Such is the popularity of The Halal Guys that even past lunch hours on a weekday, the newest stall at Mega Fashion Hall’s Food Hall sees a long queue. From afar it doesn’t look much and, in fact, mall-goers who haven’t been to New York City or at least aren’t abreast with the current trends in the restaurant industry won’t be able to differentiate it from other food court stalls dishing Middle Eastern fare.
But, yes, the popular food cart from Manhattan has finally arrived in Metro Manila after about a year filled with false alarms and lengthy delays.
The Halal Guys started in 1990 as a hotdog cart by Egypt-born Mohamed Abouelenein, before changing the menu two years later to offer chicken, gyro meat, rice, and pita. Needless to say, it shot to fame that it became a destination in itself, with chefs and celebrities raving about the cart’s offerings.
And it was only a matter of time before entrepreneurial minds like those of Jaime and Chris Daez brought it to our shores, continuing a trend of foreign franchises becoming accessible to Filipinos who can’t afford a plane ticket but nonetheless can manage to shell out money for a dish that’s about twice to thrice the price of a fast food meal.
Considering the lines during the evening, when folks from nearby offices troop to the malls, it took us more than three weeks to finally have a chance to dine here. Now here we are, my friend Kenneth and I, ready to dive in while strolling around Megamall on a holiday.
Just as in the food cart in New York City, The Halal Guys serves platters and sandwiches. The platter includes chicken, gyro beef, falafel, or any two of those, rice, iceberg lettuce, slices of pita bread and a generous drizzle of their signature white sauce. The platter comes in “small” and “New York” sizes and we order the former.
It turns out that small is enough for the two of us, with the tender and flavorful meat and rice enough to stuff our bellies.
But we don’t stop there. We also order a chicken sandwich, which is basically the same as the platter but with the ingredients wrapped in a pita bread. It also comes in the two mentioned sizes but the small is roughly the same size as two roadside shawarma and with an infinitely more flavorful chicken.