Inside America's oldest McDonald's which whips up nostalgia

Inside America’s oldest operating McDonald’s: This restaurant serves up nostalgia with its orginal 1953 decor intact – and it’s the only place where you can order this secret menu item

  • The charming restaurant can be found in Downey, southeast Los Angeles
  • It features period details including the original McDonald’s mascot Speedee
  • McDonald’s super fans can order off the unique menu or visit the museum

When you think of McDonald’s, some distinct features are likely to come to mind – the golden arches, Big Macs and the mascot Ronald McDonald. 

But this particular California restaurant is proof that the beloved chain has come a long way since it originated in the 1950s. 

This fast food joint, located on Lakewood Boulevard in Downey, Southeast Los Angeles County, is the oldest surviving McDonald’s in the world. 

It first opened in 1953 – the third restaurant to be franchised by the brothers Richard and Maurice McDonald who founded the chain in 1948 – and it still has its original vintage decor, as well as its own museum. But the biggest pull for McDonald’s fans is that it is the only restaurant on the continental United States where you can order a deep-fried apple pie. 

The iconic dessert, which was first rolled out in its fried form 1968 – the same year the company started serving Big Macs – was discontinued in 1992. In response to growing health trends, the fast food chain instead opted to baked the desserts.

But not at this LA restaurant, which is a far cry from newer locations, such as a fully automated drive-thru store which opened in Texas last year. 

The oldest operating McDonald’s in Downey, California, features an original single arch design. The location was the third McDonald’s restaurant franchised by the  brothers Richard and Maurice McDonald who founded the chain in 1948. It opened in August 1953

The restaurant sign features a chef named ‘Speedee’ – inspired by the fast and efficient service

The restaurant has a museum next door, with an original menu showing a 15 cent burger

The history of McDonald’s Apple Pie  

1968: The first McDonald’s pie, created by a franchise in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1960, is added to the menu 

1971: Spurred by the popularity of the dessert, McDonald’s introduces its Apple Pie Tree character along with the Hamburglar, Ronald McDonald and other 

1992: Frozen apple pies are struck off the menu in favor of a baked version to keep up to date with health trends

2011: McDonald’s expands its pie selection to include, cheery, peach, strawberry, pumpkin and sweet potato versions 

2012: McDonald’s adds even more pies – including mixed berries and lemon pie, a cherries and creme version and a peaches and creme 

2016: McDonald’s starts using a new recipe that calls for sliced apples rather than diced. Its solid top is replaced with a lattice crust 

2018: McDonald’s tries to make the pie even healthier, with the new recipe containing even less suger – but more cinnamon for flavor

The restaurant has kept much of its 1950s, including a single arch instead of two with a sign in the middle that says ‘Your Kind of Place’ and ‘Hamburgers: We Have Sold 500 million’. 

The sign also features a different mascot than the familiar face of Ronald McDonald, who was first introduced in 1963 – a chef named ‘Speedee’ – inspired by the fast and efficient service given to customers. 

The location was originally a self-service drive-in, and now you have to walk straight to the window to order, and the only seating on offer is inside the museum located next door. 

The museum displays memorabilia, a small-scale version of the restaurant complete with mannequins, and even old menus showing the original burger cost only 15 cents.  

One of the biggest pulls of this vintage gem is that it is the only place outside Hawaii where fast food fans can order an original deep-fried apple pie. All other US locations now serve baked pies. 

The location was the third McDonald’s to be opened, in August 1953, and was originally operated by the McDonald brothers who founded the chain.

Longtime owner Ray Kroc bought out the brand for $2.7 million in 1961, and grew the company by selling increasing numbers of franchises. 

As the restaurant had been franchised under the McDonald brothers’ original terms, it was not subject to the modernization as other franchisees.

This meant that it its menu different from other stores – and did not include popular orders such as the Big Mac, and its sales suffered.

In 1994, the restaurant was closed and McDonald’s planned to demolish it.

However it was listed as an Endangered Historic Place by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and, faced with widespread public support, the burger giant decided instead to restore it.

It opened the museum and won a National Trust Preservation Honor Award.

This McDonald’s was also one of the filming locations for the 2016 movie The Founder, starring Michael Keaton as Kroc. 

It depicts the story of him forcing out the company’s original founders to grow it into America’s most iconic fast food giant.

And despite recent price rises at McDonald’s, it appears customers are still loyal to the long-time brand.

This McDonald’s location is the only spot outside Hawaii where you can order a fried apple pie

The museum also features a statue of mascot Ronald McDonald, who was introduced in 1963

The museum displays mannequins of McDonald’s workers, alongside vintage memorabilia

The museum also displays original memorabilia, collectors’ cups and newspaper clippings

The fast food joint featured in the 2016 film The Founder about long-time owner Ray Kroc

Michael Keaton starred in the film about the meteoric rise of the iconic fast food franchise

This week, the fast food firm reported first quarter sales and profit which exceeded analysts’ expectations.

McDonald’s Corp. reported that comparable sales rose nearly 13 percent for the quarter in the US and globally. 

It reported $5.9 billion in sales, and for the first three months ended March 31, and net income of $.1.8 billion – up 63 percent from the same period last year. 

CEO Chris Kempczinski said the company’s growth strategy was working as sales grew through a ‘healthy balance of strategic menu price increases and positive traffic growth’.

He added in a statement: ‘Amidst a challenging operating environment, customer demand for McDonald’s Brand remains strong.’

It comes after the Chicago-based company laid off hundreds of workers and cut pay packages for others earlier this month.

A vintage 1950s-style menu can be seen at the Downey branch, 10207 Lakewood Blvd

The first ever McDonald’s store was opened by the McDonald’s brothers, Dic and Mac, in San Bernadino, California in 1948 

The burger giant slashed roles across departments including marketing, operations and field offices – and even temporarily shuttered some offices as it started to terminate corporate staff remotely.

The cutbacks come as McDonald’s pushes to pursue an aggressive extension plan. 

The company is reportedly looking to significantly expand its restaurant footprint in the US and Europe for the first time in years, after saying many locations are operating at full capacity. 

The corporate job cuts will not impact the roughly 2 million restaurant workers at franchised locations around the world – but menus could be affected by the shake-up.

Kempczinski reportedly warned there had been too much duplication. 

‘We had across the globe 70 different, distinct versions of what a crispy chicken sandwich would look like,’ he allegedly wrote in an email. ‘I don’t need 70 different permutations of a chicken sandwich.’ 

In December 2022, the company also opened a test location of its new concept drive-thru store in Fort Worth, Texas. 

The restaurant, which is run completely by machines, is reportedly part of a bid to re-invent the drive thru across the world. 

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