A new plant-based fast-food restaurant in Los Angeles is turning heads for its tongue-in-cheek branding that might seem a little, well, familiar.
Mr. Charlie's could easily be mistaken for McDonald's if you aren't paying attention. Its storefront is decked out in red and gold, along with a very familiar smile that just happens to be upside down in a frown. There are red cardboard boxes in the window, the packaging for the restaurant's "Unhappie Meal."
And inside, the space — and the website — is decorated with Andy Warhol's Marilyn Monroe image superimposed with very Ronald McDonald-like clown makeup.
Editor's note: This story has been revised since publication.
@caroleeny Vegan version of McDonald’s in LA! #LeenyEats #LA #vegan #review #MrCharlies #Foodie #laeats ♬ That's Not My Name - The Ting Tings
It's clearly a statement against the global fast-food giant, though owner Charlie Kim plays coy when asked about the connection, possibly under advisement from an attorney. He ate a lot of fast food as a kid, but his wife's veganism inspired him to make a change, and he wants to "do something more for the planet."
The restaurant has exploded on TikTok since it opened in February, thanks in large part to a video posted by superstar singer Lizzo. She eats an Unhappie Meal, including the lookalike fries, nuggets, and burger, and gives all of the food a resounding "mmmm."
All of Mr. Charlie's employees are from an organization that provides resources for people transitioning out of homelessness or incarceration. Between that and providing a vegan fast-food alternative, the restaurant has definitely earned some fans — but who knows how long it will remain in its current form if McDonald's gets a say. So if you want to sink your teeth into a "Not a Cheeseburger" without the immense weight of global capitalism on your shoulders, get to Mr. Charlie's soon.
Gallery: Where to Find Plant-Based Fast Food