In the late 2000s, changes in NYC really started to take shape and humble eateries like the now infamous Halal Guys gyro stand started to gain popularity with more and more young people flocking to places like Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
This was around the time I landed my first job/internship in Manhattan and started to get a more authentic taste of New York City’s culture outside of my home borough of Staten Island.
Hip-hop music was also changing with the early gangster infused music that dominated the early 2000s transitioning to a more Kanye-esque, hispter orientated stoner genre that birthed singing rappers like Kid Cudi.
The Hipsters Are Coming!
The new music and influx of out of state people living in neighborhoods we natives would never even walk through really started to shift the vibe of the city and brought us lifers a lot of fun adventures along the way.
As different types of people moved in, eateries that served food other than the NY classics such as pizza started to get more popular with people in the outer boroughs, and myself and a few co-workers would make religious journeys to these places on a regular basis.
While working at my first internship at a South Asian entertainment site, I also still worked part time at a nearby pizzeria with a group of kids that were a few years younger than me. One of the guys opened up his house every night for a party where we would engage in what most people in their early 20s experience, music, drinking and smoking.
The parties were fun, but there were times when the crew was a bit smaller and this was when we’d jump in the car and go on an eating adventure.
I’ll never forget the night I was introduced to Halal Guys. The kid who’s house we hung out at asked me if I’d ever had “crack gyro?” I said what the hell is that? He told me don’t worry, you’re gonna love it!
So we all got in the car and headed to Halal Guys located in midtown Manhattan on 53rd and 6th. The drive was around 40 minutes and one of the most popular songs at that time was Kid Cudi’s “Day N’ Nite.” This song always reminds me of those early trips to Halal.
The line for this gyro place was literally down the block and I was blown away by the following it had created for itself. We waited for a bit and finally got to the front of the line. I was told to order the mixed grill so I followed suit and got myself one.
Have a Grape Soda
Also, this is important to note, that at this time the stand did not sell drinks and there was a separate stand on the other corner of 53rd and 6th Ave with beverages. I bought a Welch’s grape soda that night, and because of that experience I can’t eat the platter with anything else, even until this day.
What It Taste Like
The typical Halal Guys platter comes with a boat load of yellow rice, lettuce, chicken and beef gyro with pita on the side. Their newer, brick and mortar stores allow you to add some more fixings including peppers, tomatoes and falafel.
The meat by itself isn’t the most seasoned, but has enough flavor to not be completely bland. The white and hot sauces really make this dish and we’ll get to that part now.
Putting on the Sauce
After we got the platter we journeyed to the side of the cart for the sauce which is legendary. I packed on the white sauce and bravely added some of the hot. (I now also like it with a little barbecue.) I remember putting too much hot and my mouth burning the whole way home. Even though I put too much, it was a necessary addition since I would continue to add it each time I returned.
The place lived up to my friend’s name for it as it was addictive as crack and we returned as much as we could in the following months.
The routine was always the same. We’d meet at his house, mention the crack gyro, pile into someone’s car, and head for the city blasting something like Lil Wayne who was on fire at that time.
The Stand Stopped Letting You Add Your Sauce
To this day the mixed grill is one of my favorite dishes, and I like to frequent the Halal Guys brick and mortar location in Teterboro, NJ near my apartment. These days I prefer the stores since the original stand doesn’t allow you to add your own sauce with the bottles anymore.
I’ve introduced my wife to it and she also unsurprisingly loves it. Music’s changed, and the hipsters dominate a whole lot more neighborhoods these days, but the gyro is just the same as it was back then. Delicious!
And It’s Cheap
It’s also around $8 for a large platter. It used to be $6 but you know that price wasn’t going to last forever.