Houston’s Halal Guys hits a bullseye
Crowds flocked to last Saturday’s opening of a new Halal Guys restaurant on Farnham Street. The New-York based food-stand chain has long been a favorite for late night meals. On my first visit to the New York, I was impressed with the massive gyro platters slathered in thick tahini. So when I headed over to the Halal Guys in Upper Kirby, I hoped for the same flavors and quantity as my first time.
In an attempt to evade a long wait I went around 3:30 p.m. The end of the line only grazed the door, but the wait still seemed long. After approaching the counter, I realized that the wait was partially caused by the food’s intricate presentation. The platters are split into neat thirds — lettuce and tomatoes, meat (falafel if vegetarian) and rice. A line cook layers slivers of pita bread in a fan shape on top, drizzling the signature tahini sauce (and red sauce if folks are real about the spice) over everything to complete the dish.
Behind the counter, everyone looks busy. I watched a cook toss together giant heaps of gyro beef while another busied himself with chicken. The lady armed with the tahini sauce eagerly whited out platter after platter. They all wore the lurid mustard-and-red colors that make Halal Guys stand out. Other cooks busied themselves adding other options on the menu, including baklava and sides of jalapenos and olives, though why anyone would want jalapenos with the fiery red sauce, I have no idea.
The food at the Houston location upholds the same standards of quality as in New York. Neon orange rice spiced with turmeric and cumin mingled with tender morsels of gyro beef and sprinkles of diced vegetables. The meat is incredibly savory while the tahini sauce showcases a hearty creaminess that elevates the other foods’ flavors. The pita bread, however, won me over the most. I picked off those soft, pillowy slices of goodness one by one with no trouble. Everything complimented each other to create a robust, filling meal.
Would I have waited two hours on opening day for this? Probably not. Perhaps after some tweaking with better efficiency in food preparation, people will get their hands on these meaty platters much easier. The price also increased from $7 at a New York food stand to $8.29 in Houston.
Still, I thoroughly enjoyed my experience. Getting a taste of New York in sprawling Houston gives a more prominent urban vibe here that’s very welcome. It’s also wonderful to know that Houston is continually garnering more attention in the food scene. Whether hankering for a late-night food fest or an affordable meal, Halal Guys rises to the occasion marvelously.
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