The introduction of Halal Cart food on the streets of Manhattan over two decade ago quickly became a popular hit amongst hungry New Yorkers. So much so, the street vendors had a cult like following that would line the streets at all hours of the day and night. The dish evolved over time and is referenced to as “Cart Food”, “Halal Cart Food”, or “Halal Food”, but essentially it is a dish that combines rice, salad, meat and a healthy dose of White Sauce. The craze spread across New York and then across the country. In 2016, it hit the Orlando Halal market and has been adopted by several Halal fast-food spots each offering a unique version of the iconic dish.
1. Oh My Gyro!
Opened in 2016, this family owned Halal restaurant is credited with bringing the “Halal Cart Food” craze to the Orlando market. There was a flurry of excitement as the doors opened and it hasn’t waned since. In fact, it spurred other Halal fast-food restaurants to create and offer their version to eager patrons. The food quality and service are since opening has consistently been excellent. Beyond Cart food, they have expanded their menu to include NY steaks, grilled chicken and burgers. As a result, they have made it on to several our TOP 5 Lists for Orlando, including Best Halal Burger in Orlando and Best Restaurants in Orlando. The décor is distinctly New York with an iconic red brick facade lining the walls and imagery of “the Big City” scattered across the restaurant. It is located about 30-40 minutes north of the main tourist attractions, but is definitely worth the drive.
With their humble beginnings on the street corner of 53rd and 6th in Manhattan, The Halal Guys has grown into an international franchise over the decade. They opened their first franchise in Orlando in late 2017 with much excitement. The restaurant is located on the eastern side of the city near the University of Central Florida (UCF) much to the delight of hungry students in the area. They offer the same menu items as the original street cart and have ample White Sauce and Red Sauce that made them so famous.
Located in Kissimmee near Disney, this Halal fast-food restaurant offers culinary creations that merge the best of both East and West cuisine. They have introduced their version of the classic Halal Cart Food dish. They use gyro meats and they substitute the typical yellow rice with biryani rice which adds a nice texture of spice to the dish, giving it a more South Asian influence. The store is located in the front of a mosque. They made our TOP 5 List of Late Night Eats as they are open late for those looking to hang out after prayers with a bite to eat.
While best known for their Angus Beef Burger and chicken wings, making the TOP 5 list for Best Burgers in Orlando and Best Halal Chicken Wings in Orlando, O’Town also has a version of the iconic Halal Cart Food platter. It’s not the most impressive item on the menu but it does remain true to the classic street food dish consisting of gyro meats, yellow rice, salad and a creamy tangy white sauce. The portion is generous creating good value for the meal. It is located in Metrowest which is about 20-30 minutes from the main attraction hub of Orlando.
Primarily a southern Halal fried chicken joint, Kennedy Chicken and Grill does have additional choices on the menu. They also made the TOP 5 List of Best Halal Chicken Sandwiches in Orlando. They offer grilled chicken over rice and salad which is a “healthier” twist on the dish. The white sauce is very flavorful and tangy and is definite must to drizzle on the dish. The portion is decent for the price. If you’re not in the mood for fried chicken, then this is a viable option. They also offer a gyro version, but the grilled chicken version is the way to go if you’re trying it for the first time. It is also located in Metrowest across the street from O’Town Burger and Wings, both of which are about 20-30 minutes from the theme park hub.
With it’s humble beginnings on the streets of New York City, Halal Cart Food has expanded to pop icon status in American culture. It has allowed Middle-Eastern and Mediterranean food to become main-stream, next to Chinese and Italian foods. Its acceptance into mainstream society creates bridges amongst cultures using food to unite us all in humanity in times when divisiveness is all too easy to point out.
Know of any other Halal Cart Food spots in Orlando that didn’t make the list, let me know in the comment section below. Feel free to share this post with anyone that may benefit. As always follow us on Twitter and Instagram as we chart out the Halal food scene in Florida and beyond.