Guru’s Stories: First time visiting The Halal Guys in New York City

The Halal Guys. The Famous Halal Guys. They created the rice and gyro platter that has made Halal Cart Food a pop culture icon. It’s the dish that launched thousand vendors to mimic it. Having studied many moons ago in New York, I was very familiar with the brand and experience, but my wife was not. I wanted her to know why The Halal Guys were so famous. So what better way than to take her to the original spot where it all began on the streets of New York City so she could experience it for herself.

This post is going to be a little different from my typical reviews. Today, you’ll get a story of one of our foodie adventures. Hopefully, you gain some insight into our passion for Halal Food and have a little laugh at the same time.

If you like this style, I’ll definitely tell more tales, just let me know in the comments below. For my full review of The Halal Guys in Orlando, check it out here, and for a list of my TOP 5 Halal Cart Food spots in Orlando, check it out here.

Let’s Begin…

On a recent trip to New York City, I took my wife to the original Halal Guys Street Cart on 53rd and 6th in Manhattan. This would be her first time trying the iconic cart food and I wanted it to be special. We had walked passed a dozen other Street Cart vendors offering Halal Cart Food. My wife looked and me and asked,

“what is so special about THIS one”.

My mind wondered off to my college days, long, long ago. After a semester exam, my friends and I would hop in the car and drive into “The City” just for Halal Cart Food from The Halal Guys. We would fight the traffic, spend hours looking for street parking and then line up for an hour in the middle of the night with hundreds of other hungry New Yorkers just to get that iconic rice and gyro dish. When we finally got our meal in that iconic tin bowl we would drown the meal an ocean of White Sauce. We would dare each other who could put the most spicy hot Red Sauce. I never won, all my friends were Pakistani. Looking back at my wife, I responded,

“It’s about the experience”.

We got in line, which wasn’t as long as the ones I remember, but still long enough for us to laugh about our misadventures on the notorious New York subways. Long enough for me to remind her, that this meal would change the way she thought about street food.

When we reached the front of the line I gave our order to the handler, the first of a 3 man crew working the cart. As he took my cash and returned the change, he yelled out the order to the 3rd man at the other end of the cart who was assembling orders. We moved to the other side of the cart, passing the 2nd man who was working the grill. I watched as he moved huge mountains of chicken across the hot grill wiping the sweat off his brow on the sleeve of his shirt. I glanced at my wife to see if she noticed.

She did.

She noticed everything. She noticed the greasy grill, the messy work station with spilled rice and salad where they were assembling orders quickly to keep the line moving. She noticed that they used the same utensils to make every dish without wiping them down in between.

 

The Halal Guys Street Cart in New York
The 3 man crew working the Street Cart at The Halal Guys in New York City

She glanced back at me with a nervous look in her eyes. I motioned to her to be patient, “it’s about the experience” I whispered as we waited with a small crowed of hungry patrons waiting for the 3rd man to hand them their order.

Finally, it was our turn. The 3rd man handed me 2 tin bowls. I looked down at them, 1/3 yellow rice, 1/3 crisp lettuce and tomato salad, 1/3 gyro and chicken all filled to the top of the bowl. It was just as I had remembered it. A glorious mountain of food. I gave one bowl to my wife to free up my right hand. We walked around to the side of the cart where large bottles of White and Red Sauce where sitting in a rack with ice to keep them cool. I grabbed a full bottle and began to drown the dish in White Sauce. So much White Sauce, until you couldn’t see any of the components of the dish.

That nervous look appeared on my wife’s face again and I confidentially said again, “it’s about the experience”. I swapped tin bowls with her and proceeded to drown the second meal in White Sauce. It was a beautiful masterpiece in my eyes. An ocean of tangy creamy White Sauce, this meal would be Epic. My wife would become an instant fan, just like me.

I put the bottle back in the rack and grabbed back the other tin bowl back from my wife.

Next we found a spot to sit one of the few benches around the area. I placed both tin bowls on the bench so I could reach for the plastic wear I had put in my pocket to hand to my wife so she could enjoy this meal while it was still hot.

This is the point where her first memories of The Halal Guys on the streets of New York City would differ from mine, FOREVER.

She began to sit down on the bench, but that’s not where she ended up.

Nope. Not at all.

She sat down right on top of the lunch I had been promising her for weeks as we planned our trip to New York. The meal that I told her would change her mind about street food. The meal that would strengthen our bond for each other in our common passion for food. She sat down in an ocean of cool creamy white sauce covering the hot gyro meat and rice.

She stood up, glaring at me and looking back at the crumpled tin bowl that was supposed to be her lunch. To her credit she kept her cool reached in her bag and pulled out a pack full of wet wipes. What could I possibly say at this moment?

“It’s about the experience”.

Halal Cart Food
Crushed tin bowl with missing White Sauce after an encounter with my wife. Yes I took a picture of it. Yes we still ate it. “It’s about the experience”.

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