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Halal Guys - does any location consistently serve meat off the grill?

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I admit it. I'm a tourist and I love Halal Guys. I still try to go to the famous location even though the other locations should theoretically be the same.

But on my last trip, two out of three times I had it, they were serving the meat out of hotel pans that were placed on the grill instead of actually serving the meat straight off the grill.

Both times, the meal was very underwhelming. The meat was lukewarm and had absolutely no flavor since it's essentially a pile of steaming meat with no char or caramelization at all.

The one time I got meat straight off the grill, it was as good a plate of food as I remembered it being. Well-seasoned, full of flavor from having caramelization and charred edges from being on the grill.

Is there a way to guarantee that the meat will be served off the grill and not just scooped out of those hotel pans?

Here's my experience:
Daytime Halal Guys stand across street from famous location - scooped from hotel pan
11pm famous location on a Wednesday - AMAZING meat straight off grill
12pm famous location on a Thursday - scooped from hotel pan

When I saw those pans of meat on the grill that third time, I was pretty disappointed. But it was my buddy's first day in town and all he wanted was Halal Guys, so we got it anyway.

I wish we were staying at a hotel with a kitchen. I could order a combo plate with sauce on the side, bring it back to the room, and pan fry the meat to get some flavor on it.

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  1. Are you sure you are going to the original Famous Halal Guys? The copycats look very similar but aren't as quality. And there is another just down the block of Avenue of the Americas that isn't even trying.

    Either way, if it's not a long line and you want them to heat your lunch up on the flat top, I don't see a problem in asking them to do so. It's a street cart, not Shopsin's. You can make special requests.

    8 Replies
    1. re: JungMann

      The copycat's quality vis a vis the original Famous Halal Guys is up for debate: the copycat cart came in second in MidtownLunch's Street Meat Palooza a few years ago!

      http://midtownlunch.com/2010/05/26/st...

      1. re: JungMann

        Yes, it was definitely the real Halal Guys every time (yellow shirts, "We Are Different" sign, yellow bags), with two meals at the original location (the only one on that block to have the big squeeze bottles of white and red sauce).

        Daytime location (across the street from the nighttime location of the original cart) served steamed meat out of the hotel pan. Original evening location served amazing grilled meat once and steamed meat the second time.

        There's usually a line, so I would feel bad about asking them to grill the meat just for me. There might also be no space to do it with the two hotels pans resting on the grill (one for chicken, one for lamb).

        Am I the only person who has experienced this at the original Halal Guys? It's so disappointing.

        1. re: ah6tyfour

          The imposter cart across the street on the Southwest side of 53/6 usually has grilled meat. The style is pretty similar, but I'm sure there are slight differences.

          Overall, 53/6 isn't really one of the better halal carts in the city and hasn't been for a while. They just have good brand recognition, like Magnolia Bakery.

          1. re: Humbucker

            Agreed about 53/6 not being that great. Caveat: haven't been in a while but the Trini Pak cart on 43rd between 6th and 5th produced a far more flavorful and juicy chicken than 53/6 ever did. The 53/6 chicken is too dry and non-seasoned.

            1. re: Miss Needle

              Agree about the chicken. The 53rd/6 style has a time and a place, but one area where I think they are pretty much indisputably worse than almost any random cart is that plain, dry chicken.

              1. re: Miss Needle

                Thanks! I'm going to try to get to the Trini Paki cart this time.

              2. re: Humbucker

                But I really like Magnolia Bakery's banana pudding =P

                1. re: ah6tyfour

                  I've heard good things about their pudding, and I don't even mind their cupcakes, but most others feel that there are now better cupcakes out there.

          2. Dude, it's grilled cheap meat with mayo-based white sauce and some shredded lettuce and sliced hot house tomatoes, at like a roundtrip subway fare price.

            Ain't rocket science.

            Get a bad plate, Toss and get another one.

            3 Replies
            1. re: ipsedixit

              The problem is the meat I was served wasn't grilled! It was cooked, stored in a big hotel pan, and kept warm over the grill. It had no flavor at all.

              And since my time in Manhattan is limited and I try to get many meals in, I would only have one opportunity to get Halal Guys. It sucks when it's the non-grilled meat.

              1. re: ah6tyfour

                Obviously the demand for this stuff has caused them to cut corners and serve precooked meat. Sounds like their time has come and gone. Be happy with the memories of what used to be and move on to another "find." God knows NYC has enough to offer.

                1. re: ttoommyy

                  I think they've also served pre-cooked meat. But they used to keep the pre-cooked meat in bins and transfer a portion to the grill, get it nice and caramelized with charred eges, and use that for service. They would make sure they had the next batch on the grill before the previous batch finished. This happened one time my last trip and it tasted amazing.

                  But when they just start scooping directly out of the warming bins? No good at all.

            2. Be sure its these guys:
              http://53rdand6th.com
              (Yellow shirts "we are different" )
              And supposedly in may the storefront in the e village will be open. In the meantime they have another cart on 14th and 2nd ave in front of where the store will be

              6 Replies
              1. re: Ttrockwood

                I'm really looking forward to the B&M shop opening, although I don't know when I'll be able to go to NY again after my trip in April. With the B&M store, I think they'll be able to make sure the meat is grilled.

                1. re: ah6tyfour

                  You may want to check out the results from Midtown lunch's last street meat palooza....
                  http://midtownlunch.com/2013/10/09/st...

                  1. re: Ttrockwood

                    Thanks! I think I'll try Trini Paki on this trip, although hopefully their curry isn't too potent (it'd be before a business meeting).

                    1. re: ah6tyfour

                      Consider a pilgrimage to the legendary s Sammys in Jackson Heightsterdam

                      1. re: ah6tyfour

                        Just get some of those little minty listerine strips to chase away your curry breath :)

                        1. re: ah6tyfour

                          Trini Paki is good, but be forewarned that it isn't your standard halal food. Portions are smaller for the money (unless you splurge for a large), sauces are less spicy and mayo-ish, and the rice is different than the typical yellow rice.

                          If you have your heart set on the 53/6 style, I would just go to one of their clones that has more charred meat.