Even casual fans of John Landis's 1988 classic 'Coming To America' will recognize the "Golden Arcs" of Cleo McDowell's (John Amos) eponymous fast-food chain. The McDonald's competitor -- "They got the Big Mac, I got the Big Mick" -- factors prominently in the tale of Akeem (Eddie Murphy), an African prince that travels to the U.S. to find a bride.

When Akeem is establishing his roots in America, he must find a menial job to belie his riches and princely status in Zamunda. Taking a job as a janitor at McDowell's, it's here that the New York transplant first meets Lisa, daughter of company head Cleo McDowell (who strangely spends an inordinate time at one franchise for someone who owns a chain of fast-food spots) and tries to steal her from boyfriend Darryl (Eriq La Salle).

Even casual fans of John Landis' 1988 classic 'Coming To America' will recognize the "Golden Arcs" of Cleo McDowell's (John Amos) eponymous fast-food chain. The McDonald's competitor -- "They got the Big Mac, I got the Big Mick" -- factors prominently in the tale of Akeem (Eddie Murphy), an African prince who travels to the U.S. to find a bride.

When Akeem is establishing his roots in America, he must find a menial job to belie his riches and princely status in Zamunda. Taking a job as a janitor at McDowell's, it's here that the New York transplant first meets Lisa, daughter of company head Cleo McDowell (who strangely spends an inordinate time at one franchise for someone who owns a chain of fast-food spots) and tries to steal her from boyfriend Darryl (Eriq La Salle).


Location as Character: To achieve a sense of social isolation and working-class locale, the producers ventured far out of Manhattan into Elmhurst, Queens, to use an actual Wendy's. No need for exterior sets here; nothing Hollywood could dream up can match the gritty, stark environment afforded by the building's location directly on Queens Blvd., one of the borough's busiest roads. In the film, the fast-food restaurant also serves as the spot when Lisa first begins to fall for Akeem after he and his servant Semmi (Arsenio Hall) foil a bank robber (Samuel L. Jackson).

Historical Significance: Elmhurst, NY, is not known for much outside its own environs, and while the film temporarily transformed the location into a cultural curiosity, the area itself remains working-class and residential -- AKA it's doubtful that tourists, notwithstanding any die-hard 'Coming to America' fans, will end up anywhere near here.




Fun Fact: Given the franchise's similarity to McDonald's -- a revelation heavily exploited in the film -- the film's producers had to obtain permission from McDonald's to use the similar-sounding name. At one point during shooting, a real-life McDonald's manager, unaware that a movie was being shot, threatened to sue before being told the full details.

Directions: Wendy's is located at 85-07 Queens Blvd. in the Elmhurst section of Queens. From Manhattan, take the Midtown Tunnel near 34th St. and First Ave. to Exit 19 on 495-E. Exit onto Woodhaven Blvd. and make left onto Queens Blvd.

Visitor Info: There are many things to do in Queens, none of which are remotely located near this establishment. But if you do have any interest in viewing cinematic quasi-history or just getting a Baconator Triple, remember that Queens Boulevard is referred to locally as the "Boulevard of Death" for its disproportionally high number of traffic accidents and pedestrians hit by cars. Have fun!


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