The FiDi Chicken and Rice Project
Halal food carts are a dime a dozen where I work, but after some helpful hints from friends and various online sources, I made a shortlist of ones to visit. I'll add to this post over time.
XPL- Wall & Pearl
First visit, 7/23/08, $5
Three guys in a cart. I didn't ask them if they are associated with the XPL on Williams or the one in midtown that just garnered some fame on Midtown Lunch's halal cart competition.
Chicken: Small pieces. Not incredibly flavorfull, and not an impressive portion. Still, it was juicy and looked okay.
Rice: Really mushy, and not nearly at tasty as I remember the XPL on Williams being.
Salad: Shreded lettuce, tomato and cucumber.
Sauces: Just a spritz. White sauce was really watery. Red sauce had a strong vinegar flavor and tasted store-bought.
Sodas: Ice cold in a cooler.
Etc: Not as greasy as some I've tasted, which I appreciate.
Overall: 2/5 stars
Continental Halal- Beaver @ Broadway
First visit, 12/15/08, $5 (no drink)
Chicken: Mostly dark meat, chopped and mixed with green bell peppers and onion on the griddle. Good flavor, moist but definitely a bit on the oily side. Didn't stop me from devouring it.
Rice: Moist with a little zing, but not distinctive.
Salad: Shredded lettuce, tomato. Lettuce was very fresh, tomato not so much.
Sauces: Solid white, above par spicy red.
Etc: They already have the salad down in the box, so the portion of rice and chicken is cut down a little. No wait at 12:30.
Overall: 3/5 stars
Pasha's- Williams & Pine
First visit, 8/05/08, $5 (no drink)
Chicken: Cooked on a kebab and then chopped up before serving. Nice to have recognizable meat. People are ordering lots of different things so I don't think this is their specialty. Juicy, finished with onions and green bell peppers.
Rice: Pretty soft but flavored with clove and bay leaf. Pretty good.
Salad: Shredded lettuce, tomato, cucumber, carrots.
Sauces: Not good. White sauce is thick like mayo, red is forgettable.
Sodas: Looked lukewarm.
Etc: Almost zero grease though I thought it would be otherwise. Long wait, ok portion. If I come again I'll forgo the white sauce altogether.
Overall: 2/5 stars
"Open Open" Cart- Liberty Plaza SE, 2nd cart from corner
These guys were too busy for chit chat, so I'm calling it Open Open for its two large LED signs on either side of the cart.
8/04/08, $5 (no drink, $6 with). First visit.
Chicken: Chopped finely and mixed with red peppers, which is a nice touch. Juicy, not too much added flavor, but solid.
Rice: Regular long-grain. Fluffy but minimal flavor. Filling.
Salad: Lettuce, tomato, pickle. Lettuce slightly wilted. Lots of tomatos!
Sauces: White sauce is ok with a sharp sour-cream note. Red sauce is average but the two mix nicely.
Sodas: On ice.
Etc: Long line but 2 guys keep it moving really well. Minimal grease, HUGE portion.
Overall: 3.5/5 stars
Zak's- Broadway, east side b/n liberty & cedar
Many people consider this place to be the pinacle of FiDi street meat. Zak is always friendly and perhaps a little too talkative considering the lines ; )
Chicken: Dark meat, juicy and tasty. Not a huge portion, but definitely satisfying.
Rice: A bit mushy today, nice cinnemon flavor. Good size portion.
Salad: Shreded lettuce and Tomato.
Sauces: Liberal shot of white and extra red. White sauce is refreshing, tastes a little bit like ranch. Red sauce is awesome and give a nice slow burn.
Extras: Grilled onion and bell pepper, and a hot pepper on top.
Etc: Long wait. Somewhat greasy.
Overall: 4/5 stars
I have walked past Zak's a few times and everytime the line was outrangeous! I always wondered what so good about it and your descriptions made me want to give a try!
Are there any carts closeby (there are so many close to the Liberty Plaza) that are worth trying?
Not a halal cart, but there is a relatively new Chinese restaurant called Ho Yip on Liberty, and they serve some Americanized + close to authentic Chinese food. They have a buffet by lb and the meat over rice types of food. The flavor is surprisely ok! Greasy spoon but it is probably better (both flavorwise and price-wise) than most Chinese takeouts in the area.
Oh, the reason that I mentioned that is because they do serve some pretty decent chicken over rice (of course not halal style)