New York’s Cheap Eats #2: Halal Cart (Chicken & Rice for $5)
In a past post, I discussed the #1 cheap eat option in New York City: Pizza.
he dollar slice is #1 on my list of meals you can get for $5 or less in New York City because You can’t go to any part of the city (all five boroughs) without stumbling upon a pizzeria that offered up a 99 cent cheese slice. T
Whether a marketing move or not, the the one buck pizza slice caught on and is probably the official food of New York City. That says a lot considering all the cuisines that are heavily represented in the most cosmopolitan city in the United States. Not too far behind pizza is the almost-as-everywhere Halal carts serving up chicken and rice all over the city.
To think there’s another cheap eat option that can rival the ubiquity of the dollar pizza slice is not only surprising from a numbers standpoint, but also a historical one. Pizza may be one of those things that are synonymous with New York, the popularity of Halal carts has firmly embedded itself into the NYC experience.
Halal Carts Everywhere!
Though Halal Carts’ signature dish is not nearly as inexpensive as a one dollar slice, the density of a chicken and rice with white sauce makes the five dollar bill (including tax) you hand over feel as if you’ve stolen soemthing — especially in context of how expensive the city can be.
No matter how drunk you are, you won’t walk away hungry after walking away with a chicken-rice or lamb-rice dish.
Basically, you get a foam container filled to the brim with rice, onions, and your choice of meat (or falafel). Many carts will also add pita bread to your dish at no additional cost (tip: get the pita bread grilled with white sauce — it’s quite tasty). Oh and there’s a salad, which is only worth mentioning because of the valuable real estate it takes up.
The rice and meat are “heavy” enough on their own, but to ensure you remember your Halal experience for the next 12-18 hours, be sure to smother it in white sauce and red sauce. There’s not a lot out there that gets the metabolism going as quick.
The “white” is some kind of secret mayo-based sauce and the red is a mysterious hot sauce. The sauce’s taste and texture vary by cart, so think twice before asking an unfamilar cart to add extra white. And some cart’s hot sauce are mild while others light up your mouth, so be particularly careful with the red sauce.
Though the sauce recipes differ from cart to cart, the quality of cart, in my opinion, doesn’t vary. Sure, there are better quality carts, popular ones like The Halal Guys (who charge $6), but you won’t find a halal cart on Yelp that has less than three stars with more than 5 reviews.
Ok, I haven’t really looked that deeply on Yelp, but the point is you’re ordering from a food cart. For the amount of food you get for $5 in New York Fucking City, you won’t see me ever complaining about the food profiles, depth of flavors or textures of any halal cart rice dish. Ever.
Are you full? Ok, shut up then.