The decline of Halal Guys and the rise of the new kid on the block (Adel’s Halal)

Tonight, I walked down to 45th and 6th Avenue to attend my friend’s Thought Experience event. On my way to and from the event, I noticed a crazy, block-long line of people waiting for a food cart I’d never heard of before: Adel’s Halal. There were two carts: one where the food was being served up and where they were accepting payment, and a second cart just where all the food preparation and cooking were happening. It was clear that these guys were doing a lot of marinating and prep on this side. I immediately looked it up to find that this cart had over 600 reviews on Yelp and 1,500+ reviews on Google, with overwhelmingly positive reviews, as well as people talking about a wait, no matter what time of day, of on average 45 minutes. This basically echoes the hey day of the Halal Guys food cart. This cart has now been hailed as the “world’s best” halal cart, not even just New York City’s. They even have this labeled on their cart.

About 15+ years ago when I first had Halal Guys, I used to marvel over Halal Guys’ chicken/beef/lamb on rice. I loved how well marinated, flavorful, and juicy the meat was. I always looked forward to the buttery, greasy yellow rice. The white sauce was always addictive, and the tiny hits of their hot sauce used to be nearly deadly. The very first time I had it, an entire serving of chicken/lamb on rice was only $5-6, so it was definitely a very tasty steal, a no-fail budget eat. Since then, though, the prices have only risen, and the quality had drastically declined. They stopped serving lamb, citing higher costs, and the meat has dried out. Even the rice the last couple of times we’ve eaten it has been lackluster. I don’t really look forward to the white sauce anymore. It’s also expanded quite a bit: they have brick and mortar locations all over the U.S., so it isn’t as special anymore. And people clearly realize this because when I passed their two carts on 53rd and 6th avenue, they had zero lines at all, just a couple people waiting for their food orders to pick up.

I also noticed they had a new sign advertising something new: spicy slow braised lamb. I guess they had found a new lamb vendor and were reintroducing lamb after a long time of not having it. And the prices? $17 for the regular sized plate, $16 for a small plate, and $14 for a sandwich. I immediately took a picture and sent it to Chris, who summed up my thoughts perfectly: “$17. That ain’t street food anymore.”

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