While the trendy thing to do is take restaurant-quality food and place it on a truck, halal carts are going in the opposite direction.
The venerable New York City street grub that’s kept quick-lunch seekers fed for decades is beginning to land in storefronts, with hawkers of that glorious combination of meat, rice, salad, pita, white sauce and hot sauce in a foil container opening brick-and-mortar eateries. And they are spreading fast—with chains becoming regular sights in strip malls throughout the Island.
One of the most recognizable halal cart names to recently open an actual quick-serve establishment is The Halal Guys. Founded in 1990 as a hot dog cart on the southeast corner of 53rd Street and Sixth Avenue in Manhattan, the menu expanded quickly to include chicken, gyro meat, rice and pita once the owner realized the classic dirty water dog was not a satisfying meal. The Halal Guys now have carts and stores all over the world, with one of the newest locations opening in Farmingdale.
Sandwiched between a Panera and a Chipotle, the Farmingdale Halal Guys (911 Broadhollow Rd.) sits on Route 110 near Republic Airport slinging the same simple favorites that have made it a household name in the halal world—sandwiches and platters with basically the same ingredients, along with hummus, baba ganouj and falafel.
The most popular order—and rightly so—is the combo platter. It consists of chicken, beef gyro, rice, a simple salad, pillowy pita triangles and a generous dousing of white sauce with a streak or two of fiery hot sauce. It is a true working-class meal that will get you through the day in far greater and more flavorful ways than any hot dog. Halal food in general features meats that are humanely processed under strict Islamic law—that is why any reputation for the food being dirty or unsafe is completely fabricated by xenophobic food Philistines. Not only is the product intensely flavorful, it is quite obviously a pure eating experience.
Uncomplicated and straightforward, the combo platter at Halal Guys packs a filling punch. It is a salty, meaty, fatty combination with crusty bits of gyro and chicken meat strewn throughout atop seasoned rice. The salad, consisting of iceberg lettuce and diced tomato is the perfect counter bite, while the pita triangles put it all together in one mouthful. And as most New Yorkers can tell you, the secret is the omnipresent white sauce. Best when covering every square inch of the platter, the white sauce is tangy and mysterious. It doesn’t matter why it is so good—just keep it coming from the squirt bottle.
To liven up the dish, ask for a few dashes of hot sauce. Most halal baristas will warn against more than one streak, but hot heads should get at least two deep-red streaks directly over the top of the white sauce-covered mixture. As for other options, the falafel is perfectly serviceable and the platter translates nicely to sandwich form when folded into a pita.
If you visit during the lunch rush, expect a line. But fear not, as they once did on the city streets, The Halal Guys keep that line moving quickly.
The Halal Guys, 911 Broadhollow Rd., Farmingdale; 631-815-5544; www.thehalalguys.com