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At Viva McDonald’s, Big Macs and fries live on

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Photo: Allison Duck

Both of the new 8,600-square-foot restaurant’s state-of-the-art kitchens were operating at full strength Tuesday night, churning out Big Macs and crispy chicken sandwiches by the dozen. Order after order of the chain’s famous French fries were dished out, too, all deep-fried and seasoned to crispy, greasy, salty perfection.

Yet audiences previewing the new Viva McDonald’s on Las Vegas Boulevard were also treated to food supplied by an off-site caterer – and drinks from a bar that served red and white wine, bottled beer and a martini created especially for the event.

VIP Soft Opening @ Viva McDonald's

So-called “vivatinis” weren’t served in the chain’s standard red and white plastic cups or with the signature yellow straw; they came in martini glasses rimmed with yellow sugar.

Viva McDonald’s, which faces the Riviera and was built next door to another 25-year-old and the soon-to-be-shuttered McDonald’s location, will not be licensed to serve alcohol when it opens on Dec. 11.

The restaurant, therefore, will not be able to sell the beer, wine or libations that flowed so freely on Tuesday night.

It won’t be serving a lot of the food that was showcased, either, as a variety of not-so-fast food was brought in for the ravenous supper-hour crowd.

Dinnertime selections on Tuesday included roast beef with gravy, pasta and meatballs, and a variety of roasted vegetables, cheeses and fresh fruit.

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Viva McDonald's
What: New restaurant featuring four large video screens outside, a 14-TV “media ring” inside, and wireless internet.
Where: 2896 S. Las Vegas Boulevard, across from the Riviera
When: Grand opening on Dec. 11 from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m., open 24/7.
mcdonalds.com

Naturally, the soda fountain was open if previewing audiences wanted to wash down their chicken penne alfredo with a Coke. As crowds mixed and mingled to the sounds of an Elvis impersonator, trays of baby mozzarella, basil and cherry tomato skewers, prosciutto-wrapped asparagus, shrimp salad-topped cucumber slices and beef empanadas were passed.

For dessert, besides McDonaldland cookies, McFlurries and baked apple pies, patrons were also treated to chocolate-dipped strawberries, lemon bars, and chocolate cups filled with fruit or chocolate mousse.

It’s sort of funny whenever a restaurant serves another establishment’s food – but when McDonald’s chooses to provide alternate entrées and gourmet-inspired hors d’oeuvres, it really says something.

Something like, “We know our food isn’t that good, so try this instead,” or, “Here, you’ll probably enjoy this a lot more than a Fillet-O-Fish.”

Of course none of the McDonald’s executives on hand on Tuesday night were saying anything along those lines. Most were too busy giving tours of the shiny new kitchens or showcasing the main dining lobby’s “media center” (read: a ring of televisions displaying weather information and a string of short-format documentaries from the likes of Animal Planet and the Discovery Channel that were specially-produced for McD’s).

Even more interesting than the alternative food choices, however, was that fact that much of the crowd turned their noses up at the more upscale offerings.

As many people lined up for Big Macs and McNuggets as they did for roast beef; they chose cheddar on all-beef patties over brie and blue cheese; and fresh grilled vegetables were passed up for grilled chicken sandwiches.

If Tuesday was any indication, McDonald’s classics are as popular now as ever. “Viva McDonald’s,” indeed.

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Melissa Arseniuk

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