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Photo: PR
Merica
Photo: PR
Buzzy Gordon
Affordable gluttony
Review: An ambitious new restaurant offers 'All You Can Eat' American and Mexican food every Sunday, at a price that won’t break the bank.

A recent article in the Hebrew press listing Tel Aviv restaurants with the nicest courtyards cited America Tel Aviv for its pleasant, spacious al fresco areas, which are shared among three subsidiaries: Merica soul food, Gringos Tacos Mexican kitchen, and Johnson, a large, casual bar that anchors the compound.

 

 

True to American tradition, Merica and Gringos not only serve representative dishes of their respective cuisines, they provide the opportunity to gorge on all of them until your stomach cries uncle: every Sunday afternoon and evening, there is an “all you can eat“ menu of 18 dishes, for the very reasonable price of NIS 100 a person. There are also special discounts on wine, beer and cocktails.

 

The 11 specialty cocktails here also reflect both American and Mexican influences. The Maple Julep replicates the original mint julep, with maple syrup replacing simple syrup as the sweetener, while the Chiquitita—rum, amaretto, sage and lime—is pleasantly complex.

 

Merica may classify its cuisine as soul food, but it actually serves a wide range of comfort food, including American classics like macaroni and cheese—which, fortunately, is one of the dishes on the Sunday menu. The version here is a bit more upscale, drenching the pasta with a fondue of cheeses, plus Parmesan and a sprinkling of sage crumble.

 

 

Besides mac ‘n cheese, few things are more quintessentially American than burgers and chicken wings, both represented here in various forms. The burgers on the Sunday menu are sliders, smaller versions of the ones on the main menu: a plain burger (called the Brooklyn) and a cheeseburger, both with caramelized onions and America sauce, a zesty version of Thousand Island dressing. If you like hamburgers, you’ll want to try both (you can always ask for the sauce on the side, and go with regular ketchup, mustard or barbecue sauce).

 

There is a third slider on the menu as well, the Crispy Chick, basically a fried chicken sandwich. We enjoyed the white meat chicken separately from the bun (and more than the other fried chicken item on the menu, which were chicken legs paired with waffles).

 

 

The wings here are also excellent, although the Buffalo wings come with milder dips—BBQ sauce, and an imaginative tarragon mustard—than that which accompanies Buffalo wings in the USA. If you want something spicier, request the sauce that comes with the “hot wings.”

 

Funnily enough, one of our favorites was a surprise Cuban entry listed on the American side of the menu: the Medianoche, a grilled panino stuffed with pork, salami and cheese. It was unfortunate I was almost full by the time I tasted it, because I definitely would have ordered a second one.

 

 

There are fewer Mexican options than American ones, but the tacos are outstanding—especially the al pastor: marinated chicken with roasted pineapple and onion, coriander and red salsa. This is probably the best taco I have had in Israel, while the taco tinga del pollo, also featuring chicken, is a close second.

 

There is also a taco vegetariano, one of the few vegetarian dishes on the Sunday menu (There are two nachos choices that fit this bill as well, but I cannot really recommend either one of them).

 

 

Both salads on the menu are quite good, although the Frisco is little more than a conventional tossed salad with a Caesar-like dressing—basically a Cobb salad without the bacon. The Pink Lady is more exceptional: beets, watercress, onion, avocado, salted granola and feta cheese, in an olive oil and lemon dressing—all in all, a nice mixture of flavors and textures.

 

Merica’s six desserts are not included in the Sunday menu price, but it is certainly worth considering trying at least one, particularly since each portion is large enough for two to share. The corn flakes ice cream, the crack pie with double cream ice cream, and the New York cheesecake with Oreo crust are all worthy candidates: the highlight of each is authentic butterscotch, instead of the more commonplace caramel or dulce de leche.

 

  

The Sunday extravaganza at America Tel Aviv is undoubtedly one of the best bargains in town: it affords the opportunity to try a lot of things, and not feel guilty if you don’t finish one or even two. And then you can eat the ones you like to your heart’s content.

 

America Tel Aviv

Not kosher

Ibn Gvirol 26, Tel Aviv

Tel. (072) 395-1533

 

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