Chicago's iconic Rock ‘N’ Roll McDonald’s is demolished

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Chicago's iconic Rock ‘N’ Roll McDonald’s is demolished

Chicago's Rock ‘N’ Roll McDonald’s is demolished. (Todd Lappin/Flickr)

Chicago’s Rock ‘N’ Roll McDonald’s is no more.

Less than 13 years after it opened its doors, bulldozers tore apart the two-story burger building in River North. Although the owners describe the construction as a remodel, it could more accurately be described as a partial demolition: the kitchen will be the only element of the original double-arched structure to be incorporated into the replacement, a one-story joint that will feature none of the original’s panache.

The Rock ‘N’ Roll McDonald’s was much more than a restaurant. The upper story of the 24,000-square-foot building hosted a McDonald’s memorabilia museum and a cafe that served Italian coffee and pastries. It had a terraced green roof, and it was one of the only McDonald’s to have a two-lane drive-through. Chicago outsider artist and musician Wesley Willis immortalized it in a song. It even has its own Wikipedia page.

Upon learning the news, Chicagoans took to social media to depict and lament the destruction, which began in late December 2017.

The now-demolished building at 600 N Clark Street replaced another Rock ‘N’ Roll McDonald’s (built 1983) on the same site. Curbed Chicago reported that the new restaurant will have self-order stations and rooftop solar panels, and it’s expected to open this spring.

Rock ‘N’ Roll McDonald’s
Aerial view of the Rock ‘N’ Roll McDonald’s. (nathanmac87/Flickr)

The building paid homage to the restaurant’s first franchise location, in Des Plaines, Illinois, which was defined structurally by the yellow arches on either side of the main dining area. That historic fast food joint was demolished in November 2017.

Although nothing can replace those majestic golden arches, Chicago is a fertile test market for American fast food chains looking to extend their brands in urban areas. Three years ago, Taco Bell launched Taco Bell Cantina, a new 24-hour concept restaurant in Wicker Park that’s geared towards millennials and young professionals. In 2019, Starbucks is opening its third-in-the-country Starbucks Reserve Roastery, a four-story, 43,000-square-foot cafe at North Michigan Avenue and Erie Street in the Magnificent Mile.