Happy Cinco De Mayo: Israel’s Mexican Restaurants Get Into the Holiday Spirit

Celebrate in style with these festive specials at selected Tel Aviv eateries.

Afik Gabay

As if we didn’t have enough holidays of our own, the opening of more and more Mexican restaurants in recent years means food lovers have started to also mark Cinco de Mayo in Israel. Cinco de Mayo (Spanish for May 5), which is celebrated throughout Mexico and in many areas of the United States, commemorates the Mexican army’s surprise victory over French forces in the Battle of Puebla.

A bit of history might be useful: During those years, Mexico was fighting for its independence against European forces trying to occupy it from several directions. After it succeeded in signing withdrawal agreements with Spain and England, it still had to confront French forces led by Napoleon III, who persisted in his efforts at conquest. On May 5, 1862, a well-armed French force of some 6,000 troops attacked the city of Puebla de Los Ángeles, which was defended by only 2,000 Mexican soldiers lacking supplies and equipment. Nevertheless, after a battle that lasted an entire day, the Mexicans managed to decisively rout the French army.

This battle was not the most important one in Mexico’s history – nor did it even manage to defeat the French, who ultimately withdrew only six years later. But it was important for Mexican morale, representing the triumph of spirit over power, and demonstrating the Mexicans’ ability to preserve their independence. That’s why Cinco de Mayo has become a national holiday, although it is perhaps even more important to the Mexican expat community, primarily in the United States, where it’s an opportunity to take pride in one’s origins.

The holiday is marked with displays of all aspects of Mexican culture. But as befits any real celebration, there’s a focus on food and alcohol. So how can we not celebrate here in Israel when there’s been a wave of Mexican restaurants opening in recent months? Most local Mexican establishments are celebrating Cinco de Mayo all week, in conjunction with Tres Pesos, a company that imports Mexican food products. Along with special dishes for the holiday, the restaurants are offering products and ingredients to take home. Tres Pesos’ store in Holon is also selling its products at a 10 percent discount all week.

Here are this week’s specials at various Tel Aviv eateries:

El Taco is offering taco arrachera: thinly sliced steak in a marinade of roasted tomatoes, dried chili peppers, vinegar, lime and spices. It’s served with red onion salsa, lime, coriander and an avocado wedge (18 shekels).

El Taco, 17 Yirmiyahu Street

Mexicana will be serving molotes con carne, a corn dough filled with ground beef and fried onions. Two portions are served on a bed of lettuce with salsa roja and sour cream, red onion salsa, jalapeños, oranges and lime (59 shekels).

Mexicana, 7 Bograshov Street

Mezcal is making sopes de papa con chorizo – shells from cornmeal filled with potato and chorizo sausages, avocado wedges, coriander and lime (two pieces for 32 shekels).

Mezcal, 2 Vital Street

Taqueria is featuring beef enchiladas in adobo and pineapple, served in habanero pepper sauce and pineapple next to a salad of pineapple, baby radishes and red peppers (38 shekels). In addition, today the restaurant is offering a tequila chaser with every margarita.

Taqueria, 28 Levantine Street

Changos offers ensenada-style fish tacos, pico de gallo (a chopped salad) and sweet corn (3 tacos for 45 shekels).

Changos, 25 Washington Boulevard

Los Burning Tacos will corrupt you as usual with a pork taco – slow-cooked pork belly meat with pineapple, morita peppers, pork broth, guacamole, onion, tomatoes and coriander on a corn taco (3 tacos for 39 shekels).

Los Burning Tacos, 47 Allenby Street

Pancho: The most recent addition to the wave of Mexican restaurants is offering cornmeal platos with chicken and avocado in a lemon and coriander sauce, topped with green salsa. It’s served with red Mexican rice and black beans (38 shekels).

Pancho, 1 Tchernichovsky Street

Benedict is not exactly a Mexican restaurant, but it always offers ethnic dishes. Here you’ll find a Mexican breakfast of huevos rancheros (a rancher’s breakfast in Mexico): chili con carne – a spicy dish of ground beef, black beans and hot peppers – with two fried eggs, guacamole, and a salsa of tomatoes and coriander on a tortilla (62 shekels).

Benedict, branches in Tel Aviv, Herzliya and Rishon Letzion