For all of you Miamians, if you don't already know about the Halal Guys' famous fare, you better keep reading. When the popular Manhattan-born brand opens its first Florida restaurant in the Tower Shops in Davie next month, just know the gyros (and that white sauce) will most certainly be worth the drive out of town.
But wait, we're getting ahead of ourselves. First, a little background: The Halal Guys was founded in 1990 when three men — Egyptian immigrants Muhammed Abouelenein, Abdelbaset Elsayed, and Ahmed Elsaka — opened a hot-dog street cart in New York City. To distinguish themselves from the dozens of street carts scattered around town, they decided to cater to the city's Muslim cab drivers by swapping out hot dogs for a menu of specialty halal dishes. (Halal refers to food prepared according to Islamic law.)
Today the Halal Guys have developed a cultlike following. For close to three decades, masses of people have been flocking to the corner of West 53rd Street and Sixth Avenue — the first cart's original location — to feast on what many believe to be the best falafel and gyros in Manhattan.
Those gyros are so legendary, in fact, New Yorkers are known to wait more than 30 minutes in a line that stretches for blocks. But most customers order the brand's signature meal of grilled, marinated chicken over rice, known simply as "the platter."
Part of the hysteria surrounding this beloved NYC meal is in the Halal Guys' addictive, near-mythical proprietary white sauce. Nobody knows what makes the combination of soybean oil, egg yolk, vinegar, water, pepper, salt, and sugar so good, but everyone knows to ask for extra.
In 2014, more than a decade after its founders decided to swap out hot dogs for halal food, the Halal Guys have gone from street carts to a full-fledged fast-food chain. More than 450 proposed restaurant locations have been targeted worldwide, and already the company has opened a number of stores across the nation, including New Jersey, Virginia, Illinois, Texas, Nevada, and California. Outside the States, the brand can be found in Canada and overseas in South Korea.
When it opens in January, the Davie restaurant will be the first of several in Florida, says South Florida Halal Guys franchise owner Shahmeer Alam, and plans for a Pembroke Pines location are already in the works.
Alam recalls the time he discovered the well-known Manhattan carts. "Six years ago, I was in New York with my family, and I kept seeing these long lines at the Halal Guys cart at 53rd and Sixth. After a few days, I had to find out what was going on," he says. "One of the owners was there. He insisted we try the combo platter. I was hooked."
After the Davie resident learned the company offered franchise opportunities to open brick-and-mortar stores both nationwide and globally, Alam says he was first in line to become the inaugural South Florida “Halal Guy" alongside restaurant industry veterans general manager David Miller and assistant general manager Bruce Newman.
At the Halal Guys South Florida, patrons will be able to choose from a menu of beef gyro; grilled, marinated chicken; and falafel served in a bowl or wrap. Toppings will include onions, jalapeños, olives, green peppers, and a variety of sauces, including the famous white one. Hummus, baba ghanouj, falafel, and fries will be available as sides, and baklava is set for dessert.
The Halal Guys
2268 S. University Dr., Davie; thehalalguys.com.