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Closest equivalent to NyC's 53th and 6th [San Francisco]

.... Please tell me there's something similar in SF?

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  1. what exactly are you looking for? I dont find that area of Manhatten particularly interesting. Are you looking for a theater district? Sf has less then a million people , much smaller then NYC by a magnitude so your not going to find something with the same atmosphere here. Im very familiar with the area as I frequently stay ar the Marquis

    1. So this is a halal food cart famous for a dish of chicken and rice. One discussion on the Manhattan board says it's traditional Afghan food, but it doesn't name the dish. If that's true, there might be something like it at Helmand Palace.

      Helmand Palace
      2424 Van Ness Ave, San Francisco, CA 94109

      7 Replies
      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        Aside from Robert no one even knows what I'm talking about.

        More opinions are welcome. BTW I'm not looking for actual food carts, but rather a place that sells food similar to that found on 53rd/6th (Hala Cart)


        1. re: KARLLL

          Since you know it's Afghani food and chicken on rice with kebob, have you considered doing a search for that or asking about Afghani food and that dish? Or is it all about the cart experience? NYC geographics mean little in SF, just like if I posted a question on the Manhattan board about 16th and Valencia. You know, WTF.

          Any way, the Bay Area has one of the largest, if not the largest, Afghan population in the U.S., so there are Afghani restaurant. Perhaps you should describe the dish or give other references to what it's like.

          1. re: ML8000

            I've had this item at the cart in question, and at several other carts. It is basically grilled meat over rice smothered in a mysterious white sauce. (I would say yogurt, but definitely adulterated with something because it really isn't tangy enough to be just yogurt.) The guys cooking appear to be Pakistani/Indian rather than Afghan. Most of the appeal is that it is a cheap greasy meal and people seem to be really really into the sauce (not my favorite). The 53rd cart stood out b/c the meat was fresher and better cooked than some other places. (There was a place in Queens frequented by a horde of South Asian cabbies that was better IMO.)

            I don't know of a place in the SF Bay Area that does that dish with that price point and that sauce. However, if you want to try something better (but more expensive), go to Salang Pass in Fremont, order the lamb kebabs and ask them to give you a side of the garlic yogurt sauce that goes with the aushak. (Or just order the aushak as well).

            Or you could go to de afghanan kabob across the street, which is cheaper and does a better chicken than Salang Pass. (Although I can't remember if they provide yogurt sauce--in any case, it will probably not be enough in comparison to those street carts). Don't miss the bolani at de afghanan.

            Salang Pass
            37462 Fremont Blvd, Fremont, CA 94536

            1. re: sfbing

              That's helpful, so it's really inexpensive Halal chicken and rice (seasoned I assume) with a white sauce. Total guess but I betcha that sauce is yogurt sauce cut with cheap mayo. Probably right you won't find it here given the price and the fact that the cart probably turns over food very quickly...so no sitting on a steam table, etc.

              re: Afghan food, I've had home cooked meals. Some restaurants/dishes get close or surpass it (pumpkin and yogurt sauce) but most do not. Tilts your expectations and palette.

              1. re: sfbing

                The white sauce tastes like it's been cut with a little mayo or something of the sort.

                I know you're asking for Halal and Afghani, but I went to A La Turca the other day for turkish food and they have a great yogurt sauce and their shish kebabs look amazing. The doner meats are similar to the ones found on 53rd and 6th.

                A La Turca
                869 Geary St, San Francisco, CA 94109

                1. re: jessijessi

                  I freakin' ADORE A La Turca, and I am not supposed to, being Armenian and all. It's amazing.

                2. re: sfbing

                  Seconding sfbing's assessment. I didn't find the chicken and rice particularly compelling, even with the vaunted white sauce (which tasted like mayo + yogurt to me - good call, ML8000) and spicy sauce. Honestly, I think it's more about the experience of standing on line with a bunch of other people and scarfing down an aluminum takeout container of food on a street corner with 50 other people doing the same thing. If you got it at a restaurant you'd feel ripped off.

                  Soon after I came back from my last NYC trip, a Pakistani patient of mine gave me a giant container of homemade biryani that reminded me of the chicken and rice, except it was a thousand times better - aside from the excellent Afghan recs in this thread, I'd recommend the OP also look into Pakistani restaurants for chicken biryani.

          2. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/734125

            And, since you said a location, at 16th and Valencia is Simply Med, which does a killer schwarma, which can be had on a plate, but it seems no one is importing this strange white sauce they invented.

            8 Replies
            1. re: bbulkow

              Pamir Afghan in the Emery Bay Market did come to mind but I don't know how it compares, esp. on on price and the famous white sauce but it's worth a try. The menu calls it Chelow Barg, rice pilaf or saffron rice with chicken kebob. I was in there yesterday and walked by and remember a plate goes for $7.95 now. It's good/okay but the rice is also steam table so it can get dull. I also don't recall much grease...which of course is what people probably really dig.

              1. re: ML8000

                There is always Wally's in Emeryville. Cash only, in an alleyway behind a bar past some dumpsters but the schwarma is very good.

                1. re: JonDough

                  Sorry didn't realize this was an old thread.

                  1. re: JonDough

                    Look below..."Three years later" by Melanie Wong. The news is an Afghan cart opened in the Financial District.

                    1. re: ML8000

                      I saw that but the portion that I replied to was old.

                      As a side note, this tread inspired me to eat lunch at Wally's in Emeryville today. I really like the place.

                      1. re: JonDough

                        My bad...so what do you order at Wally's and what's good?

                        1. re: ML8000

                          I like their beef schwarma, the chicken is good too. I order with the yogurt sauce and the garlic (usually it comes with one or the other). I know some people that like the falafel, I would like it more if it came with more sauce. I like their baklava, which you get a small free one at the end of the meal. You get a small free soup at the beginning of the meal too. It is a hole in the wall place so don't expect too much if you go.

              2. re: bbulkow

                That's Truly Mediterranean at 16th and Valencia.

              3. Nobody has answered your question directly. Since there are literally dozens, maybe even hundreds of Halal carts in New York, it's odd that not one has shown up here in our street food explosion. (Maybe they're not hipstervore-worthy.) Matt Cohen (of the SF Carts Project) was himself wondering aloud about this very strangeness recently.

                The chicken over rice I've had at some of these carts reminds me a lot of the characteristic dish in Montreal inaccurately labeled as "shish taouk" (it's not a kebab), chicken which has been drenched in a tangy white sauce. Alfredo Sauce is often suggested as a quick and easy substitute, so maybe the sauce is cream-based rather than yoghurt based.

                5 Replies
                1. re: soupçon

                  General consensus seems to be that the secret sauce is tzatziki mixed with mayo.

                  1. re: soupçon

                    Had the 53rd St. and 6th Ave. cart chicken rice and lamb rice a couple of times and I think it's great. Indeed, the standing in line part is why I don't go back there unless I'm lucky enough to not face a massive wait. The lack of such carts and food has also been raised on the L.A. board, and I think the answer is rather simple. There are lots of types of regional or ethnic favorites that are missing in any particular part of the country, which is testimony to the wide variety of foods out there, the particular expertise needed to prepare it commercially, plus the critical mass of customers that is needed to make a certain type of food economically feasible to serve. For example, in Los Angeles there is no Dutch food, no Scandinavian food, hardly any east coast lobster rolls, no Springfield, MO style cashew chicken, hardly any Portuguese food etc. etc. I'm sure there are a number of similar voids in the Bay Area (e.g., Fujian style food which is ubiquitous in New York, non-existent in California).

                    1. re: Chandavkl

                      After "soupçon" compared the dish to shish taouk, I've been wondering if the sauce is like the sauce blanche of France's döner kebaps or similar to Lebanese toum. Does it remind you of Zankou's garlic sauce?

                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                        Actually I thought the Halal guys used a yogurt based sauce, but what do I know about Halal food?

                    2. I tried the joint in Emeryville-- although it was not similar to the place in the city, it was quite amazing. I will try out these other recommendations ASAP.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: KARLLL

                        I assume you mean Pamir Afgan in the Emerybay Public Market.

                        1. re: wolfe

                          I tried that stand once and it was quite good. I had a very long lamb shank in a spicy sauce and some sort of stewed cauliflower, also in a spicy sauce. The best part was that there was tons of marrow in the shank bone. I should go back there again.

                      2. Three years later . . . a halal cart imitator has opened in San Francisco according to TastingTable.

                        Halal Cart
                        445 Market St., San Francisco, CA 94111
                        Neighborhood: Financial District


                        15 Replies
                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                          Has Tasting Table dropped bylines or is that a fluke?

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            I don't recall bylines on TastingTable. I have seen a notice of when and/or how many times JK visted a place, and that's how I'll know the reviewer.

                          2. re: Melanie Wong

                            Thanks for the link. It's right outside my building, but not in the direction I usually go if I leave the building for lunch, so I don't see it until I'm coming back and it's too late. And by the next time I've forgotten. Now I'll make a special point of checking it out.

                            1. re: Ruth Lafler

                              Tried the chicken gyro plate a couple of days ago. The spice is close to non-existent and the yogurt based mystery sauce does not pack the expected tanginess and punch.

                              No comparison to the food at the 53rd and 6th cart in NYC. I hope things improve though - will try again in a few weeks.

                              1. re: osho

                                Had a similar experience as osho on Monday. Got the combo plate shortly after 1pm. No line. Though I saw them put chicken and rice on the flat top, and I sat down nearby to eat the plate immediately, the entire plate was only lukewarm. The plate was topped off entirely by a squeez of yogurt white sauce, with rice underneath the protein, and some iceberg and tomatoes on the side, but the sauce itself was lacking in flavor. Even in the FiDi, Oasis nearby has a much tastier rice and yogurt sauce. The cart also has another squeeze bottle for hot sauce. I didn't find it very tastey, but it is spicey. It feels like a puree of habernos or some kind of hot chile; not much flavor to begin with, maybe lacking salt or other flavorings, but soon packs a huge punch after a couple of seconds.

                                Had the halal cart near the MOMA in NY last year (it was a frequent mention on the Manhattan boards), and remember it being much hotter and flavorful. The portion size was significantly bigger too. We each ordered a plate, could barely finish, and still felt full after a 3 hour MOMA visit. This SF one is not a small portion per se, but don't expect a lunch coma inducing meal either.

                                Forgot to ask about hours.

                                1. re: Kirk_T

                                  Tried it today and it was the same as reported. Combo plate with rice. White sauce rather bland. Chicken better than the lamb. Hot sauce very hot, but not interesting. Good size for $7, but I probably won't be back.

                              2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                So I finally got around to trying it today. First, they don't have most of the things featured on their cart, and even though they raised the prices over a year ago, the new prices aren't listed anywhere.

                                I got the lamb gyro sandwich. While I was waiting, I squeezed a bit of the yogurt sauce onto my finger -- it was bland and undistinguished. The lamb itself was spicy and might have been tasty if it hadn't been too salty (and I use plenty of salt) and literally dripping with oil. By the time I was done there was oil all over my hands, dripped onto my desk top, etc.

                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                  Well that does fit the OP's original request then.

                              3. re: Melanie Wong

                                The NY carts are essentially serving Schwarma over rice, with the white sauce. A couple carts are known for fresher lamb, but most just use a prefab gyro like roll. They're open late nights, and some carts attract lines, but they're really not very good. The "street meats" come with a yellow or white rice, and sometimes a biryani type rice.

                                Something similar would be Yumma's rice plates.

                                1. re: sugartoof

                                  I concur. In my younger days, the best 'drunk' food in NYC.

                                  1. re: osho

                                    for me, that will always be Bereket, with Veselka as runner-up, and Gam Mee Ok as second runner-up... if there's one thing that NY unquestionably beats in SF in, it's dining options at 4am. ah, memories...

                                    1. re: dunstable

                                      VESELKA! **collapses to the floor weeping**

                                  2. re: sugartoof

                                    You pretty much nailed it--- the 53rd and 6th cart is open from 7:30pm-4am and the low quality of the food gets masked by sauce and inebriation.

                                    Anyone know the hours of the Halal cart in SF?

                                    1. re: hyperbowler

                                      They just announced their first brick-and-mortar location coming to the East Village . . . not like that will test the drunk-required part of their taste/business model.

                                      1. re: tex.s.toast

                                        I just had a chicken over rice at 53rd and 6th. It's funny I walk by this area all the time but didn't know anything about it until I read this thread.

                                        The line took about 25 minutes. Interestingly, most of the others in the line were either wondering why they were subjecting themselves to line torture or criticizing the owner for not opening another cart. I would not say that waiting in line contributes at all to "the experience."

                                        The rice is well-spiced and the meat is flavorful. The sauce has a pretty heavy mayo base -- it went ok with the rice but the part that went over the bread was really unpleasant.

                                        It is very salty. Kind of feels like somewhat well-executed fast food, but nothing more. I don't think I'd go back.

                                        To me, the best culinary destination at 53rd and 6th is the MOMA.