To a considerable amount of fanfare, The Halal Guys opened last month on Shepherd across from what was once Shepherd Plaza. This is the burgeoning chain’s ninth location and in just the third city outside of New York. It began life, and continues, as a well-regarded and well-publicized food cart operation in Midtown Manhattan that initially served the Muslim cabdrivers of the city. The small, oddly shaped edifice tucked away on a curving section of Shepherd just north of Highway 59 appropriately echoes its food cart origins. Based on two visits recently, the casual and wallet-friendly operation is primed for further success.
The assembly line service at the counter goes quickly and the friendly staff is quick to help with assistance with the menu, though there is not much to the menu of casual Middle Eastern fare here: pita ensconced sandwiches featuring gyro meat cut the spinner, chicken and falafel; plates featuring the same trio accompanied with tomato-tinted rice, chopped lettuce and tomatoes with pita; sides of hummus, tahini and fries; and baklava for dessert. That’s it. Well, there is also their famed white sauce, a viscous, savory mayonnaise-based concoction that does seem to complement everything (certainly in richly caloric fashion). The piquant red hot sauce with a nice chile bite and a hint of vinegar helps, too.
The gyros here are all-beef – and assumingly halal – and provide a very pleasant, clean taste for the center of sandwich or a plate. That distinctive odd taste often found with many gyros is thankfully absent here. With lettuce, and the addition of chopped onions and bits of bell pepper, a generous dose of the white sauce and hot sauce, all rolled into a fluffy pits bread, the gyro sandwiches are excellent. The fluffiness of the fresh pita bread makes The Halal Guys just a different than the most of the other casual, local Middle Eastern restaurants. This might be due to its roots in Egypt rather than the Levant or Palestine, the origins of most of the established local spots.
Though the beef is tastier – it’s beef, after all – the falafel and chicken are also fine options for the center of meal. All are cheap; sandwiches are just $6.29 and the popular plates not too much more. The sturdy hummus is decent as a side. Fries provide a less healthy, if possibly more gratifying, option. Even if their location is not the most easily accessible location, the hours are, as they are open every day from 11 AM to 11 PM most nights and 2 AM on Friday and Saturday night. Seating is less limited than it might look from the outset, with additional space in a separate area outside of the main serving area, and with a few tables in front. And, the setup is not meant for lingering.
One down note, water from the soda dispenser the other day tasted of mold and was undrinkable. Unfortunately, this problem – due to a lack of thorough regular cleaning of the machines – afflicts a number of local fast-casual restaurants. Hopefully, this will be remedied soon going forward. It seems to be a busy start for them, and we might be seeing them in other locations in the area in the not-too-distant future.
The Halal Guys
3821 Farnham (a Shepherd, just north of 59), 77098, (713) 681-5465