Melting pot

From a New York City food truck to fast-casual chain, The Halal Guys is now giving the Northeast Middle Eastern flavor.

Feast from the Middle East: The Halal Guys offers what it calls “American halal food” — a mixture of American, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean flavors all mixed together in one platter. The new eatery celebrated its grand opening at 2550 Grant Ave. on March 24. LOGAN KRUM / TIMES PHOTOS

On March 24, The Halal Guys celebrated its grand opening for its new Northeast Philadelphia location at 2550 Grant Ave.

The fast-casual chain offers what it calls “American halal food” — a mixture of American, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean flavors all mixed together in one platter.

The menu is simple — customers can choose between having the ingredients presented in a pita sandwich or platter form. Choices of meat include chicken, beef gyro, a combination of the two, or vegetarian falafel. This is served with lettuce and tomato and a choice of other toppings that eaters can customize at a Subway-style serving line. The platter option comes with uniquely spiced rice.

All items can be drenched to the eater’s preference in the restaurant’s signature white sauce — a recipe owner Naveen Mouhiuddin is frequently asked about, but won’t give away.

“It’s literally world famous,” he said, referencing the chain’s presence all across the world. “People in New York know you’re talking about Halal Guys just by the name white sauce.”

Diners could also try their signature hot sauce, but each customer is given a warning — it’s hot. Mouhiuddin compared it to a ghost pepper, one of the hottest peppers in the world. (After trying just a drop myself, my mouth burned until I dug into my food — not even the flavor-neutralizing pita it was served with dulled the taste.)

Sides of hummus, fries, baba ganouj (a thick topping made of mashed eggplant and olive oil) and falafel are also available. Those with a sweet tooth can try baklava for dessert.

The falafel is fried to perfection, crunchy on the outside with a softer inside. Workers also walk around with bottles of the store’s signature sauces — you’ll be reaching for the white sauce before you’re halfway done.

Even though it’s been a New York City food truck since 1990, The Halal Guys only became a chain recently. In the past two years, it’s opened more than 70 locations worldwide. This is Philadelphia’s third location, with stores open in Chinatown and King of Prussia.

“We decided to come to Northeast Philadelphia because of the diverse population, the density, and the eclectic food that’s already out here,” Mohiuddin said. He also owns a location in King of Prussia, but said he is excited for Northeast Philly because of the density of the crowds. (“There are always people moving around here,” he said.)

Despite its growth, the chain is trying to stay true to its roots. Inside the location is a simple red and yellow color scheme with gray tiling meant to be reminiscent of its food truck beginnings.

For newcomers, Mohiuddin recommends the chicken and gyro combination rice platter — “That way next time you come, you know which protein you prefer,” he said.

The first 100 customers at Saturday’s grand opening received free food, while the next 100 walked away with free Halal Guys swag. Customers could also enter a raffle for a 50-inch television.

The store will be open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week. ••

Logan Krum can be reached at lkrum@newspapermediagroup.com