When McDonald’s opened its first international burger joint in Canada in 1967, it cracked opened a Pandora’s box of gluttonous globalization. Since then, more than 19,000 locations have sprung up in 118 countries all over the world. There’s even a Mickey D’s in the Louvre.
McDonald’s isn’t alone in its quest for global burger domination. Burger King has more than 7,000 international locations on every continent whose name doesn’t end in “-arctica.”
When the burger behemoths moved overseas, menu items were tailored to the local tastes. As the two chains opened locations around the globe, fried shrimp patties showed up in Japan, cafe au lait and croissants were made available in France, and Russian locations even served up something called “brie nuggets.” International fast food was evolving; it became self-aware.
But no menu item has been so specialized, customized, and fetishized as the humble hamburger. Its unique Americanness makes it a highly commodified novelty in foreign markets, and the localized versions that foreign outposts of Burger King and McDonald’s have come up with—as well as a few homegrown chains—are totally absurd.
Here are the eight most egregious examples of international burger decadence.