Whatever Happened To The McDonald's Hula Burger?

As Huey Lewis once sang, "it's hip to be square," and perhaps that rings true for McDonald's Filet-O-Fish. For over 56 years, the sandwich with its delightfully square fish patty has been a trademark of the McDonald's menu. While other attempts at seafood such as the Fish McBites back in 2013 (via USA Today) have floundered on the beach, the Filet-O-Fish has swum through the ages as Mickey Dee's fast-food fishy favorite. In fact, even former United States President Donald Trump has proudly voiced his support for the Filet-O-Fish, calling it the "Fish Delight" (via The Daily Meal).

The story behind the Filet-O-Fish may sound fishy at first, coming from an almost rags-to-riches story. According to official McDonald's history, in 1962, McDonald's franchisee Lou Groen was noticing a severe decrease in sales around Lent and, already struggling with poor sales at the same time, decided to invent a fish sandwich to appeal to meat-avoiding Catholics during the Lenten season. While current president Ray Kroc was doubtful about the idea, stating the restaurants would reek of fish, he decided to give it a shot in a popularity contest. In select locations, the masses could choose between Groen's fish sandwich or Kroc's own "Hula Burger" prototype. In the end, 350 fish sandwiches were sold, compared to a paltry six Hula Burgers. Kroc purchased Groen a new suit for his prize, and the Filet-O-Fish was there to stay. But one question remains: Just what was the Hula Burger, and what made it so unappetizing?

The Hula Burger was just pineapple and cheese

 Yes, you read that right. Fifty-six years before introducing the first meatless burger in 2021 (via the Daily Mail), McDonald's took the concept of "plant-based" further than you would think. The Hula Burger had no beef patty nor special sauce, but consisted solely of a grilled pineapple ring served on your average McDonald's bun with a slice of golden American cheese. While it's not exactly clear just what exactly Kroc was thinking when he tried to market this — it's even theorized he was trying to shoot down Groen's Filet-O-Fish just to push this "burger" onto the menu (via Smithsonian). Although the Hula Burger has never again been seen on the modern menu, it's still remembered today, although in a way Kroc probably didn't intend.

Reader's Digest declared the Hula Burger as one of McDonald's biggest flops, simply because people, oddly enough, didn't like it. Even Redditors took a few potshots at this unconventional burger.

"Of course, the Filet-O-Fish won," wrote user u/lastpulley, commenting on the cooking process of this simple burger. "They didn't even peel the pineapples and then grilled them until they were black."

"Hula burger? Fried pineapple slices between two pieces of bread is about as sad as a meal gets" said user u/scarlettspider, perhaps summarizing public opinion on the Hula Burger.

The next time you buy a Filet-O-Fish, remember to thank Lou Groen and the less-than-fondly remembered Hula Burger that tried to beat it.