Have you stood in this line before? I have. Many, many times. In fact, every time I’ve been to NYC, I’ve made it a point to stand in this line. And if you know me at all, you know that I am NOT a line-stander-inner. But the greasy, delicious foil trays of food dished up at this stand are well worth the wait. (And it didn’t hurt that the line usually moved pretty quickly.) For years, this food cart has had a steady cult following amongst the south Asian community.
Back in the good ol’ days, the cart opened at 6pm and didn’t close til around 4am. The often line felt more like a giant family reunion than anything else, especially on weekends when families would commute in from the suburbs for this late-night treat. Minivans were parked illegally all over the place, and kiddos ran circles around the grown-ups waiting patiently in line. There was no real seating – on the steps and concrete planters of nearby office buildings, families huddled together next to 20-somethings taking a break from the club and harried suits who had just left work.
And what could they possibly have been serving that was delicious enough to be worth all this fuss? Well that’s the thing. Words don’t do it justice. The $6 plate of food – known as either “chicken and rice” or simply “platters,” back in my day – contained a mix of chicken, gyro meat, rice, and pita. And a little salad, if you were good. (I usually asked for extra pita in lieu of salad.) But the piece de resistance was the white sauce. Oh, that white sauce. Creamy, delicious, flecked with black – no one knew what it was, but everyone agreed that it was what pushed this meal over the top. I always asked for extra. There was red sauce too, for braver souls than I. I tried it once – just dipped the tip of my pinky into it and barely touched my tongue to the stuff. I kid you not, my entire mouth was on fire for 30 minutes.
Truth me told, I haven’t been to NYC in years, and so haven’t had the magical grease-fest in quite awhile. I haven’t tried any of their spinoffs, so have no idea if their quality control is up to snuff. But with a concept that simple, how hard can it be for them to duplicate their own recipes? Fingers and toes are crossed that the DC spinoffs – which are slated to start opening Q2 1015 – will be as delicious as the originals.
That’s right, spinoffS. Apparently The Halal Guys have franchised, and DC’s local franchisee plans to open TEN stores in the District alone!