McFalafel – Rehovot
There are some things in life that when you see an advertisement for, you know you have to try. Like the Wii, or watching a 3D movie. I was walking down Allenby (in Tel Aviv) last Wednesday and saw a poster for something I knew I had to have once before I left Israel: it read “Hadash, McFalafel.”
At first I thought it was a joke, but it turns out it wasn’t. It had apparently been on the news last week: McDonald’s was trying to get more in touch with their market and decided to introduce more ethnic foods. Of course most Israelis were highly critical of the McFalafel, saying it was an Americanized, bastardized version of one of their most prized dishes. But was it? Falafels are chick peas mashed up and deep fried, basically what McDonald’s does best. Maybe they would do it best, and besides, how much worse could it be? I had to know.
The following Shabbat my friend and I walked to the McDonald’s near the Weizmann Institute. My blog is by now infamous for all the dense unwanted historical background it provides, so before we begin with the food review, we will explore the history of McDonald’s in Israel. McDonald’s was only introduced in Israel in 1993, because of the Arab League Boycott of Israel (pretty much the Arab States tried to isolate Israel economically, and threatened to boycott McDonald’s if they opened in Israel. McDonald’s soon realized that no one boycotts McDonald’s so they did it anyway). There are two types of McDonald’s in Israel, a red and a blue. The blue McDonald’s are kosher, meaning they serve kosher meat and do not have any dairy products in their kitchens. Only one other kosher McDonald’s exists in the world and it’s in Argentina (obviously). The red McDonald’s are normal, and can serve you cheeseburgers and ice cream (although that probably isn’t dairy so much as chemicals), and are open on Shabbat and Jewish holidays. Also, McDonald’s Israel cooks all their meat and buns over charcoal.
We arrived at the McDonald’s and ordered our meals. I had a Laffa (a flat bread wrapped around the McFalafels), and Esther had the McFalafel only meal. The “value meals” cost us each 39.5 NIS ($11, or about two Chipotle burritos). Guess how happy I was. The meals took about 20 minutes to prepare (about the time it takes four Chipotle burritos to be made). This had better be the best falafels I’ve ever had.
After waiting we sat down outside (so no one would stare at me for taking pictures of McFalafels) and began to slowly enjoy our food. I was so nervous I was shaking. What would the McFalafel be like? I peered into the little green box. Would really be lovin’ it? The first thing that was strange (besides the fact that we were eating falafels at McDonald’s), was that the falafels were not balls, but instead they were shaped into patties. Also they were dry. What was cool was that the meals came with special dipping sauces (the green one tasted like tehina, a hummus like paste based on seasame, and a spicier version – the red one). I say tasted like because I can’t be sure it was actually tehina.
The laffa was a little better than the falafel nuggets. The wrap had the normal Israeli chopped vegetables (tomatoes and cucumbers), with the green sauce inside. After forcing down our food (proof below) we realized (and I’m going to be shot here for saying this) that these weren’t the worst falafels I had eaten. Those would be in the United States.
When we got up to throw away our trash we looked around and saw that many of our fellow patrons were also enjoying the McFalafels. Who knows, maybe the falafels will do so well in Israel that they’ll bring it over to the US. Or Argentina. Our overall experience can be summed up by McDonald’s (click to enlarge):
“It doesn’t get more Israeli than this”
Oh wait, actually it does:
I also wrote this review for the Caltech Newspaper to publish. It is every bit as good as the previous food reviews and much more exotic.
Update: a real review of the McFalafel