If you’ve ever stood in line to eat at one of Manhattan’s Halal Guys food carts—and since 1990 a gazillion people have—or if you’ve eaten at one of their two Manhattan restaurants, you’ll be glad to know the Middle Eastern fast food chain is coming to Newark—with, of course, its mystical-magical, famously inscrutable white sauce.
The Newark franchise, on Halsey Street, is strategically located in the vicinity of Rutgers, the Prudential Center, NJPAC and even Penn Station. It is scheduled to open the day after Christmas.
The franchise owner is Nazmul Huda, 35. He grew up in Queens, went to St. John’s University, became a pharmacist and now lives in Edison.
Back in the day, he and his friends were among the gazillions who stood on line to buy heaping plates of yellow rice topped with chicken and gyro lamb, prepared in accordance with Islamic halal dietary guidelines. Chickpea falafel was, and still is, another Halal Guys attraction. Everything tasted, and tastes, better with the Halal Guys signature creamy white and fiery red sauces.
“It’s almost like a tourist attraction,” says Huda of the bright red and yellow food carts. “People just go for the experience. It’s like a social event.”
Halal Guys was founded in 1990 by Muhammed Abouelenein, Abdelbaset Elsayed and Ahmed Elsaka. That’s when the three Egyptian emigres rolled their first food cart onto Avenue of the Americas. They quickly switched from hot dogs—everybody was doing boiled hot dogs—to halal foods. At first their main customers were Muslim cab drivers.
But the Halal Guys carts soon caught on with everyone looking for inexpensive, tasty, healthy food. Today there are five carts and two storefronts in New York City and more than 200 franchise locations, including Chicago, Las Vegas, Houston, Philadelphia, plus Canada, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.
When the Halal guys started franchising in 2015, Huda signed on. He hired Joseph Hafez as his general manager. Hafez brings European culinary training and years of experience with other fast-food chains to the 1600-square-foot location.
Huda and Hafez plan to open storefronts in Edison, Montclair, New Brunswick and Princeton in 2017. Halal Guys menu includes pita sandwiches filled with chicken or gyro, lettuce and tomato, as well as fries, hummus and tahini. For dessert there is baklava.
“It’s been working for the last 25 years,” says Huda of the menu. “We don’t want to deviate from the formula. Hopefully consumers can walk out with the same great experience.”
72 Halsey Street