The Hungry Midwest

America's Heartland And McDonald's

by Stephen Von Worley on October 20, 2009

Say what you may about Midwesterners, but one thing is for certain: they love to eat. With that in mind, I proudly unveil the first in a series of zooms of the McDistance Map – the Midwest United States as visualized by the distance to the nearest McDonald’s:

The Midwest In McDonald's

The Midwestern U.S. visualized by the distance to the nearest McDonald's.

At this scale, the individual McFiefdoms become more apparent. To the northwest, they cluster in tense armistice at Minneapolis, and counter-clockwise from there, at Omaha, Kansas City, St. Louis, Indianapolis, the sundry cities of Ohio, and points east. Running with the feudal metaphor, imagine the manager of each location, late at night, climbing to the red-tiled roof, donning his crown, and declaring “I am master of all I survey!” Oh, wait… That’s what they do at Burger King. Nevermind!

In the heart of the Midwest, we’re hard-pressed to find a viable McVoid, with the conspicuous exception of the large, pickle-shaped gap at the center of our map: Lake Michigan. Come summertime, fishermen, jetskiers, and party boaters frolic on its crystal waters by the thousands. Everyone’s living large and playing hard until, seemingly without warning, things get ugly: they’re offshore and famished. To the Eager Entrepreneur, would McDonald’s sell a franchise-on-a-barge? With a Boat Thru, preferably?

Home to eight million hungry mouths, the Chicago Metropolitan Area hugs Lake Michigan’s southwestern shores. There, in suburban Des Plaines, Ray Kroc, founder of the present-day McDonald’s corporation, opened his first location in April of 1955. This wasn’t the debut Micky Dee’s, however, for Kroc licensed the concept from brothers “Dick” and “Mac” McDonald, who had already established a small but successful collection of their namesake restaurants. For more information regarding that somewhat cantankerous saga, read this.

Number of McDonald’s in the entire state of Illinois, sixty years ago: zero. Within the fifty-mile purview of the Sears Tower’s 103rd-floor Skydeck, today: 424!

On this side of the country, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula wins the dubious distinction of Most McUnderendowed, by a landslide. Understandably, mind you, for the bears keep tearing apart the restaurants, and the cultivated tastebuds of the discerning Yooper are not easily impressed. Who needs Micky Dee’s when you got da pasties, eh?

Once again, thanks to AggData for providing the geolocated McDonald’s location information that made these maps possible. To view the full, coast-to-coast McDistance Map, see my original post, entitled “Where The Buffalo Roamed.”

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