There are over 34,000 McDonald’s restaurants throughout the world, but none can compare to the one in the Los Angeles suburb of Downey, California. The Downey restaurant is an original: it dates back to 1953 and it’s the oldest operating McDonald’s location in the world.
The original McDonald’s (Photo: Melanie Dunea)
The restaurant hasn’t lost its charm — many of the period details have been preserved, including the McDonald’s arch. The restaurant has a simple menu and no indoor seating, but you can definitely get a burger and fries, and while you’re at it, an apple pie. The pies here are unique because they’re still deep-fried, the way McDonald’s used to make them. (Too far away to grab a fried pie at the Downey McDonald’s? Try this recipe to make one at home.
Owner Ron Piazza says the pies are kind of a signature dish for this restaurant, and that people will sometimes buy six at a time. For Piazza, it’s all a throwback to his youth. He started working at McDonald’s as a teenager back in 1967 when he made a dollar an hour. Today, he owns several McDonald’s restaurants, but none of them as unique and special as the one in Downey.
A shot of a vintage poster inside the restaurant (Photo: Melanie Dunea)
“Really, everything’s changed outside of this McDonald’s,” he says. “This is really a little place in history that stayed as close to original as possible.”
What: The oldest operating McDonald’s in the world in Downey, California.
Why Go: For the nostalgic fifties charm, a chance to see Speedy, and a fried apple pie.
Where: 10207 Lakewood Boulevard, Downey, Calif.
Fun Fact: Ronald McDonald was NOT McDonald’s original mascot. The first mascot was a chef named Speedy, and you can see him at the top of the arch at the Downey restaurant.
The original McDonald’s mascot (Photo: Melanie Dunea)
If you’re really craving a burger after reading about McDonald’s, check out my recent visit to Franklin & Company Tavern in Los Angeles for a burger that’s served in a drink.
“Photo Tripping” is a video series from Yahoo Travel, hosted by renowned celebrity photographer Melanie Dunea (author of My Last Supper). Melanie takes us on a photographic journey with her as she visits America’s top cities, exploring off-the-beaten-path spots to experience the best tastes, sounds, and sights the city has to offer. Going on recommendations of her friends — chefs, celebrities and tastemakers, a couple of whom even come along for the ride — we uncover some truly special places, seen through the lens of a photographer.