The Halal Guys

Written By Scott Joseph On August 25, 2022


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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.


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Kosher Grill

Written By Scott Joseph On April 7, 2022

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Anyone who strives to maintain a kosher diet can tell you the options for dining out are close to bupkis. But not totally. Kosher Grill is among the few glatt kosher restaurants in the area, and its International Drive location allows it to serve visitors as well as locals.

In simplest terms, the word kosher is derived from a Hebrew word that means to be pure, proper, or suitable for consumption. In that respect, we should all eat kosher.


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Jaber Lebanese Cuisine

Written By Scott Joseph On July 8, 2021

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Video screens inside Jaber Lebanese Cuisine in College Park were flashing photos of menu items, a helpful aid to people unfamiliar with labnehs, kibbehs and kaftas. But then the screens showed the restaurant’s name and logo, and underneath that “Since 1952.”

Hmmm, I thought. If Jaber’s been around since 1952 it hasn’t been in this space. Most recently this was the home of Peppy Bistro and before that, Paxia.


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Written By Scott Joseph On May 27, 2021

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Despite what I told you when the it opened, which was based on what a manager told me at the time, TajineXpress is not a full service restaurant but rather, as the name would imply, more of a quick-service operation. The Xpress sort of gave that away, but the gentleman I spoke to at the time, back in April, insisted that it merely conveyed a cooking technique the restaurant was using that allowed them to prepare tajine dishes faster than the usual two hours.

That said, the staff at TajineXpress was so friendly and accommodating. And the food, delivered to the table on basket trays and served on earthenware plates, all made it feel like a full dining experience.


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Shiraz Market

Written By Scott Joseph On October 30, 2018

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The last time I was at Shiraz Market it was Torterilla la Mexicana. The name is different, the cuisine has changed from Mexican to Middle Eastern, but the experience is pretty much the same.

It’s a small storefront that’s mostly store. There are shelves of Middle Eastern canned and dry goods mixed in with everyday essentials.

One one side of the shop is a counter with some refrigerated items. And behind that is a menu board displaying the few items available to order and eat at one of the rustic tables in front. There are the usual kebabs and gyros but there are a couple of more interesting items, such as the Gheymeh that I selected.


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Ali Baba’s Deli

Written By Scott Joseph On April 19, 2018

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I’m pretty sure the first puppet show I ever saw, and most likely the first theatrical production of any type, was “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves,” performed by a professional traveling troupe that had set up in the gymnasium of Garfield Elementary School in Moline, Ill. I was probably 8 or 9. I think we were told it was the Bil Baird Marionettes, but I doubt that was true.

I don’t remember much about it except the Open Sesame line and the horribly gruesome deaths of the thieves who had boiling oil poured over them as they hid in large pottery jars. I still have nightmares. And I’m fairly certain that some of the other grisly plot lines were omitted, such as Ali’s brother being quartered and the chunks left outside the thieves’ den as a warning. And Ali Baba still gets top billing even though it was the slave girl Morgiana who saved the day; it was she who poured the boiling oil into the jars. (Hey, Disney: next animated princess alert!)

None of this has anything to do with Ali Baba’s Deli, but you try coming up with an opening for a review after you’ve written more than four thousand of them.


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The Halal Guys

Written By Scott Joseph On September 28, 2017

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If you’ve ever been to New York City and wandered around the area of 6th Avenue and West 53d Street — and as a tourist, there’s a pretty good chance you have since it’s in the area of Rockefeller Center and the corner that the New York Hilton is on — you’ve undoubtedly seen an omnipresent food stand there where meats and onions are cooked on a griddle day and night and mounded in a corner of the hot surface awaiting customers.

You may have even ordered a pita sandwich there. I did, many, many years ago, on one of my early visits to the city, while attending a convention, at the Hilton, in fact, in the days before I became a food writer. It was convenient, and cheap, especially for New York, and for someone unfamiliar with the city an easy and unintimidating choice.

I’m sure at the time I thought I was experiencing real New York food.


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Hubbly Bubbly Falafel Shop Downtown

Written By Scott Joseph On July 13, 2017

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Vast improvements have been made between the opening of the first Hubbly Bubbly Falafel Shop, in College Park, and the second, in downtown Orlando. Of course, more than three and a half years passed between the two, so you’d expect a learning curve of sorts. And as I detailed in my review of the prototype shop in September of 2013, up was really the only way to go.

I haven’t been back to the Edgewater Drive location since then, but I’ll assume they’ve made the changes that made the falafel sandwich I had at the new location so enjoyable.

And I have to say that only a week before trying the new HB, I visited my favorite falafel shop in the world, L’As du Fallafel on Rue des Rosiers in Paris.

And while Hubbly’s falafel sandwich doesn’t quite match the culinary experience that is a l’As du Fallafel falafel — heck, neither do any of the other falafel shops that have popped up on that small street in the Marais — it was good enough that I can now recommend it.


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Oh My Gyro

Written By Scott Joseph On June 27, 2017

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Lots of people are all aflutter about a certain New York street food vendor coming to town. We’ll talk about that soon. But if you’re one of those longing for the kind of food prepared on a street-corner griddle, Oh My Gyro might be your kind of place.

In fact, in its Facebook description, it says that it serves “authentic New York Halal Cart Food.” Halal, of course, refers to meat prepared under the strictures of Muslim law. Sort of a Muslim equivalent of kosher.

Oh My Gyro gets its name from the web shorthand of OMG, which actually means oh my god. Not sure Oh My Gyro works as an expletive, but we’ll go with it.


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Yemeni Kitchen

Written By Scott Joseph On June 6, 2017

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Ramadan mubarak.

It seemed fitting to plan a visit to Yemeni Kitchen, a Middle Eastern restaurant in Kissimmee, during Ramadan, the holy month observed by Muslims worldwide. The Republic of Yemen is the second largest country in the Arabian Peninsula, and a restaurant in Central Florida dedicated to its food was a worthwhile trek.

It might seem odd to plan a visit to a Middle Eastern restaurant during Ramadan, during which one of the more well-known observances involves fasting. But that’s only from sunrise to sundown.

And that explains the handwritten note on the front door of Yemeni Kitchen announcing the start of the evening’s buffet: precisely at 8:19, the official time of sunset. And not a moment sooner.


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