I lived in DC for nearly a decade. One of the highlights of spending nearly my entire adult life on the East Coast: Taking the bus up to New York. The lights, the smells of candied nut carts and corner hot dog stands, and the vibrant noise of one of America’s largest and most diverse cities. Sometimes I would go out to the chic rooftop clubs, sometimes I would explore the outdoor markets and sample the amazing Asian cuisine, but one thing that remained constant, one thing I would always do while in New York was treat myself to the Halal carts.

The supple bed of turmeric rice with crispy gyro and beautifully seasoned chicken crowned with a heavenly yogurt sauce and exquisite spicy sauce is the type of dish that forces you to remember to breathe between spoonfuls.

So when I found out that there is a chain of authentic halal food restaurants, I was on my way to the nearest one within 30 seconds.

From humble beginnings as a New York City hot dog cart to a world-renowned international restaurant chain, the force behind their success is abundantly evident after the very first bite. The rice is perfectly moist, the chicken and gyro are beautifully seasoned, and the sauce…the sauce is to die for. As a Mexican in a long term relationship with hot sauce, I was so elated with the red spicy sauce— addictive and edgy— once you’ve had it, your mouth will water at just the thought of it. To top it off, the baklava was so rich, so delicate that it reminded me of the care packages my Turkish friend would get while in college, the aroma alone brought back memories of the rush of excited anticipation of  having delicious, authentic baklava.

I went to the Costa Mesa restaurant, it was so full that I took a spot at a bar table in the back next to a very happy looking regular, and while I was stuffing my face (at a somewhat alarming rate) I told him that was my first time there, he smiled and said “I come here two or three times a week, I’m sure I’ll see you around here again now that you’ve tried it.”  I think he’s right.

You can find The Halal Guys in:



Washington, DC and Northern Virginia

Atlanta, Georgia

Chicago, Illinois

New Jersey

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Houston, Texas

Austin, Texas

Las Vegas, Nevada

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Manila, Philippines

Toronto, Canada

Jakarta, Indonesia


Cielo Villaseñor

Author: Cielo Villaseñor

Cielo has an eclectic background which includes politics, media relations, academia, and lots of writing.

From Capitol Hill to the university halls, she has kept constant her penchant for the art of authorship and engaging communication.

In her spare time, she likes to paint with acrylic, watch sci-fi series, and is currently struggling through the first stages of mastering the cello.