The Halal Guys
|The Halal Guys|
A line at the cart (2007)
|Current owner(s)||Mohamed Abouelenein|
|Food type||Halal, Middle Eastern cuisine|
|Street address||Corners of 53rd St and 6th Avenue (main and second locations)|
|City||Manhattan, New York City|
The Halal Guys is a halal fast casual restaurant franchise that began as a food cart on the south-east corner of 53rd Street and Sixth Avenue in the borough of Manhattan in New York City. The franchise also has a cart on the south-west corner of the same intersection. New locations, both food cart and storefront, are being added throughout New York (including a storefront on 14th Street and Second Avenue) and around the world.
The Halal Guys was founded in 1990 by Egyptian-descendent Mohamed Abouelenein, along with compatriots Ahmed Elsaka and Abdelbaset Elsayed, as a hot dog cart located on 53rd and 6th. Abouelenein, however, believed that a hot dog was not a satisfying meal, and switched to the current menu of chicken, gyro meat, rice, and pita in 1992.
The cart has caused a decline in the popularity of hot dog vendors in New York City and has influenced many imitation carts. A cart called 'New York's Best Halal Food' is also located on 53rd and 6th on the SW corner. It is unknown which cart was located at the intersection first. New York's Best Halal Food also has a strong following, and a long line of lunchtime patrons. Workers at both carts wear similar attire (bright yellow shirts) and serve the same type of food though the texture, taste, and freshness is slightly different.
On October 28, 2006, a fight that started in line ended with 23-year-old Ziad Tayeh stabbing and killing 19-year-old Tyrone Gibbons. Tayeh was later found not guilty, as the jury found that he acted in self-defense. The fight began after one accused the other of cutting in line. The New York Times once reported that the owners had hired bouncers.
- The main cart is located on 53rd Street and 6th Avenue during weekday evenings (7pm–4am) and weekends, across from the Hilton Hotel on the southwest corner.
- A second cart is located across the street from the original cart, on the southeast corner of that intersection, and is open both during the daytime and at night.
- A third cart exists on the southwest corner of 53rd Street and 7th Avenue, and begins serving food at lunch time.
- In November 2013, the Halal Guys announced its intentions to open a restaurant located on 14th Street and 2nd Avenue, according to general manager Hesham Hegazy.
- In December 2014, the Halal Guys opened a restaurant on Amsterdam Avenue and West 95th Street.
- The Halal Guys opened their first Chicago location on August 20, 2015. The restaurant is located in Chicago's Gold Coast neighborhood. Four more locations are expected to open in the city.
- On October 2, 2015, the Halal Guys opened a restaurant in Costa Mesa, California, the first location on the West Coast. The business plans to expand in Southern California with 50 franchised units sold already.
- In October 2015, the Halal Guys opened up shop in Megamall Manila in the Philippines. More locations has been added since in the Philippines.
- On January 2, 2016, a second California location opened in Long Beach at 1804 Ximeno Avenue.
- In May 2016 a store opened in East Brunswick, New Jersey.
- In May 2016 a store was opened in San Jose, California.
- On July 8, 2016, a store was opened in Los Angeles, California.
- On July 23, 2016, a store was opened in Dallas, Texas.
- On August 12, 2016, a store was opened in Las Vegas, Nevada.
- On September 2, 2016, a store was opened in Springfield, Virginia.
- On September 2, 2016, a store was opened in Fairfax, Virginia.
- On September 8, 2016, customers in Montreal, Quebec, lined up at Mackay Street and de Maisonneuve Boulevard West for the grand opening of the very first Canadian location (ahead of Toronto, Ontario, as previously publicized).
- On December 17, 2016, Halal Guys opened the first store in East Asia on Exit 2 of Itaewon Station, Seoul, South Korea.
- On January 27, 2017, a store was opened in Tempe, Arizona.
- In 2017, a store was opened in Davie, Florida.
- In April 2017, a store was opened in Union, New Jersey located on Route 22.
- In April 2017, a store was opened in Shreveport, Louisiana.
- On May 5, 2017, Toronto restaurant was opened.
- On September 15, 2017, a store was opened in Boston Theater District.
In June 2014, the Halal Guys hired Fransmart, the franchise development company behind the success of Qdoba Mexican Grill and Five Guys explosive growth. Within the first year of launching their franchise expansion campaign they have closed deals for California; New Jersey; Connecticut; Virginia; Washington, DC; Houston and Austin, Texas ; Chicago, Illinois, as well as international deals for Canada, the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia. In total this represents over 200 locations under development.
The cart serves platters and sandwiches. The platter includes meat (chicken, gyro, or both), rice, iceberg lettuce (or, instead, extra rice), and slices of pita bread. The sandwich serves the same ingredients wrapped in pita bread instead. A third menu option is a platter that does not include rice. Falafel is also available as an alternative to meat.
The Halal Guys also serve a white condiment which patrons cite as a favorite; a similar condiment is found at all or most other halal carts in New York City, but the recipe likely often varies from cart to cart. The packet of tangy white sauce contains soybean, canola oil, egg yolk, vinegar, water, salt, sugar, natural flavors and black pepper. Besides their white sauce, the Halal Guys also have a red sauce recipe which included ground red pepper, vinegar, salt, spices and concentrated lemon juice.
In 2005, Chicken and Rice was one of four finalists for the "Vendy Award" presented by a New York City street vendor advocacy group known as the Street Vendor Project. Chicken and Rice eventually lost out to Rolf Babiel from Hallo Berlin, a sausage cart on 54th and 5th.
In addition, the popularity of the cart has been further aided by high profile customers. Chef Christopher Lee, who was one of Food & Wine Magazine's best new chefs of 2006, mentioned in an interview with the magazine that he "can't stay away from it" and once was there on Christmas Eve waiting two and a half hours in the cold.
The cart has since become a prominent cuisine throughout New York City and has been heard as far as Hawaii. It has caused an increase in competition among street meat carts in Midtown Manhattan. Lines commonly grow to over an hour's wait.
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