The McDonald's of the future lets you customize your burgers

Bored by McDonald's drive-through? How about a new place where you can customize your burgers

Except for a small, horizontal, black-and-white sign that reads “Create Your Taste,” you wouldn’t know that on a fairly bleak corner of downtown Los Angeles, McDonald’s has stealthily opened the only L.A. outlet that offers a new, automated program to customize burgers.

The Create Your Taste program arrived this spring at the McDonald's at 201 W. Washington Blvd., one of only 18 nationwide. 

The renovated restaurant has a distinct L.A. vibe. Nooks with padded benches, pendant lighting, murals of City Hall and other local landmarks decorate the walls. The front counter isn’t a solid, impenetrable monolith, but individual stations. 

Touch-screen kiosks that look like giant iPods take customers through the clerk-free customizing process. You can choose a 100% beef patty for $4.99 or a $5.74 burger with 1/3-pound of sirloin. Delivery is promised in eight to 10 minutes.

The options include bacon ($1.09 extra) and an assortment of buns, cheeses, toppings and sauces -- each an upgrade from the usual McDonald’s fare. Buns step up to the artisan roll, tender and buttery, or the sesame seed-topped premium bun, the ciabata roll or a green leaf lettuce wrap (goodbye iceberg). The cheese isn’t the usual industrial yellow lava, but a choice of natural sharp white cheddar, natural pepper jack and, because it’s still McDonald’s, American.

You can go crazy with toppings, at no additional charge: chili-lime tortilla strips, guacamole, red onion slices, tomatoes, pickles, grilled mushrooms, grilled onions and lettuce leaves. Sauces include the regular ketchup and mustard, but also sweet barbecue, creamy garlic and peppercorn.

A window populates alongside the order screen as you add burger elements, so that you can, perhaps, reconsider whether you really want pepper jack with jalapenos and peppercorn sauce. Other on-screen options allow you to “make it a meal” and add a drink and fries (order a la carte and you’ll pay more).

Pick up a pager and your food will be delivered to your table in a paper-lined metal basket; fries come in a mini mesh fry basket.

The taste? Better than the usual McDonald’s fare, but there’s still a compressed-by-machine feel to the patty. And no matter the fancy murals, it’s still McDonald’s -- where the Dollar Menu reigns supreme. For under $5 you can get a big sandwich, drink and fries. The Create Your Taste burgers, with fries and drinks for two, were $17.78.

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