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Halal Carts in NYC

  • j

Well I finally gave into one of the only deals left in town!
There is a pretty good Halal cart on the corner of 11th Street and First Ave. For 5 bucks you get some tasty chix with veggies, veggie rice and salad. if the cart dude is in good mood he will throw a falafel and some fries on top. seriously good and filling.
Hot sauce and some white sauce....

Any carts I should try?

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  1. The best Halal carts are on 6th Avenue in the 40s and low 50s. People are passionate about certain ones. I find them all good. Lamb (really gyro lamb) over rice with white sauce and hot sauce is usualy the best bet. Sometimes you have to pick your rice (yellow, white, spicy, etc.)

    1. Has anyone ever reverse engineered which seasonings are used to create the chicken/lamb? Salt, turmeric, black pepper, onions, green peppers, carrots, maybe a little cayenne? What else, there's a taste I cant identify used at all the Halal Carts??

      11 Replies
        1. re: Ora

          Mayo, cinnamon (on the meat), cucumber

          1. re: NAtiveNewYorker

            I think the sauce is yogurt-based, not mayo.

            1. re: Miss Needle

              Most are yogurt. But some of the popular ones also have mayo in them. I believe the famous 53rd and 6th has a hint of mayo.

              1. re: NAtiveNewYorker

                I wondered about cinnamon...but there's something else...what?

                1. re: Ora

                  I think ( in addition to salt, onion, cinnamon, carrot, tumeric mentioned above) cumin, garlic, veg. oil, chix stock

                  There is a distinction tho - the yogurt mentioned above is for the white sauce.

                  What I'm talking about is the marinade for the grill. Other than that I am perplexed as well - there is something else. Always wanted to ask them but never had the courage.

                  1. re: dwaves

                    Agree with the spice--though I think the cinnamon is just a pinch. I walked by one yesterday, I am thinking I smelled fennel seed, or something earthy like that. There's maybe a little lemon, don't think vinegar is the acid. But there something else...what??

                  2. re: NAtiveNewYorker

                    Most are yogurt? Man, I'm going to the wrong places I guess! The famous place is definitely mayo-based, but you need some to balance that amazing HOTHOTHOT sauce. I wish they would just say what's in the white sauce - I love tzatziki sauce but I usually hate mayo.

              2. At a loss for what to have for lunch yesterday, I went to the Halal cart on B'way in Soho, it wasn't that great, it could have been better, but what bothered me most was that the lettuce, onions and tomato added at the end were really hot. I only had it wrapped for about 4 min. max before I began to eat it. Any idea why it might have ended up being so hot? I'd consider going back again, but need to figure out a way so this doesn't happen again.

                1. I finally got to try the one on 53rd and 6th that's only open at night. Of course it was great, but I think what makes it really good is that everything is so fresh because there is always a line. Also, it was not greasy at all, which has nothing to do with the line. I'd go back in a heartbeat (granted this could limit the number of actual heartbeats I have left), except it's rare that I'm in the area when the cart is there (7:30 p.m. - 5:00 a.m.).

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: LloydG

                    The same food can be found during the day on the SE corner of 52nd and 6th. No lines either.

                    1. re: KTinNYC


                      Jfood ate at the yellow bag on the SE corner of 6th and 53rd yesterday. Is your 52 a typo or did jfood eat at the wrong cart. BTW - it was very good.

                      1. re: jfood

                        I honestly thought it was on 52nd but if you got the yellow bag and round tin then you got the real deal.

                        1. re: KTinNYC

                          I've also heard that the copycat cart was on 53rd. The best chicken I've found is on 43rd and 6th -- much tastier and more flavorful than the 53rd location. If I want chicken and lamb, I'll go to 53rd. But if I just want chicken, 43rd is superior by far.

                          1. re: KTinNYC

                            It's not a copycat, it's the same company - same bag, same uniform, same food, same everything. I'm truly dumbfounded that more people don;t realize this - is waiting for 25 minutes that much fun? ;)

                            1. re: joeyz

                              Yes, you're right. Wrong choice of words on my part. A company like Pinkberry is a copycat.

                    2. i have enjoyed the halal cart on 11th street......they are a 24 hour operation....or so it seems......
                      there are 3 guys that man the cart so they do not have to move it daily.....

                      i like the sauce they put on it but the hot sauce is to hot for me...

                      i stick with the chix but am often curious about the eggplant?

                      anyone else tried this cart?

                      1. i work on park btwn 32 and 33 and there is a cart outside that is always packed. rafiqi's its called

                        1. I don't know if this guy is still there, but the guy on the south east corner of broadway and houston used to have the best c&r. perfectly seasoned chicken and great fluffy rice. For some reason he would only show up when the weather was nice, don't know where he goes on cold/wet days.

                          1. jfood needed some air around lunchtime today and went to the "yellow bag" cart on the southeast corner of 53/6th. Supposedly the same as the nighttime "yellow bag" guy on the northwest corner at night. A great chicken and lamb combo over rice lettuce and tomato for $5. Probably the best deal in town.

                            Highly recommend

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: jfood

                              I've heard that the yellow bag "day cart" is run by the brother of the "night cart" on 53rd and 6th and it is delicious. Love that chicken in a pita or chicken pita platter. Here's a pic of the chicken pita platter (warning, viewing not recommended if you are extremely hungry and lack access to sufficient cart food): http://www.flickr.com/photos/nycblond...

                              For lamb I favor, Kwik Meal on 45th and 6th. It's tender, nicely marinated, and best of all, it's actual lamb. So, so good.

                            2. I tried a chicken in pita at all 3 carts closest to where I work. There's a guy on Broadway and Prince, in front of 564, his chicken is not as flavorful, but I kind of like his white sauce the most. It's the thick type. The guy in front of 555 was ok, that's the guy I mention below, but the guy I just tried today seems to be the winner out of my immeadiate location. He was on Spring, near Broadway diagonally across from Balthazar. His chicken must have been marinated. It was the most tender, and most flavorful out of the other guys, his was 3.50. One of the guys on line asked for green sauce which is mentioned in the thread, he said not today. I'm hoping he has on my next visit, it sounds like it would be a really good touch. From what I can tell by the conversation between the customers, it seems that this guy was somewhere else before he settled here. I'd love to try one of the uptown carts for comparison, but for now this will do.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: michele cindy

                                I love chicken and rice. Partial to the place on 47th between 2nd and 3rd. But the problem is I moved to San Francisco. Where as far as I can tell there's no chicken and rice carts.

                                So, I have a chowhound challenge. Can we piece together a recipe? The rice I imagine is cooked in chicken broth. How is the chicken spiced? What actually are white sauce and hot sauce?

                              2. The Sammy's Halal cart on Broadway and east 4th does an excellent sandwich. I've detected a definite ginger note in their chicken, along with the already-mentioned spices.

                                1. The guys on Broadway in SoHo, and nearby on Broadway, are a different style of Halal cart than those found in most of town. Among the differences, their seasoning is heavy on turmeric and they generally use basmati rice. I'm not exactly sure, but it seems clear to me that the guys in this area are from a different region than most other Halal cart operators; perhaps South Asia. Anyone know?

                                  On 14th street just West of Union Square there is an "Afghani" Halal cart. I don't discern much difference between what he serves and most other carts.

                                  Personally, I prefer the more typical carts to the ones found around SoHo. I like my chicken over rice to have bits of cooked broccoli, carrot, and onion. I like white or brown rice, so I usually avoid carts that serve only yellow. I like hot sauce that is rather vinegary -- good hot sauce is really key for me. And of course, I like it to be relatively fresh.

                                  There used to be a really good cart on the West side of Broadway just above Houston. He wasn't in the style of the other guys in the area, and did everything just as I like it. He would also throw in some falafel and baba. Unfortunately he's been gone for almost a year or so.

                                  I also used to really like a cart on the SW corner of 49th and 6th. It has a sign that reads "Reda King of Chicken." I agreed for a time. The chicken was really tasty, there were vegetables in the mix just as I like them, and they had great hot sauce. But some months ago they changed their hot sauce to something more fiery and harsh tasting. The first time I ran into that I asked if the sauce was different. They said no but I tried it again a week later and I'm positive. I think the cart must have changed hands because it's gone downhill in other ways, such as not cooking their vegetables through. Nowadays they toss mostly raw broccoli and carrots on the grill and only leave them cooking for a fraction of the time they require. They are not the only place that does this, and its a big no no in my book.

                                  Whenever this subject comes up there is talk of THE Cart on 6th and 53rd. Personally I think it's just a lot of hype that people are buying into. It's good, but no better or worse than many others.

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: zEli173

                                    i think the cart on 6th and 53rd is good for one reason, turnover. At 95% of the other carts the meat has been pre-cooked and sitting around on a hot grill for a while, so it can be over cooked or its been semi cooked and then they finished cooking it when u get there...either way u end up with a more dry version

                                    while at the cart everything is continually fresh b/c it gets turned over all the time, so the meat, pita, rice etc all tastes very fresh. I also do like their hot sauce and white sauce

                                    1. re: Lau

                                      A good point for sure.

                                      Talk about a self-fulling prophecy :-)

                                    2. re: zEli173

                                      I haven't tried the carts uptown in many years, but I'm glad to hear that the carts around Broadway in Soho are not the same as the ones uptown. I don't care for the spicing either, after trying a bunch of them, I was wondering what all the hype was about

                                      1. re: zEli173

                                        I think the "afghani" cart you mention by union square is on the south east side, just across fourth. Pretty scary - really grimey dirty cart, wouldn't repeat. There's another one on the south side of 14th btwn 3rd & 4th also really crappy. Rafiqi's seems to be everywhere now. They are pretty solid. Definitely a fan of Sammy's on 4th and bway. Also a really good one in front of home depot on 23rd. I usually judge by turnover, freshness, and general cleanliness. Agree as well that good hot sauce is critical. But omit the white sauce and you suddenly realize it takes two sauces to tango. 53rd and 6th also solid. Curious why sit down restaurants don't serve a cleaner more dressed up version of this.

                                        1. re: easy123

                                          I think we're both wrong. I meant to say just to the "East" of Union Square, but (the one I'm familiar with) is definitely on the North side of 14th.

                                      2. The halal cart at 53rd and 6th is so over rated. I was in NYC a few weeks ago and had heard so much hype about the food. My friend and I were so excited to check it out and boy were we disappointed. The chicken/beef was dry and made in mass bulk due to the long line. It wasn't even fresh. They put the sauce in the little plastic cups rather than smothering it all over true street foodie style. There is a seperate cart for beverages...this is a street cart, why so complicated? I do not understand the appreciation for this place! The guys were NOT friendly, my friend is Arab too and he didn't even feel comfortable speaking to him. There is a much better one down the block where you can tell he is passionate about what he is cooking. He spent time on each detail and made the food with love and was also very sweet.

                                        8 Replies
                                        1. re: nonibear

                                          I couldn't disagree more, but to each his own....but for the record, i've eaten the 53& 6th guys about a million times (both day and night) they have always applied the white sauce and hot sauce directly to the platter in " true street foodie style" the containers are for extra sauce degenerates like me who can't get enough....and the guys (both day and night) are plenty nice enough, what type of love and sweetness do you expect for $4.50 anyway?

                                          1. re: Cpalms

                                            Cpalms, thing have changed, well not that much, the food is good, extra sauce comes if you ask, but it's a whole FIVE dollars now.

                                            1. re: KTinNYC

                                              the nerve of those guys to charge 5 bucks!!..LOL!...thanks for the update, I thought it was $5 is you asked for a falafel...all kidding aside, the cart has been and remains one of the best deals in the city.....

                                          2. re: nonibear

                                            Okay, let's discuss your arguments point by point.

                                            1) It either chicken or lamb
                                            2) It is made in mass bulk because of the line but because there is such a long line it's cooked and consumed pretty quickly and they make more as they go
                                            3) Sauce is given to you in separate containers and in my experience you get 2 white and 2 hot, more than enough. If you ask you can you can have them put all the sauce on for you.
                                            4)Arab? What constitutes Arab? Maybe they are a different breed of Arab as your friend.

                                              1. re: nonibear

                                                I wonder which cart you're referring to, SE or SW corner?

                                                1. re: bruceb04

                                                  during the day "the Cart" is on the SE corner and at night the SW corner....look for the yellow umbrella

                                              2. I need to throw the guys who run the Pakiza Halal cart on Park Place & Broadway (near City Hall) into this discussion.

                                                The cart has only been in the area for a couple months but it has developed a very loyal following and rightly so. The chicken on a pita is outstanding. I'd rank it the best in the city, but given that I have only tasted a dozen or so carts you can take my ranking for what it's worth. Regardless, the Pakiza cart is a welcome addition to our hood and I'd recommend it to anyone stuck down here for jury duty or whatever other reason you may be in the area.

                                                1. I'm a fan of the large truck/cart on 28th / Madison - cheap and delish!