The Halal Guys
3033 Bristol St.
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
There have been some pretty big restaurant openings this year in OC. There's Grits in Fullerton, which we hear is turning out some fantastic breakfasts. There's also GD Bro Burger, which has gotten some good press with their supposedly excellent burgers and their unique red hamburger buns. For those craving dessert, there's the Dirty Cookie at Union Market in Tustin, with their chocolate chip cookies formed into a shot glass, filled with milk. Yeah, that's a real thing. All of these restaurants pale in the amount of hype we have experienced about the latest spot to open in Orange County, The Halal Guys.
I heard that the Halal Guys were going to be coming to Orange County earlier this year, when the guys over at Foodbeast broke the story. Since that time, the hype has been ramped up with every article I have read in the OC Weekly. The authors of those articles go on and on about the long lines at the original food cart location of the Halal Guys at 53rd and 6th in New York City, and the legendary white sauce. I never made it to the NYC location of Halal Guys when I was there, but a quick check of Yelp makes me wish I had. Four and a half stars with over 7000 reviews has definitely gotten me excited that we are getting our own location of this New York City iconic restaurant.
We were lucky enough to be invited to a special sneak preview event, a week before they opened. This Halal Guys location is on the corner of Paularino and Bristol Avenue, across the street from Garf's Sports Bar, and in the same shopping center as Japanese favorite, Anjin, and the soon to be opened Capital Noodle Bar, and a newly opened Creamistry. The media event was anytime within a two hour time, and we got here a half hour after the start, and the place was mobbed. If media folks were willing to battle the crowds, I had really high hopes for this place.
The menu at Halal Guys is real simple. They have plates or sandwiches, and they have four options, chicken, gyro, a combo of both chicken or gyro, and then falafel. The plates come in two sizes, regular ($8.95) or small ($7.95). Do yourself a favor and get the regular for the extra dollar, you'll be glad you did. Sandwiches are a very reasonable ($6.95). Along with the plates and sandwiches, they also have a small number of side items, hummus, baba ghanouj, tahini, and fries. Ordering is done assembly line style, and you are walked through each step, until you hit the register. Let's take a look at what we tried on this evening.
Okay let's start with the obvious. This is not the most beautiful food out there, but as I'm writing this, my mouth is watering. This was Katie's choice for this evening, the Chicken Platter ($8.95). You can have this with rice or salad, and Katie selected rice as her base. It also comes with a few triangles of pita bread, any veggies that you choose to add, and of course the legendary white sauce. You also have the option of adding their spicy red sauce to pep things up a bit. Katie went a little easy with the red sauce, and still thought it was pretty spicy. The chicken was tender and flavorful, even though it was sliced real thin. The white sauce does a wonderful job of not hiding the natural flavor of the chicken, but enhancing it. I would have asked for more spicy red sauce if this was mine, but Katie was completely happy with this meal.
Of course I had to try the sandwich since Katie had the platter. I went with the Halal Classic Sandwich ($6.95) which combined the chicken and the gyro meat. Again, not the best looking thing out there, and it doesn't help that I did not want any of the colorful veggies that would have made these pictures pop a little more. Wrapped ready to eat in aluminum foil, this is the epitome of NYC street food. The chicken was delicious, the gyro meat was spiced wonderfully, the white sauce was predictably delicious, and the pita did a solid job of holding things together while remaining soft. I'd definitely get extra red sauce on future visits here, and maybe add some onions to make this an even better sandwich than it was on this night.
I was still a little hungry, and intrigued by their falafel, so I ordered a Falafel Sandwich ($6.95) to try. I'm glad I tried this, as this was one of the best versions of the deep fried chick pea dish that I have ever had. This falafel was fried perfectly, with a crunchy outer layer and a softer, nicely spiced inner core. With this one I let them make it with the veggies, and it was still pretty tasty, but that might have had more to do with the white sauce than the lettuce and tomatoes. Just a guess though.
Again, I had never eaten at Halal Guys when I have been in New York, but my good friend Minerva, from Much Ado About Fooding has been, and she said this was just as good as what she experienced in New York. I heard this more than once, and I have to say I was pretty impressed with our first experience at Halal Guys. All the employees that we encountered seemed very positive and upbeat about the food that they are serving here, and they seem primed to have a big hit on their hands. Now that they are open, I have heard that the lines have been pretty long, with up to a two hour wait, but that's to be expected during the first few weeks of operation of this much hyped restaurant. They are also working on speeding up order times, so I'm sure these waits will not be the norm in the future. Leaving the Halal Guys, I felt like Orange County has hit the restaurant lottery. They could have opened anywhere, like Los Angeles, Miami, or Boston, but they chose to open in our own backyard, and we all should be really thankful for that. Just another sign that OC is becoming a force in the culinary scene of the United States.
For more information on the Halal Guys, and where they are going to be opening up next, check out their website here: http://thehalalguys.com/