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1.Sammy’s Halal – Jackson Heights, Queens & Chelsea, Manhattan
Sammy’s Halal carts can be found in both Jackson Heights, Queens and the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. The food at this cart features a distinctly South Asian flavor. This is no surprise considering the founder is an immigrant from Pakistan. Sammy Noor moved to America in 1990. After a few years in Texas, he moved to New York City in 1997, where he purchased his first food cart in Jackson Heights for $15,000.
2.Mahmoud’s Corner Halal Truck – Astoria, Queens
Unlike some of the other halal carts on this list, Mahmoud’s Corner is a full-sized food truck. Previously a food cart, Mahmoud’s was so successful that they upgraded their operation. A striking blue color,Mahmoud’s can be spotted proudly displaying a sign that states “Keep Calm and Eat Halal.” Mahmoud’s has an extensive menu with plenty of meat choices for hungry carnivores, including: chicken and beef shawarma, chicken and beef kebabs, kofta, gyro meat and merguez sausages. It’s a great place to try all the halal cart classics in one location.
3.Biryani Cart – Midtown, Manhattan
A 2008 Vendy Award winner, the Biryani Cart in Midtown Manhattan serves up flavorful South Asian style halal food to crowds of busy office workers on their lunch breaks. Originally from Bangladesh, Meru Sikder was a former hotel chef at the New Jersey Hilton before he decided to start his own halal cart in 2004. But this wouldn’t be an ordinary halal cart, Meru wanted to add some culinary twists to the standard halal cart menu.
4.Steinway Halal – Astoria, Queens
Steinway Halal cart is quite different than the other carts on this list and is a great example of the diversity of New York halal carts. Rather than the chopped chicken and gyro meat popularized by the Halal Guys, Steinway Halal instead specializes in Egyptian grilled meats. And instead of a propane powered griddle, Steinway Halal grills its meat over charcoal briquettes, sending plumes of charcoal flavored smoke onto the street, enticing customers as they walk past. The cart is open late, closing at 3am and is very popular with the late-night crowd and Uber drivers.
5.King of Falafel & Shawarma– Astoria, Queens & Midtown, Manhattan
King of Falafel and Shawarma is an institution in Astoria, Queens. Started by Palestinian immigrant Freddy Zeideia in 2002, this cart has become extremely popular in Astoria. This popularity further increased in 2010 when he won the Vendy award, a prestigious New York City contest for street food. Business exploded and now the restaurant has several locations: a food truck and cart in Astoria, a cart in Manhattan and a sit-down restaurant in Astoria. The cart is also well-known for their customer service. Cart workers frequently hand out free falafels to customers waiting in line.
What makes the food at King of Falafel unique is the combination of Palestinian and classic New York halal cart flavors. Most halal carts in New York follow a similar playbook–factory standard gyro meat, chicken and sauces. However, the menu at King of Falafel is original. The falafel is crispy and elongated in the Palestinian style. The marinated chicken and beef tastes very different compared to other carts and the hot sauce is accentuated with amba, a mango pickle sauce in the Middle East. Try the combination rice platter with chicken and kofta to sample the distinct flavors. Every rice platter also includes a piece falafel.