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June 16, 2021

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Secret’s in the sauce with BTS Meal

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The BTS Meal's new limited-time sauces, Cajun and Sweet Chili, at McDonald's in Chicago on May 26.
The BTS Meal's new limited-time sauces, Cajun and Sweet Chili, at McDonald's in Chicago on May 26. (Louisa Chu/Chicago Tribune) Photo Gallery

CHICAGO — The highly anticipated BTS Meal just dropped at McDonald’s locations across the United States on May 26.

The fast-food company, headquartered in the West Loop, said the wildly popular music group from Seoul, South Korea, picked the sauces, which were inspired by offerings at McDonald’s restaurants in South Korea.

The meal ($8.39) includes 10 chicken McNuggets, a medium order of fries, a medium Coca-Cola plus two sauces making their U.S. debut: Cajun and Sweet Chili. Both sauces are only available for a limited time and solely with the purchase of the special meal at participating locations after breakfast service ends at 10:30 a.m.

So yes, it’s all about the sauces. Which, incidentally, offers a tiny bit more than previous celebrity collaborations.

The Travis Scott Meal added bacon and limp shredded lettuce to a Quarter Pounder with cheese, plus medium fries with Tangy BBQ sauce and a medium Sprite with extra ice. (Yes, they touted the extra ice.) The J Balvin Meal took a more reductive approach, removing pickles from a Big Mac, paired with an Oreo McFlurry plus medium fries with ketchup. (Because who could have possibly ever thought of ketchup with fries.)

That’s not to say the new sauces are bad. In fact the pink-packaged, dark-red chile sauce tastes a bit like a solid sweet-and-sour, while the purple-packaged, pale-orange Cajun sauce nods at hot mustard and gochujang, the fermented Korean chile paste. Both actually hold a hint of heat. They may remind you of sauces once made at Chinese American chop suey restaurants, where you might find Chicago-style peanut butter egg rolls.

The sauces, when dipped with nuggets or fries, played as well together as a well-synchronized boy band’s dance moves: Smooth, but unsurprising.

The BTS Meal coincides with the release of the band’s record-breaking new single “Butter.” It’s the second English-language song by the band, whose name is an acronym of Bangtan Sonyeondan or Beyond the Scene. The band’s members are RM, Jin, SUGA, j-hope, Jimin, V and Jung Kook.

You can also find a black BTS T-shirt ($25) for sale at McDonald’s. All proceeds will go to Ronald McDonald House Charities. The nonprofit is dedicated to supporting families with sick children.

The latest celebrity collaboration is available at the McDonald’s Global Menu restaurant on the ground floor of the headquarters building. That location is currently not offering any of the global menu items, however, due to the pandemic, said an employee by phone.

McDonald’s workers held a rally and strike outside the building May 19 demanding a $15 per hour minimum wage. The company reported a $4.7 billion profit last year.