The traditional hot dog and pretzel stands are no longer part of mainstream New York culture. If you walk the streets of NYC today, you find endless amounts of halal carts. Although the cheap prices for lamb and shrimp from street carts may seem worrisome, don’t be silly. Halal carts are abundant for a reason; you should eat at them as much as you can.
If you ask almost any New Yorker, they will immediately bring up the 53rd and 6th cart, truly the “mecca” of New York halal food. This cart does sell their own t-shirts and have their own websites. Sadly, I have not been, so I can not make a judgment so far.
However, there is another great option for those who live a bit further downtown. This fantastic cart is located on the southeast side of Union Square. The absurd number of halal carts on 14th Street make it difficult to find. Here are some basic steps for identifying it: it’s the only one with a $3.99 deal including a drink, it is the 3rd cart from 3rd avenue, and the guy running the stand will call you “brother”.
Now – what to order:
Although the gyros are considered favorites, go with the lamb and rice. The lamb, despite coming in a large chunk, is surprising good quality and is even leaner than the chicken. Although thousands of carts offer lamb and rice, this one if different. First, it comes with potatoes on top. The potatoes are chopped up and have a bit of spice on them; they taste very similar to those used in Indian dosas. Second, they put pita on top of the lamb and rice, without extra charge. As always, the pita is coated in butter and the famous New York halal “white sauce”. Third, it costs only $3.99.
If you want a lot of great food for only $4, there is no better option.