McDonald's restaurants have always seemed to me to be a study in simple utility -- you've got a kitchen, some seating indoors if it's cold or rainy or snowy outside, and some seating outdoors if the weather is nice. Along with a parking lot, a drive-thru, and a couple of restrooms and you've got everything you need to enjoy your Big Mac or Happy Meal.

So I was surprised to recently learn that there is a McDonald's that goes way outside the bounds of this standard company model. In fact, it's built into a 168-year-old mansion in Freeport, Maine -- home of the iconic L.L. Bean outdoors clothing and equipment supplier.

So, why not the usual McDonald's building that you would find in any other city around the world?

Way back in the 1980s, McDonald's decided that it would like to open a restaurant in Freeport, a spot very popular with tourists who journey up Interstate 95 to descend on the town's outlet mall and aforementioned L.L. Bean store in droves.

However, Freeport has strict zoning regulations meant to keep the 1800s-vintage New England flavor of the town intact. McDonald's agreed to work within these regulations, and the Gore House mansion -- built in 1850 -- was completely transformed into a fully functioning McDonald's restaurant, minus the company's trademark golden arches.

Outside, the only clue that this is a McDonald's restaurant is the red and yellow "McDonald's" sign over the front door. Otherwise, it looks like the vintage New England clapboard mansion that it is. Inside, you're transported back in time as McDonald's designers were able to retain much of the vintage look of the mansion, including fancy wood chairs in place of the usual plastic benches.

But there's one thing on the menu that separates this McDonald's from the ones I frequent here in California: lobster rolls. While other East Coast McDonald's carry them, I personally think when you're in Maine, they've got to be that much better.

So if you're looking for a different place to eat the next time you find yourself on Interstate 95 heading north, then consider making a stop at this unique McDonald's in Freeport. I would just to check out those lobster rolls.

Published on: Mar 6, 2018