Greg Barila

Journalist. Editor. Social Media specialist.

Coming to America..... and finding McDowell's!

Before Eddie Murphy started making an ass of himself as the voice of a donkey in an animated film franchise he used to be COOL. And swear like a [censored] [censored]! 

Back then, at the height of his coolness, Murphy was a big shot actor and appeared in a string of iconic films - some of which were actually pretty good (see: 48hrs, Beverley Hills Cop).

In 1988, as anyone with at least 25 years under their belts will know, he starred in the romance/comedy Coming to America, alongside James Earl Jones and Arsenio Hall (Exactly. Who?)

Was it a cinematic masterpiece? No. Was it warm and comforting like mashed potato? Hell yes!
And clearly, with a critics rating of 65 per cent and audience thumbs up of 82 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes, I'm not the only one who thinks so.
In case you've lost some of the threads that make up the complex tapestry that is the plot, Murphy plays a prince from the fictitious African country Zamunda who travels to America to find an independent woman who'll love him for him, and not because he's rich and royally loaded.

To keep his true origins secret, Murphy and his personal aide Semmi (Hall) pretend to be poor foreign students and Murphy gets a job at "McDowell's" a fast-food chain whose name and golden arches bear more than a passing resemblance to that other burger joint starting with "M".

A fast-food knock-off.. but of WHAT. McDavid's? McDowd's? McDels.. McDans... ARGHH!

Being just nine when the film was released (let's not dwell on that for too long) and living, as I did then, in a small country town in the time before McDonalds had hung up its first shingle in our main street, films like Coming to America were wondrous and educational.

How exotic did a cheeseburger seem to me back then? How strange and interesting were these people they call "African-Americans", so different in so many ways from everyone I knew or had ever seen.

Naturally, when I finally arrived in New York myself, I made seeking out the location of the famous "McDowell's" one of my first orders of business (Sorry, Empire State Building).

My research suggested a long and expensive cab ride into the dull and outer reaches of suburban Queens - but in the end finding the place wasn't much of a stretch. I recognized it right away.

"McDowell's, on Queens Boulevard in Elmhurst, Queens is still serving up burgers, albeit now with
all the profits going to that other purveyor of fine burger products, Wendy's (see below).

I was surprised (and far more excited than I should have been) to discover the interior and layout of of the restaurant were exactly the same as all those years ago when Murphy used a mop to overpower Samuel L Jackson (who eventually gave up his life of crime and became an actor) when he tried to rob the joint.

Sadly, Wendy's hasn't bothered to note the significance of its location - no scenes from the movie, no signed memorabilia, no photos from the filming. Like Zamunda, it's like the place never even existed.  And yet there it sits. That ugly brown building on Queens Blvd, in Queens, in the city of New York. Good to know, if you're coming to America.