NEW YORK (AP) _ The music is soothing, the service sublime, the setting splendiferous. The cuisine, supped at marble tables, is nestled in orange plastic foam.
Welcome to the Wall Street-area McDonald’s - where the humble Big Mac is served in a veritable temple, featuring a uniformed doorman, a pianist performing on a black baby grand, and even an electronic ticker for brokers binging on junk bonds and junk food.
″I went to the architects and said, ’I want to build the Taj Mahal,‴ said franchise owner Frank Madalone, who opened this, his eighth New York City McDonald’s, last December.
It may not be the Taj, but it is like no other McDonald’s. It is located on Broadway, 3 1/2 blocks north of Wall Street. The outside is distinguished by two massive windows, bordered with black marble trim, the Golden Arches painted discreetly on each one.
Inside, an atrium is graced by two-story-tall mirrors; sleek, Art Moderne style chandeliers; oodles of plants; and just a hint of violet neon - to match the violet suits worn by the smiling hostesses.
″It’s fun watching the customers’ faces when they walk in the door,″ said Customer Service Manager Judy Jones. ″They stop, look around and wonder if they’re in the right place.″
Potted palms grace the sleek chrome counter, next to plastic bins of ketchup and drinking straws. Each table has a vase with a red carnation. Delivery men in navy blue trench coats and chauffeur-style caps heft red, insulated bags, stuffed with ″Fax Your Max″ orders. The hostesses and cleaning crew whisk away used bags and empty cups, sometimes before the customers have left the table.
Espresso, cappucino and pastries are offered at afternoon teatime. But otherwise, it’s the standard McFare, served at the regular McDonald’s metropolitan prices.
″This is a beautiful place - the service, the cleanliness, the decor,″ said Estelle Jasko, 80, of Washington Township, N.J. ″I’ve always had the impression that McDonald’s was a run-down place; I was shocked.″
″The ambience is very important,″ said a pinstripe-clad Joseph D’Angelo of Brooklyn, vice president of an international freight forwarding firm. ″I’ve never seen a McDonald’s so keen on service.″
It’s even service with a personal touch. ″We seated two people together upstairs; now, they’re dating and may get married,″ Ms. Jones noted proudly.
Madalone says the restaurant - between the World Trade Center and South Street Seaport - is becoming a tourist attraction itself, complete with picture postcards that spread the word when visitors mail them to the folks back home.
Recently, a Fax Your Max order arrived at 2 a.m. - from Helsinki, Finland. Apparently, a tourist carried the order form home to Finland and, as a joke, faxed the transatlantic order: four Big Macs, two Quarter Pounders, fries, drinks and an Oriental chicken salad.
Happy but not yet content, Madalone dreams of evening waiter service; private dining rooms, where executives can munch Egg McMuffins during breakfast conferences; and an adjacent boutique selling pins, shirts and golf umbrellas with the McDonald’s logo.
″I’m having the time of my life,″ he says.