Restaurant Reviews

I Smell a McRat

First, a rat. Next, a load of bullshit.

Can't wait to see what McDonald's serves up for Thanksgiving.

See, Chrissy Haley isn't suing the Southlake McDonald's and its corporate parent for $1.7 million just because she and her nanny found a dead rat in her Bacon Ranch Salad last summer. It's because, in the aftermath, the restaurant spouting family values has acted conniving, uncooperative, ignorant, apathetic and downright dishonest, almost as if it didn't give a rat's ass about customers.

All the wife of Dallas Cowboys assistant coach Todd Haley sought was an acknowledgment. An apology. Some peace of mind. But given McDonald's indifference, Chrissy's left with physical side effects from drastically altered eating habits, psychological side effects from the uncertainty of diseases the rat carried and, in the end, a drastic attempt to challenge the credibility of one of America's most powerful and popular institutions.

"This whole thing has opened my eyes to the fact that McDonald's really doesn't care," Chrissy says. "They act like they're all about children and mainstream America, but they're responsible for selling me a salad with a rat in it, and they've done absolutely nothing about it. They think they can get away with it, but I'm not going to let 'em forget about what they sold me or how they treated me."

McDonald's has long thrived as an alluring alchemy of mass-marketed crapola, unhealthy enough to avoid yet ubiquitous enough to indulge.

But a rat? Not in the corner, but in the food?! Buh-da-buh-buh-BUH...I'm Hatin' It!

Attempting to muffle its most damaging publicity since Super Size Me, McDonald's has offered up a deep-fried serving of counter-accusations and comical stupidity. Other than a single scripted statement, restaurant owner Ken Lobato has been mum, as have McDonald's local attorneys, deferring to corporate headquarters in Oak Brook, Illinois, to 'splain their stance.

"I'll go so far as to tell you that from reviewing the facts of our investigation, there is absolutely no reason to believe that object came from Ken Lobato's restaurant," says McDonald's U.S.A. spokesman Bill Whitman. "Likewise, there is no evidence or reason to believe the object ever passed through Ken Lobato's restaurant."

From those statements, one can deduce that McDonald's believes the rat was placed in the salad after it was given to Chrissy. Perhaps by Chrissy herself?

Says Whitman, "I can't at this time speak to whether or not this was an act of fraud."

Since it will not denounce the hoax theory, perhaps McDonald's intends to lean on it when the case goes to trial. Before then—and before we accept Whitman's argument—he should probably delve a tad deeper into the case. "Nobody wants to find out the origin of that object more than Ken, his team and us," Whitman continues. "We take this very seriously. Our reputation is on the line."

McOops. Contradicting that commitment to thoroughness is the fact that during our phone interview Whitman once references high marks given Lobato's restaurant by the "Irving Health Department" and later refers to the location of the Southlake McDonald's as "Irving County." When gently reminded that the restaurant doesn't sit in some fictional Wild West territory complete with tumbleweeds and horseback commuters, Whitman deadpans, "Well, where is it?"

Since Whitman, Lobato, McDonald's Dallas-based lawyer David Whitehurst and store employees refuse to divulge details concerning Cause No. 348 220912 06, the only way to determine how accidentally or intentionally a rat wound up in a salad is to hop in Chrissy's Ford Expedition on June 5, 2006.

On a sultry, sunny Monday, Todd Haley is at Cowboys headquarters in Valley Ranch finishing up a minicamp. At the family's upscale, two-story Colleyville home—past the horse farms; through winding, wooded roads; last cul-de-sac on your right—23-year-old live-in au pair Katy Kelley is watching three of the Haleys' four daughters: Ella (3 months), Kady (18 months) and Peyton (5).

Heading home from Southlake, Chrissy veers toward a place she knows will make her kids' day. A place she eats at three times a week. McDonald's.

She pulls into the drive-through lane at 2155 W. Southlake Blvd. at 2:59 p.m. Chrissy had lunch earlier but can rarely resist a favorite that she and Kelley often share—a Bacon Ranch Salad with grilled chicken. Or, as it reads on the label just below the "I'm Lovin' It!" sticker, "#76 Ranch SLD-Grl."

"I've lost track of how many times I've eaten it," Chrissy says, recently recounting the day in her living room. "Countless."

She pays the $13.81 bill and places two sacks and her Diet Coke in the passenger seat for the five-minute drive home. In the kitchen Kelley removes the salad, lays it on the wooden breakfast table, opens the clear top from the black, round plastic container and immediately squeezes out the packet of vinaigrette dressing. Then, as she has for years, she closes the lid and shakes the container to blend it just right.

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Richie Whitt
Contact: Richie Whitt