From a Tex-Mex fiesta to a cozy Shabbat meal: Israel's once-a-week wonders

Mexicali and Buy the Way offer warming winter meals

Mexicali Tex-Mex (photo credit: Courtesy)
Mexicali Tex-Mex
(photo credit: Courtesy)
 The pandemic has spawned more than one food-delivery enterprise owned by chefs operating out of their home kitchens. One noteworthy example is Mexicali Tex-Mex, the brainchild of Tekoa resident Chanan Elias, a California native who is ordinarily a musician, until all his bookings were canceled for a year. 
Elias has carved out a unique niche with cuisine he describes as “Tex-Mex or Cali-Mex,” adding, “all the dishes are vegetarian, with vegan options, since many of my customers keep kosher.” Elias has even devised his own plant-based meat substitute, a blend of soy protein and seitan, engineered to emulate the stringy texture of meat in Mexican dishes. 
The menu is not extensive, but it includes many familiar entrées, side dishes and condiments. Deliveries (for a flat fee of NIS 25) go out one day a week each to three cities – Jerusalem, Modi’in and Tel Aviv – while residents of Judea may pick up their orders. 
The bilingual, illustrated menu features as main dishes three versions of burrito (NIS 55), one enchilada (NIS 75), a quesadilla (NIS 40) and a nachos kit (NIS 70). Occasionally, tamales are available as a special.
Side dishes include nacho chips (NIS 25), guacamole (NIS 20), red rice (NIS 20), black beans (NIS 25), one kind of empanada (NIS 30), red salsa (NIS 30), green salsa (NIS 35) and three Mexicali exclusives: home-brew habanero hot sauce (NIS 15), chipotle-lime sour cream (NIS 10) and jalapeno-lime jam (NIS 35). It is also possible to order extra flour and/or corn tortillas. 
Of the three burrito variations, Elias recommended I try the Green Burrito, a wet pastor burrito stuffed with Mexicali’s distinctive meat substitute, red rice and frijoles (black beans), then baked in salsa verde (green salsa) and topped with melted cheese. This is a monster burrito, and the best I have had in Israel in recent memory – not to mention the best vegetarian one ever. 
This was a tough act for the Enchiladas Cazuela to follow, but the spelt flour tortillas layered with refried black beans, a three-cheese blend and Mexicali’s own mole sauce was up to the challenge. It was an equally generous serving – like the burrito, more than enough for two people to share – and represented a balanced and pleasing interplay of exotic flavors.
Other standout dishes were the crunchy nacho corn chips; the golden-brown cheese-and-bean empanadas; the side of creamy refried black beans, which instantly grew addictive; and the fire-roasted tomato salsa, with just the right amount of heat. 
Finally, deserving of special mention are the complex mole sauce, a staple of Mexican regional cuisine but a rare treat in Israel, and the jalapeno-lime jam, an enchanting chutney that has quickly become a go-to condiment in my refrigerator.
Mexicali Tex-Mex 
Kosher (vegetarian/vegan) 
Jerusalem-Judea-Tel Aviv. Phone: (052) 240-1479 
Traditional Shabbat takeaway from an unlikely source
Buy the Way is a bakery-cum-restaurant and ice-cream parlor that is conveniently located right on busy Route 4, just north of the main intersection linking Ra’anana, Kfar Saba and Hod Hasharon. Situated in a compound it shares with a gas station and car wash, one could be forgiven for thinking it is a mere truck-stop joint. But the quality of the restaurant’s food – especially its bountiful salads – belies that definition. 
Recently, Buy the Way began offering a weekend menu ideally suited for wintry weekends. Under the menu heading Advance Orders (NIS 55-140), one finds dishes – including vegetarian/vegan options – that will take the work out of the most labor-intensive traditional Shabbat fare. Moreover, they come in giant aluminum takeaway pots whose contents will serve four to six people. 
Although I was tempted by the fiery chreimeh, I stuck to familiar Ashkenazi offerings, starting with the chicken soup. Far from a consommé with kneidlach affair, this was a broth laden with vegetables – carrots, onions, celery, turnips and more – plus a huge piece of tender white-meat chicken. Additional flavor came from the liberal inclusion of parsley and dill. Not quite your grandmother’s soup but more than acceptable, and a notch above most of your Shabbat takeaway places.
What is Shabbat this time of year without hamin – cholent – and this pot was brimming with all the stick-to-your-ribs ingredients: beans, potatoes, kishka (sans the derma), and even hard-boiled eggs (shell on) serving as the protein component, since – surprise, surprise! – this is a vegetarian version. Nonetheless, I found it not only hearty and filling, but downright tasty.
Finally, there was the third sine qua non: lokshen kugel. This is authentic Jerusalem kugel, with its characteristic slightly peppery overtones balanced by a hint of sweetness. The quality was right up there with the best you would find in Mahaneh Yehuda, or in your local synagogue at kiddush. 
Finally, adding to the convenience of your one-stop erev-Shabbat shop is the availability of Buy the Way’s hallot (both sesame and poppy), cakes and cookies, all baked on the premises. 
Buy the Way 
Not kosher 
Northbound Route 4, Ra’anana Junction 
Phone: (09) 742-4600. 
Online menu (Hebrew only): 
The writer was a guest of the restaurants.