I pass by 6th Ave and 53rd Street on a daily basis after classes. It’s not an unfamiliar sight to see the six The Halal Guys halal carts (and one The Halal Guys catering van) with lines of hungry New Yorkers on their lunch break. Neighboring hot dog stands and nearby parked food trucks cannot compete with the loyalty New Yorkers have given to The Halal Guys and those street vendors often find themselves looking down on their phones much more often than on the grill. It’s heart breaking to see other street vendors including competing halal carts attempt the impossible of perhaps snagging one customer from the long lines for they not only sacrifice a more profitable location for the exclusive spot to be near The Halal Guys node, but also their permit usage which is constantly ticking down until its expiration date.
However, once I leave the busy streets of Manhattan, I found an interesting discovery. Bordering LaGuardia Community College located on Thomson Ave is another chain of various halal carts and other food carts waiting to serve hungry college kids. To my surprise there is another The Halal Guys cart located within this chain of food carts but it was the least popular one! There was not a single customer ordering and the vendor manning the cart at that time even had the grill turned off. Students and other pedestrians were lining up at other neighboring carts varying in names and products, but The Halal Carts had their popularity turned against them.
Having the tables turned upon this realization, I recall there are other well known halal carts within their own respective region. For example, Shah’s Halal Cart and Sammy’s are some of the most dominant halal carts in Queens. Shah’s also has recently expanded to Long Island with a cart located in Hicksville! Although the name “The Halal Guys” is often the first one we think of, given their popularity and success that allowed them to branch into catering and a brick-and-mortar store, New Yorkers will always save a space in their stomachs for local favorites. I cannot say on behalf of New York that this is present in other remaining boroughs such as Brooklyn or the Bronx, but according to online reviews, Queens residents seem to have their hearts (and stomachs) set on Shah’s over The Halal Guys.