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Ibn Gvirol Street near Rabin Square in Tel Aviv should be nicknamed Fast-Food Lane. Almost every week, there seems to be a new fast-food joint opening up. A burger bar, two noodle bars and an Aroma cafe are just a few of the new competitors to the felafel and shwarma joints.
The newest kids on the block, Maya Taco Bar and Labane, provide healthy, light and exotic fast-food alternatives. Their open and inviting design, as well as their simple menus, make Maya and Labane ideal stops for a quick bite while strolling.
Maya Taco Bar is part of the worldwide "fast good" trend, in which quality food is served fast, fresh and tasty. Co-owner of Maya, Yaron Brown, doesn't think Mexican food in Israel can fly any other way.
Mexican food has never really made it big here, he says, because the usual greasy and heavy Tex-Mex fare doesn't suit the Mediterranean palate. So he teamed up with famed chef Amir Ilan (Dixie) to concoct a home-made taco blend that would appeal to Israeli tastes. The name "Maya" was chosen for its Mexican and Israeli connotations.
The tacos are prepared somewhat like wraps and are rapidly becoming a fast-good attraction. As one repeat customer volunteered: "I've been to all the taco bars in Israel, and this is by far the best."
Soft tortillas are flattened on the spot and filled with meat, chicken or vegetables cut to perfection; fresh salsa and guacamole; home-made refried beans; and secret spicy sauces. The tacos are prepared in such a way that the flavor of each filling is punchy and pure.
The tacos come in two sizes - regular (NIS 20-22) and large (NIS 26-28). None of the ingredients are fried or pre-packaged, and they are just as filling as shwarma lafas, minus the fat, carbs, greasy residue and after-smell.
Rehov Ibn Gvirol 54, Tel: (03) 696-0304
An elderly woman in traditional Druse garb pressing dough over a dome-shaped hotplate is the window display at Labane. The Israeli owners of Labane transplanted the pita maker to Tel Aviv from her Druse village to give the center of the country a taste of her native community.
The ingredients of this Mediterranean favorite are straightforward and authentic. The labane (a soft, sour cheese with about 7% fat), olive oil and olives all hail directly from the Druse village of Kfar Osafiah. The Druse pitas come in three flavors - sheep labane (NIS 12), goat labane NIS (15), and homemade humous (NIS 13). While not completely filling in themselves, they can serve as a quick and healthful snack.
Rehov Ibn Gvirol 82, Tel: (03) 522-2962