The scene: Long before food trucks became a hot thing, New York had street carts for food vendors. From such humble beginnings, with a single cart at 53rd Street and Sixth Avenue nearly three decades ago, Halal Guys has become far and away the most successful such startup ever, and now has carts, brick-and-mortar restaurants and yes, even food trucks around the country and overseas, as far-flung as Indonesia and the Philippines.
There’s still a cart in the original midtown spot, as well as one directly across the street, and both regularly feature lines stretching halfway down the block. But unless you want to boast about visiting the place where it all began, there’s no reason to wait in line to enjoy Halal Guys’ food: They now have online ordering, a mobile app and more than 80 locations across the country, with five in New York City.
Going to one of the small open-air carts gives you an authentic urban experience, face-to-face with your chef, who works at a large flattop griddle occupying most of the cart space. The restaurants go for more of an assembly-line style with more staffers and are similar to Subway, where you order and then pick your toppings and sides from a lineup of tubs displayed behind the counter.