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McRib rollout finds fast foodies feverish for the flavor

It’s pork pressed into a boneless patty resembling a rib slab and slathered in barbecue sauce, topped with slivered onions and pickle slices, all served on a toasted bun. But for many McDonald’s fans, it’s McHeaven.

“Hell, yeah, it’s the McRib sandwich,” said Jerome Clark, 30, of the North Side. “I love it. It’s the best-tasting sandwich McDonald’s has ever had.”

The company this week reintroduced the sandwich in Pittsburgh. Although the McRib has been marketed in certain cities since its inception in 1981, this week marked the first nationwide offering since 1994. It will be available until Nov. 22. Some local restaurants began offering the sandwich last week as part of a soft rollout, McDonald’s said.

The Internet is filled with blogs and websites dedicated to the McRib. A “McRib Locator” is set up at www.kleincast.com/maps/mcrib.php, where fans listed nearly 4,500 sightings in the past week. A Twitter page called “McRibWatch” has more than 400 followers, while a McRib page on Facebook had more than 5,000 fans this morning.

There have been reports of fans driving hours to markets hawking the McRib, which has achieved cult-like status with story lines on popular television shows such as “The Simpsons,” “The King of Queens” and “How I Met Your Mother.”

“We are well aware of the legend of McRib,” said Rick Rehak, McDonald’s regional marketing director based in Robinson. “The grassroots efforts help add to that legend.”

Clark said he got hooked on the specialty sandwich while living in Canton, Ohio. He moved to Pittsburgh in February.

He adds a twist to his McRib — he dips it in sweet and sour sauce.

“It tastes so delicious,” said Clark, who works at La Casa, a Spanish restaurant in Shadyside. “It makes your palate explode.”

Patrick Cominsky, 19, of West Mifflin bought two yesterday.

“I was pretty pumped for them to be back,” Cominsky said.

The sandwich was last offered in Pittsburgh in 2006-07, Rehak said.

McDonald’s markets the McRib in a way to build its mystique and drive demand, Rehak said. He declined to give sales figures or goals.

“Just by the look of things,” he said, “the demand has been exactly what we expected.”

Even with the hype, not everyone is a fan.

“I thought it was gross,” said Clayton Wise, 33, of Monroeville, after polishing one off yesterday. “I had one a long time ago and didn’t like it then either. But I thought I’d try it because everyone else was.”

Wise, by far, was in the minority of McRib eaters interviewed yesterday.

Don Spagnolo reviewed the McRib for his website, “Mondesi’s House,” a Pittsburgh sports site that gets more than 200,000 hits per month.

“You only live once, and that life probably gets shorter with every McRib you put down,” Spagnolo wrote Oct. 27 in his Nerd vs. Food column. “Regardless, I say try one anyway.”

Spagnolo isn’t kidding when he says he enjoys the McRib. He had one for lunch yesterday in Belle Vernon.

“There was one on every table, and the place was packed,” said Spagnolo, 33, of Monessen. “There’s something about the way McDonald’s markets them. People know it’s not good for them, but it’s a guilty pleasure.”


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