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River North McDonald’s makeover: Rock ‘n’ roll theme leaves the stage

The owner of the Rock ‘n’ Roll McDonald’s unveiled its sleek, environmentally friendly transformation Wednesday ahead of the River North restaurant’s grand opening Thursday morning.

The redesign of the 600 N. Clark St. location replaces the retro look and pop-culture memorabilia of the Rock ‘n’ Roll McDonald’s with a modern steel and timber look that includes solar panels and a floating glass garden. The restaurant was closed in December for the remodel.

It also has self-serve kiosks — though there won’t be an special menu items like those at the restaurant inside the company’s West Loop headquarters. There is, however, a roomy dining area with lots of natural light, fast Wi-Fi and wireless phone charging ports. There’s also an outdoor dining space for those who’d rather take in the newly planted flowers and roughly 70 new trees along the perimeter of the building.

Nick Karavites, owner and operator of the franchise, said the new-look flagship — which loses the giant golden arches of its previous incarnation — signifies a forward step for the fast-food company as it moves to create an “experience of the future” for customers.

Nick Karavites

Nick Karavites, franchise owner of the newly redesigned McDonald’s restaurant at 600 N. Clark St. The new look abandons the rock ‘n’ roll theme for a sleek, glassy design. | Rahul Parikh / Sun-Times

Visitors can expect a “laser focus first on our customer, on our food, on the community and on our environment, as well as on our crew people,” Karavites said.

“It really speaks to the youth and creativity and forward-thinking that McDonald’s is as a company,” he added. “Because there are so many eyes on this McDonald’s we do have to illustrate what McDonald’s is capable of.”

Along with Karavites, designer of the new building Carol Ross Barney, of Ross Barney Architects, downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) and McDonald’s President and CEO Steve Easterbrook were also present for the unveiling of the redesign.

Reilly called it a “transformation from Rock ‘n’ Roll McDonalds to sustainable McDonald’s.”

“This is obviously a much more inviting, community space with a lot more public, open green space … the transparency of the building really invites the neighborhood, literally into the restaurant and that’s a big difference,” Reilly said.

“This was one of those rare projects downtown where the neighbors got excited about new changes coming to the neighborhood.”

Because of its environmental features, the flagship is applying to become LEED certified. It will operate 24 hours a day once it opens to the public at 6 a.m. Thursday.

new McDonald's flagship restaurant at 600 N. Clark St.

The newly redesigned flagship McDonald’s Clark and Ontario streets opens Thursday. It has a glassy, moden look. | Rahul Parikh/Sun-Times