McDonald’s is perhaps the most universal fast food restaurant in the world. Whether you’re in Thailand, Brazil or Morocco, you can find an iconic golden arches location. Heck, the Big Mac is even used by economists to measure purchasing power.
Yet, for most Kosher-observant Jews, McDonald’s is a big red flag. Unless you live in Israel, that is.
Of the 36,000 McDonalds locations in the world, there are only a few dozen that don’t serve bacon or cheeseburgers and adhere to strict Kosher laws. Sixty-four of those are in Israel and one is in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
That’s why some Orthodox Jews actually make a point of visiting McDonald’s while in Israel – a ‘McBirthright’ if you will.
“You have to go to the Wailing Wall and you have to go to the beach and you have to see Masada, and… you must eat your first McDonald’s hamburger,” Orthodox high school student Yael Reisman said in an article for Grub Street fittingly titled “McBirthright: The Pilgrimage Orthodox Jews Take to Finally Eat Their Very First McDonald’s Burgers.”
“It’s almost, like, imperative law,” she continued. “It’s practically Biblical.”
That’s why, although I’ve had McDonald’s many times before, I had to make the trek to Kosher McDonald’s while visiting Israel to see what all the fuss is about.
No matter which McDonald’s you visit, there’s going to be a Big Mac on the menu (albeit the one in Israel holds the cheese), but as you move across the globe some more culturally relevant items have made their way onto the list (like the squid ink burger in Japan).
In Israel, you can find mini pita’s like the ‘McFalafel’ or the ‘McKebab.’
Of course, I had to try McDonald’s take on a falafel pita and although seeing a cheeky falafel on the McDonald’s menu is amusing, unfortunately (but unsurprisingly) I was seriously disappointed.
In a country where falafel can be found on every other street corner, McDonald’s doesn’t even begin to compare. Not in taste, price, or value.
The mini pita is dry, lacks flavor, and costs twice as much as it should. Plus, for the 12 NIS ($4 USD) I spent on one mini pita, I could have stopped by my local falafel place in Tel Aviv and bought two regular sized falafels for the same price. (No seriously, Falafel Razon has falafel for 6 shekels, it’s game changing.)
To be fair, it’s McDonald’s we’re talking about, so I wasn’t expecting the falafel to be their speciality. That’s why I also tried some of the more classic items.
Burgers and chicken nuggets
Upon recommendation, I ordered a chicken nugget meal, which was actually pretty good! Although, probably not worth a whopping 46 shekels ($15 USD).
Still, I’ll admit, it’s pretty cool that you can get Kosher nuggets and burgers.
McDonald’s corn sticks are basically chicken nuggets made with corn instead of meat.
In Israel, corn schnitzel is actually super popular. It’s often the vegetarian/vegan alternative to regular schnitzel and also a frequent kids menu item. You can buy frozen corn schnitzel at any grocery store and, in my opinion, it’s delicious.
So while this item might sound strange to Americans, it totally makes sense in Israel.
Tahini dipping sauce
Given the multiple mini pita options, like kebab, falafel and crispy chicken, it only makes sense that McDonald’s would offer tahini. You can get tahini as a side sauce or add it to any of the burgers.
I tried it and it was no different than the tahini you can get at the grocery store, but it’s a cool experience nonetheless.
Kosher for Passover menu
All Kosher McDonald’s are closed on Shabbat and are strictly kosher. So naturally, they have a kosher for Passover menu during the holiday.
I didn’t go on passover, so I can’t vouch for their Kosher for Passover items, but this deserved an honorable mention.
The low down
If you’ve never tried McDonald’s, it makes sense to take that ‘McBirthright’ opportunity while in Israel (or Argentina!). Where else in the world will you find corn schnitzel nuggets?
But just like I would say about the McDonald’s experience in North America, if you skip it, you’re not missing much.
Trust me, you’d rather have bubbe’s cooking over a kosher big mac any day of the week.
Originally Published Jan 6 2022 09:12AM EST