Manhattan, New York – The Halal Guys – 53rd and 6th (Food Cart)

Restaurant: The Halal Guys – 53rd and 6th (Food Cart)
Cuisine:
Halal/Middle Eastern/Fast Food/Food Cart
Last visited:
September 12, 2011
Location:
Manhattan, NY (Midtown West)
Address: 53rd St and 6th Ave
Nearby subway stops: 7 Ave
Price Range: 
$10 or less

1Poor 2OK 3Good 4Very good 5Excellent 6Tres Excellent!!

Food: 4
Service: 3
Ambiance: n/a
Overall: 4
Additional comments:

  • Local favourite
  • “Famous” food cart in NY
  • Famous for “Chicken & Rice”
  • Ask for extra “white sauce”
  • Fresh chicken
  • Limited menu
  • Quick, but long lines at peak hours
  • Cheap eats/budget friendly
  • Late night eats
  • Take-out
  • Catering available
  • Mon-Sun 5pm-7am

**Recommendations: “Chicken & Rice” or “The Platter” and make sure you get extra white sauce!
Holy crap. I know the photo is dark, but can you see the line up for this food cart?! It wasn’t always this long, but chances are there will be a line up, especially if it’s a weekend. However I was here at 9pm on a Monday and it was still this busy. It’s a “munchies” food cart, but it’s not serving poutine, hot dogs, or pizza, it’s serving “Chicken and Rice”!

“Chicken & Rice”, “The Platter”, “The Halal Guys”, “Gyro-Spot”, “Chicken Guys”, The food cart on 53rd and 6th”, or whatever the name you know it by, you can’t miss this in Manhattan, New York! It’s no doubt a soft spot for the locals and I wouldn’t have sought it out on my own. It was recommended to me by New Yorkers as satisfying cheap eats after work hours, or something you should do with your friends at 3am after drinking. I wasn’t in either situation, but when food is involved, I get curious.

So what’s so special about “Chicken & Rice”?! Honestly there are TONS of these food carts on every block of New York that looked just like this one. They even served the same thing too! But if this one food cart can stand out above the others, there must be something different, and that’s exactly what The Halal Guys claim… “we are different”.

I introduce to you The Halal Guys. Hmmm they don’t exactly look happy and it’s not their personalities that get the line-up, but the actual food. They’re not mean or anything, but just saying, it’s actually for the food. They were regular guys working hard at their business and now they’ve become locally “famous” for their “Chicken & Rice”.

“Chicken & Rice” or “Chicken Platter” that’s what you’re supposed to order here. I only knew it as “Chicken & Rice”, but it’s called “Chicken Platter” on the menu. They have falafels and a couple other things on the menu, but this is what you come for and what they’re known for.

As I mentioned, there are lot of carts in New York offering this same menu, so I didn’t understand the hype, until I was a block away. I had already passed a few of these carts and there were even more ahead, but for some reason this was the only one that smelled so damn good. Appealing to the nose is half the battle. Person after person would order this and you either eat it standing, squatting, to-go, or sitting on an uncomfortable nearby foundation ledge. It’s how cheap eats is meant to be enjoyed.

And this is partly why people are so obsessed with it!

I felt like I was in the soup episode of Seinfeld and I had to observe the line up to see what to do and how to proceed. Every person would take their Chicken & Rice and head to the side of the cart for the self-serve condiments. I’d watch them drench their tin foil trays with this “white sauce”, which any local will tell you to load up on.

I had just finished dinner at Aldea, so this was already dinner #2. From 1 Michelin Star to a food cart, Follow Me Foodie is all about balance! I was already quite full and I contemplated ordering one, but I’ve never seen such local hype for a food cart, besides when Japadog started in Vancouver, BC. So I decided to take the plunge. The only other food cart in New York with this much hype seems to be Big Gay Ice Cream, but that had national exposure from Food Network, this one on the other hand seemed like the locals’ secret.

On the table:

I ordered it to go and it came with prepackaged white sauce which you’re supposed to order more of. Everyone knows it by “white sauce” and that’s what they actually call it too. The red sauce is the hot sauce which is really hot, not just “spicy”. It’s way hotter than most of the food carts offering the same thing.

**Chicken & Rice4/6

  • $6
  • Well it certainly didn’t look like the picture. It kind of looked really boring and bland to me, but it smelled really good!
  • Since I’m not a New Yorker, I had to ask New Yorkers what made this one so “different” than the other guys.
  • Apparently it even looks different than most “Chicken & Rice” served at these food carts.
  • The boneless and skinless dark meat chicken was being made fresh on the spot and the guy was madly chopping, shredding, and hacking away at it into bits like teppanyaki. The other carts would normally serve the chicken in chunks like kebabs.
  • There was also no curry powder on the chicken and usually there is, and it’s not usually served with pita either.
  • I found the chicken a bit dry and it tasted quite regular to me without any apparent seasonings or herbs. It was good, but just good.
  • The whole pieces of curried chicken actually sounded better to me, but I never got to try one to compare.

  • Underneath was a bed of orange rice and usually it’s a half white and half yellow rice. It was moist, but just regular basmati rice.
  • There was also some chopped green lettuce and store bought pita.
  • For me it was almost a deconstructed chicken pita in a bowl and it was very good, but I didn’t really get it.
  • The famous “white sauce” reminded me of that garlicky Ranch sauce people squirt all over their pizzas at 3am at Megabite Pizza in Vancouver, BC. It tasted like it too.
  • The white sauce here is apparently thicker than the other guys’ and it was almost creamy like a dressing, but it tastes like a prepackaged white sauce.
  • It’s one of those “everything tastes good mixed together dishes”, and with that garlicky white sauce anything would taste good.
  • It is different than all the other “chicken & rice” carts in New York, but as a tourist, I wouldn’t know any better and it just seemed like “chicken & rice” to me.
  • It is delicious cheap eats in New York and it hits the spot, but I think I was expecting something amazing.
  • I think I enjoyed my New York hot dog from the food cart on Little Brazil & W7th Ave in Times Square even more.

[geotag]

Halal Guys - 53rd and 6th (Food Cart) on Urbanspoon

11 Comments

  • Linda says:

    mmmm i’ve had this place bookmarked for months! i’m actually really excited to try it because even though i’ve been to nyc 3 times already, i haven’t actually eaten anything from a cart there before :)

    i was reading that there’s an impersonator chicken and rice place almost right down the street from these guys lol the chicken does look a bit bland here so for me, i think i’d definitely get the the mixed platter just so i could taste some of their gyro as well – when i head down there, i’ll tell you how it goes :) mmm white sauce sounds delish and i’d probably douse the entire tin full of it lol

  • “The white sauce here is apparently thicker than the other guys’ and it was almost creamy like a dressing…”

    Where’s Kim Ho or Sherman? They’d be all over this.

    Funny how the actual platter doesn’t look like the picture, I guess these things are universal, no matter if you’re McDonald’s or some small food cart on the streets of NY.

  • KimHo says:

    On my last trip to NYC, I wasn’t in the area late enough to drop by this cart. Just as you mentioned, there are several that looked like them but, once again, just like you, people suggested me to visit this one specifically. Now, looking at the final result… I don’t know; it does not look that enticing. In Vancouver terms, I would just go to any shawarma shop and get a shawarma plate. At least you have hummus as well!

    I introduce to you The Halal Guys. Hmmm they don’t exactly look happy and it’s not their personalities that get the line-up, but the actual food.

    I think that, had I been the one snapping the picture of them, I might not live to tell the tale!

    “The white sauce here is apparently thicker than the other guys’ and it was almost creamy like a dressing…”

    Where’s Kim Ho or Sherman? They’d be all over this.

    I guess you should replace my name with yours…

  • Vox says:

    This map appears to be directing to a location in Brooklyn. If this cart is in Midtown Manhattan (right near my old office), then the map is off by one bridge and/or tunnel ;)

  • Spark says:

    This is also on my ‘to try’ lists for NYC. I generally love shawarma and its different iterations, so I think I’d enjoy this (for what it is).

    I get what you are saying about “expecting something amazing” given the hype and the huge lineups. Perhaps this is one of those cases where the ‘value’ of the meal (big portion and low cost of $6!!) elevates peoples’ perception of an otherwise average-to-good meal and their willingness to wait in line (kinda like at Stepho’s and Anton’s).

    As an example in counterpoint, I spent $10.07 on a ‘Calamari plate’ at a fast food Greek place the other day; for that price, I was given what amounted to a very small portion of calamari and Caesar salad (at a food court, no less). The food on its on merit was probably average, but *when* I factored in the cost, it was ‘not that good’, ‘unsatisfying’ and ‘not worth a second visit’. So yeah, sometimes value makes a difference and can even play games on our taste buds :)

  • Sandra W. says:

    This is a fun cart to go to late at night when you’re hungry and not wanting to spend too much $$ especially since NY can be so expensive too. I’ve been a few times during past visits, but I just tried Carnegie John’s chicken and rice back in September and I think it’s definitely superior. The chicken was really flavourful and it’s served with a yellow basmati rice that is so tasty. Hopefully you can try it on a future visit!

    Mijune, I’ve been following your blog for the last year or so and it’s always so much fun to read. I’m enjoying your posts on Jamaica as well. My husband is from there originally, so hopefully we’ll have a chance to visit some of the local restaurants you have talked about as we didn’t venture that far from our resort the last time around.

    Keep up the great work!

  • Mijune says:

    @Linda – lol really!!? please try it and report back! it’s so random that everyone knows about this one.

    @Kevin – omg I know… I thought of it while writing it and consciously thought “mind out of the gutter”

    @Kim – gahhh mind out of the gutter mind out of the gutter….

    @Vox – ohhh I have a New York reader?!?!?! So cool!!! hiii!!!! Ok this place had no official addy so I guess google maps isn’t locating it properly… what addy do u think it is? or around? thanks!!

    @Spark – Exactly!! i couldn’t have said it any better! Thanks for commenting! Let me know what you think if you try this!

    @Sandra W – Awww Sandra!!!! That is such a nice comment! Thank you so much for commenting and saying that! I really appreciate it and I’m always worried that the readers might not care about food in other cities, but I’m so happy to hear that you find it useful! It’s really a celebration of food and I love trying new things and seeing food in other cities for comparisons sake etc. thank you so much for your comment! And I can’t wait until you and your husband try some of those Jamaican places! Would love to hear his thoughts too!! How exciting! off the resort is always exciting I think! Ohhh I hope you guys like the places!!

    Ohh and Carneigie never came up on my list, but now I’ll put it on there. yes,,, new york can make quite the dent in the wallet so these places are nice… and good if you’re lucky. Thank you again!!

  • EssinaJ says:

    My girlfriends and I were in New York a couple of weeks ago and the Halal Guys were recommended to us by our hop on/hop off bus tour guide. It was a miserable rainy day and we haven’t had anything to eat all day and we only had one thing in our mind – find the cart of the Halal Guys!! finally found them after walking several blocks from the public library ordered our gyro with lamb and chicken with hot and white sauce! oh my , it was good! maybe because we were hungry…hmm…btw, we couldn’t find a place to eat so we ended up standing right under the phone booths lined up beside their cart….something we wouldn’t have done in vancouver..

  • Mijune says:

    @EssinaJ – I always think that too when I’m at places like this … “maybe it was because we were hungry” lol.. it is one of those places I think. Did you just randomly see this post?! What a coincidence! Thanks for your comment!

  • Mijune says:

    @nins – omg that’s hilarious! Thanks for sharing that link…. except that recipe and photo looks way better… that’s like gourmet Chicken & Rice! :9

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