The first European site for Stateside street food brand The Halal Guys, specialising in hot sandwiches and platters made with gyro meat, chicken or falafel.
The eponymous ‘Guys’ are Egyptian immigrants Mohammed Abouelenein, Ahmed Elsaka and Abedelbaset Elsayed, who opened a hot dog stand in New York in 1990. After realising there was a huge demand from Muslim cab drivers for authentic halal cuisine, however, the trio decided to convert their stand into a halal food cart. News of the cart spread thanks to the cabbies, who flocked there for its ability to provide a cheap and reliable halal meal, and soon it became popularised by New York’s Muslim community. Franchising began rapidly in 2015, with The Halal Guys expanding to other US locations before branching out to Canada, the Far East, and now London. To date, more than 450 sites have opened across six countries.
With its garish red and yellow colour scheme and prime Leicester Square location, The Halal Guys’ debut UK venue is far from subtle. Though clearly aiming for cool, the interior has a main steam, fast-food vibe. There’s a cartoonish New York City skyline, trigger phrases telling the story of the brand, and flattering pull-quotes from Bloomberg and the New York Post stencilled onto the walls a ’la Five Guys (it must be a guy thing).
It’s no frills, messy fare. There’s beef cut from the gyro cone and finished on the grill, falafels, marinated chicken and not much else. Diners can choose between meats and falafel or opt for a combo, served either on a platter with rice and salad (£7-£8) or in a pitta sandwich (£6). Sides include fries, hummus and baba ganouj, with baklava available for dessert. The brand hopes that its secret-recipe signature sauces will give it the edge over the more standard kebab shops. There’s two: a garlicy white sauce, and a red one that comes with a Scoville rating of 130,000 (almost as hot as a Habanero chilli).
And another thing:
Like many other US food brands before it, The Halal Guys has grand plans to expand in the UK, with 20 locations mooted to open in the next five years – a second site is already set to open in Earl’s Court this summer. It’s something we’ve heard many times in the past, and yet with no discernible like-for-like competitor, The Halal Guys might just have the will and spirit to succeed where others have failed.
14-15 Irving St, Charing Cross