If you’ve ever strolled around Midtown Manhattan you’ve noticed the numerous food carts. There’s one on just about every corner. And some of the most recognizable – and most popular – are the ones known as The Halal Guys. They’re all over the city and have been around for more than three decades. I first encountered one of their carts at 53d Street and 6th Avenue in the early nineties.
The concept was started by three Egyptian men who sold hot dogs from the corner carts, mainly for Muslim taxi drivers who had few choices for a quick meal with food certified halal. To oversimplify it, halal is to Muslims what kosher is to Jews. The Koran specifies which foods are permissible (halal) and which are forbidden (haram). So a place that certified the food was halal and served around the clock (see: sleeps, city that never) made it very popular. It wasn’t unusual to see long lines snaking down the block with people waiting for the food, especially after The Halal Guys expanded beyond hot dogs and included other meats and rice platters.