The Halal Guys – Orlando Branch: 7.5/10
VALUE FOR MONEY: 7.0/10
VENUE & ATMOSPHERE: 9.0/10
Note: This is a guest review written By The Halal Food Guru. All photos are his own. No pork is served on the menu. No alcohol is served here. Verbal assurance all meat is halal and halal sign in window, however not sure of supplier or method of slaughter.
In late 2017, The Halal Guys opened their first franchise in Orlando, Florida. The Halal Guys has become a worldwide brand that started from a humble beginning on the streets of New York City as a hot dog stand. In the 1990s they converted to offer Halal Middle-Eastern street food to hungry cab drivers. They introduced the rice and gyro platter with White Sauce which quickly became known as “Cart Food” and “Halal Food” amongst hungry New Yorkers.
The original Cart was and continues to be located on the corner of 53rd and 6th offering tasty meals at all hours of the day and night. At the height of its popularity, locals and visitors would line up for hours just to get a bite, creating the legendary long lines, propelling them into American pop culture. With this popularity, other street vendors began offering their version of “Cart Food with White Sauce”, but The Halal Guys remained a destination that locals and visitors would continue to flock to.
In the 2000s, The Halal Guys envisioned a worldwide network of stores offering the iconic New York dish to the masses. They began opening restaurants across New York, the USA and the world. One of those sites was in Orlando opening on the East side of the city, near the University of Central Florida, much to the delight of hungry students.
Entering the restaurant, there are large photo murals adorning the wall with images referencing their famous Manhattan street cart. They depict the iconic long lines of hungry New Yorkers waiting patiently. It evokes a nostalgic feeling for those who are familiar with the brand.
The store is clean and has plenty of seating area. The counter to order is in the back of the store and the large menu above is a useful reference for those not familiar with the franchise offerings. The limited menu has stayed true to the original cart offering.
The main draw is the Cart Food rice platter. It consists of chicken and/or beef gyro pieces cooked on a flat top grill with yellow rice and salad served in the signature tin bowl. A bottle of White Sauce is available at the counter so that you can take pleasure in pouring their signature White Sauce all over your meal, which is an essential part of the experience. If you are daring enough and can stand the heat, you can also add a little hot Red sauce to the mix.
There is a heated debate over the internet whether the food tastes exactly like the original Cart Food from the streets of New York. In my opinion, having had both, it doesn’t, but it is still very close.
In Orlando, there are several Halal fast food spots that have adopted Cart Food to their menu. Each version has a unique twist on the iconic dish. For me, I have a bias for The Halal Guys, as I used to be one of those patrons that would wait in line at the original street cart on 53rd and 6th in New York for hours in the middle of the night (we didn’t have UberEats back then).
It was an experience to wait joyously with friends in anticipation the yummy reward at the end. Most of all, I enjoyed pouring an unhealthy amount of White Sauce over my meal (btw, there is no healthy amount of White Sauce!). So to see the iconic Big City franchise opening in my neck of the woods is a reminder of the “good old days”. Having said that, the store doesn’t take the meal or experience to a new level, rather it rides off the original experience. For those who haven’t experienced the original Cart Food on the streets of New York, it can be a little hard to connect with the brand. Furthermore, the limited menu can make it difficult to become a repeat patron, as there is little to explore on the menu once you’ve had your fill of Cart Food.
Overall this fast-causal Halal establishment is a welcomed addition to the Halal food scene in Orlando and has sparked a renewed craze for Cart Food and White Sauce in the next generation of hungry foodies, which can only have a positive impact for the future and expansion of Halal dining in America. For a more detailed review, check out our website (https://halalfoodguru.com/2018/09/21/the-halal-guys-orlando-fl/ ).
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