINO'S

Location: Shelburne, Vermont

Folino's is BYOB, but luckily they are housed in the same building as Fiddlehead Brewing Company, so you can pop next door and grab a few beers before heading over for a Margherita pie, Folino’s specialty. The Green Mountain setting and delicious New Haven-style pie provides a beautiful evening.

46. VIRGINIA // PUPATELLA

Location: Arlington, Virginia

Pupatella’s website proudly announces itself "Best Pizza in Virginia." The fried arancini (rice balls) and fresh mozzarella, as well as their pizzas, are authentic Neopolitan cuisine. They offer red (sausage and onion with smoked mozzarella) or white (creamy burrata with cherry tomato, pine nuts and basil) pizzas, and will make you feel like you’re in Naples.

47. WASHINGTON // SERIOUS PIE

Location: Seattle, Washington

Serious Pie bakes their pizza in a 600-degree, stone-encased, wood-fired oven, so we get why they're so serious about their pizza. They have three locations across Seattle and also boast artisan cheeses from around the world.

48. WEST VIRGINIA // LOLA’S PIZZA

Location: Charleston, West Virginia

Lola’s offers brunch, lunch, and dinner and a wide array of sandwiches, salads, and, of course, pizzas. Their simple and tasty pies are available for dine-in or carryout and cooked to bubbly perfection in a stone hearth. Some intriguing options include bacon and white cheddar, spinach and feta, and spicy shrimp and sausage.

49. WISCONSIN // PIZZA BRUTTA

Location: Madison, Wisconsin

Pizza Brutta uses freshly made Fior di latte, tomato sauce, and dough for their Neopolitan style pizzas. They have over 20 combinations to choose from as well as salads and sandwiches (lunch only). Plus, they partner with organic suppliers, and you won't find fresher Wisconsin cheese anywhere else.

50. WYOMING // ROXIE’S ON GRAND

Location: Laramie, Wyoming

This American bistro is a warm and inviting restaurant in Laramie. In addition to full dinners and appetizers, they make brick oven-fired pizzas in classic combinations like tomato and mozzarella, spicy meatball, or the decadent Lobster supreme.

This story was updated in November 2016.

14 Secrets of McDonald's Employees

Justin Sullivan, Getty Images
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

While there’s virtually no end to the number of fast food options for people seeking a quick meal, none have entered the public consciousness quite like McDonald’s. Originally a barbecue shop with a limited menu when it was founded by brothers Richard and Maurice McDonald in the 1940s, the Golden Arches have grown into a franchised behemoth with more than 36,000 locations worldwide.

Staffing those busy kitchens and registers are nearly 2 million McDonald's employees. To get a better idea of what many consider to be the most popular entry-level job in the nation—staff members on the floor make an average of $9 an hour—we asked several workers to share details of their experiences with errant ice cream machines, drive-through protocols, and special requests. Here’s what they had to say about life behind the counter.

1. McDonald's employees can't always deliver fast food all that fast.

While McDonald’s and other fast-service restaurants pride themselves on getting customers on their way, some menu items just don’t lend themselves to record service times. According to Bob, an assistant store manager at a McDonald’s in the Midwest, pies take an average of 10 to 12 minutes to prepare; grilled chicken, 10 minutes; and biscuits for Egg McMuffins, eight to 10 minutes. In the mood for something light, like a grilled chicken and salad? That will take a few minutes, too. Bob says salads are pre-made with lettuce but still need to have chicken and other ingredients added.

The labor-intensive nature of assembling ingredients is part of why the chain has more recently shied away from menu items with too many ingredients. “We are trained to go as fast down the line as we can, and if we have to stop to make something that has 10 ingredients, it tends to slow things down,” Bob tells Mental Floss. “Corporate has realized this and has taken many of these items off in recent years, [like] McWraps, Clubhouse, more recently the Smokehouse and mushroom and Swiss and moved to items that can go a lot quicker.”

2. McDonald's workers wish you’d stop asking for fries without salt.

A serving of McDonald's French fries is pictured
Joerg Koch, AFP/Getty Images

A common “trick” for customers seeking fresh fries is to ask for them without salt. The idea is that fries that have been under a heating lamp will already be salted and that the employee in the kitchen will need to put down a new batch in the fryer. This does work, but customers can also just ask for fresh fries. It’s less of a hassle and may even save employees some discomfort.

“People can ask for fresh fries and it's actually way easier to do fresh fries rather than no-salt fries,” Andy, an employee who’s worked at three different McDonald’s locations in the Midwest, tells Mental Floss. “For those, we have to pour the fries onto a tray from the fryer so they don't come in contact with salt. It can get awkward sometimes getting everything into position, especially if you have a lot of people working in close proximity and it's busy, so I've had some scalded hands a couple of times trying to get fries out in a timely way.”

3. McDonald's workers have to pay careful attention to the order of ingredients.

McDonald’s is pretty specific about how their burgers and other items are supposed to be assembled, with layers—meat, cheese, sauce—arranged in a specific order. If they mess it up, customers can notice. “In some cases it has a big impact,” Sam, a department manager and nine-year veteran of the restaurant in Canada, tells Mental Floss. “Like placing the cheese between the patties with a McDouble. If they don’t put the cheese between the patties, the cheese won’t melt.”

4. There’s a reason McDonald’s employees ask you to park at the drive-through.

A McDonald's customer pulls up to the drive-thru window
Tim Boyle, Getty Images

After ordering at the drive-through window, you may be slightly puzzled when a cashier asks you to pull into one of the designated parking spots. That’s because employees are measured on how quickly they process cars at the drive-through. If your order is taking a long time to prepare, they’ll take you out of the queue to keep the line moving. “My store has sensors in the drive-through that actually tell us exactly how long you are at each spot in the drive-through,” Bob says. “We get measured based on something we call OEPE. Order end, present end. [That measures] from the second that your tires move from the speaker until your back tires pass over the sensor on the present window. My store is expected to be under two minutes.” If an order will take longer than that, you'll be asked to park.

5. The McDonald's drive-through employees can hear everything going on in your car.

While the quality of the speakers at a drive-through window can vary, it’s best to assume employees inside the restaurant can hear everything happening in your car even before you place an order. “The speaker is activated by the metal in the car, so as soon as you drive up, the speaker turns on in our headset,” Andy says. “We can hear everything, and I do mean everything. Loud music, yelling at your kids to shut up, etc.”

6. The employees at McDonald’s like their regulars.

Customers eat inside of a McDonald's with an order of French fries in the foreground
Chris Hondros, Getty Images

With hot coffee, plenty of tables, Wi-Fi, and newspapers, McDonald’s can wind up being a popular hang-out for repeat customers. “[We have] a ton of regulars who come into my store,” Bob says. “I'd say at least 75 percent of my daily customers know us all by name and we know them all, too. It makes it nice and makes the service feel a lot more personal when a customer can walk into my location, and we can look them in the eye and say, ‘Hey Mark! Getting the usual today?’ and we've already started making his coffee exactly how he takes it.”

7. McDonald’s staff get prank calls.

Unless they’re trying to cater an event, customers usually don’t have any reason to phone a McDonald’s. When the phone rings, employees brace themselves. In addition to sometimes being asked a legitimate question like when the store closes, Sam says his store gets a lot of prank calls. “Sometimes it’s people asking about directions to Wendy’s,” he says. “A lot of inappropriate ones. Most are pretty lame.”

8. For a McDonald’s worker, the ice cream machine is like automated stress.

A McDonald's customer is handed an ice cream cone at the drive-thru window
iStock/jax10289

The internet is full of stories of frustrated McDonald’s customers who believe the chain’s ice cream machines are always inoperable. That’s not entirely true, but the machine does experience a lot of downtime. According to Bob, that’s because it’s always in need of maintenance. “The thing is, it is a very sensitive machine,” he says. “It's not made to be making 50 cones in a row, or 10 shakes at a time. It takes time for the mix to freeze to a proper consistency. It also requires a daily heat mode, [where] the whole machine heats up to about 130 degrees or so. The heat mode typically takes about four hours to complete, so you try to schedule it during the slowest time.” Stores also need to take the machine entirely apart every one to two weeks to clean it thoroughly.

Bob adds that the machine’s O-rings can crack or tear, rendering the unit inoperable. Seasoned workers can tell if a unit is faulty by the consistency of the shakes or ice cream coming out, and sometimes by the noises it makes.

9. McDonald's employees don't mind if you order a grilled cheese.

Contrary to rumor, there’s no “secret menu” at McDonald’s. But that doesn’t mean you can’t sometimes snag something not listed on the board. Andy says a lot of people order a grilled cheese sandwich. “I've made many a grilled cheese before,” he says. But it’s not without consequences. “Sometimes it can get a bit risky doing it because the bun toaster wasn't designed to make grilled cheeses so sometimes you get some burnt buns or cheese or the cheese sticks inside and it slows down the other buns from getting out on time so that causes more burnt buns.”

Another common request is for customers to ask for a McDouble dressed as a Big Mac, with added Big Mac sauce and shredded lettuce. “I think [it’s] a way more practical way to eat a Big Mac since there's less bun in the way, and it's also way cheaper even if you do get charged for Mac sauce.”

10. McDonald’s workers recommend always checking your order.

A McDonald's employee serves an order
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

Nothing stings worse than the revelation that an employee has forgotten part of your food order. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not because the employees are being lazy or inattentive. According to Bob, it’s simply due to the volume of customers a typical location has to process in a given day. “We are human,” he says. “Mistakes do happen. We always feel terrible when they do but when we serve 1000-plus people a day, it's bound to happen.”

Bob recommends checking your bag before leaving the restaurant and not taking it personally if there’s an issue. “Be nice to us if you have a problem,” he says. “It's a huge difference between coming to us and saying, ‘Hey, I seem to be missing a fry from my bag,’ and ‘You bastards didn't give me my fries!’” If you want to check your bag at the drive-through, though, he recommends trying to pull ahead so cars behind you can move forward.

11. McDonald's employees don't recommend the grilled chicken.

If a menu item isn’t all that popular, it can wind up experiencing a low rate of turnover. Of all the food at McDonald’s, the most neglected might be the grilled chicken. Because it doesn't move quickly, workers find that it can turn unappetizing in a hurry. “That stuff has a supposed shelf life of 60 minutes in the heated cabinet, but it dries out so quickly that even if it's within an acceptable time frame, it looks like burnt rubber, and probably tastes like it, too,” Andy says.

12. Golden Arches employees aren’t crazy about Happy Meal collectors.

A McDonald's Happy Meal is pictured
David Morris, Getty Images

Happy Meals are boxed combos that come with a toy inside. Usually, it’s tied into some kind of movie promotion. That means both Happy Meal collectors and fans of a given entertainment property can swarm stores looking for the product. “The biggest pain involving the Happy Meals is the people who collect them,” Bob says. “I personally hate trying to dig through the toys looking for one specific one. We usually only have one to three toys on hand. It's especially a pain in the butt during big toys events such as the Avengers one we just had. There was like 26 different toys, and some customers get really mad when you don't have the one that they want.”

And no, employees don’t usually take home leftover toys. They’ve saved for future use as a substitute in case a location runs out of toys for their current promotion.

13. McDonald's employees can’t mess with Monopoly.

The McDonald’s Monopoly promotion has been a perennial success for the chain, with game pieces affixed to drink cups and fry containers. But if you think employees spend their spare time peeling the pieces off cups looking for prizes, think again. Following a widely-publicized scandal in 2000 that saw an employee of the company that printed the pieces intercepting them for his own gain, the chain has pretty strict rules about the promotion. “Monopoly pieces and things like them get sent back to corporate,” Bob says. “We aren't allowed to touch them, open them, or redeem them as employees.”

14. One McDonald's worker admits there have been sign mishaps.

A McDonald's sign is pictured
Tim Boyle, Getty Images

Many McDonald’s locations sport signs under the arches advertising specials or promotions. Some are analog, with letters that need to be mounted and replaced. Others have LED screens. Either way, there can be mistakes. “I've never seen anyone mess around with the letters,” Andy says. “But I do remember one time we were serving the Angus Burgers and the ‘G’ fell off of the word ‘Angus.’ Good times.”

The Reason Why It's Technically Against State Rules to Sell LaCroix in Massachusetts

Justin Sullivan, Getty Images
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

No one is quite certain what goes into LaCroix (“La-croy”), the carbonated water that’s become a popular alternative to soft drinks. The zero-calorie beverage comes in several distinctive fruit flavors that the drink’s parent company, National Beverage, has described as being derived from “natural essence oils.” That highly secretive process is believed to be the result of heating fruits and vegetables, then making a concentrate out of the vapor.

To try and crack the mystery, Consumer Reports recently approached officials in Massachusetts with a public records request for documentation relating to LaCroix. Massachusetts is one of the few states requiring manufacturers of carbonated water to obtain a permit and submit water quality tests to sell their product.

The verdict? Consumer Reports still isn’t quite sure what goes into LaCroix. But it might be technically against state regulations to sell it in Massachusetts. That’s because the state has no records on file for the mystery refreshment.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health could not find a permit for LaCroix, and there were no water quality test results on hand, either. Without those documents, the drink should technically not be for sale in the state. After noticing the oversight, Massachusetts sent a request to National Beverage for the necessary information. If the company fails to comply, the state could end up fining them or banning the sale of the drink. A spokesperson for National Beverage told Consumer Reports the company intended to comply with the request.

Why does the state need any information at all? Thanks to some bureaucratic quibbling, carbonated water products are treated differently than bottled water by regulatory agencies. The Food and Drug Administration considers carbonated beverages like seltzer and flavored sparkling water to fall under the heading of soft drinks. While the FDA mandates certain manufacturing standards for those drinks, it doesn’t apply the same rules as it does for bottled water, which is expected to adhere to strict rules about contaminants and quality testing. That leaves certain states like Massachusetts to conduct their own quality assessments.

There’s no guarantee that such testing will divulge LaCroix’s secret to their flavoring process, which is likely to remain a mystery.

[h/t Food & Wine]

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