Each week, First We Feast photographer Liz Barclay (@liz_barclay) grabs her camera and hits the streets to explore a different aspect of the food world. Here, she shares her photos and stories.
The halal carts of Midtown Manhattan inspire myth, wonder, and block-long lines. While the corner of 53rd Street and Sixth Avenue is the epicenter, home to the “The Famous Halal Guys,” similar setups dot each intersection of Avenue of the Americas. These unassuming carts are subject to constant debate among Midtown lunchers about which is the best. Since 2007, with the birth of the “gourmet Halal cart,” the iconic lamb (or chicken) over rice platter has more or less surpassed the hot dog as New York’s lunch staple.
From noon to deep into the night, Halal carts feed all that come seeking heavily spiced lamb or chicken over fluffy orange rice. Club-goers, office workers, students, and adventurous tourists all queue for a taste of the New York streets. The guys who chop the meat and layer it over rice (with your choice of hot red and creamy white sauce) are largely anonymous. A few, like those “Halal Guys,” have been the subject of media coverage (and controversy). But the majority of halal operations simply feed the throngs daily. Despite their varying notoriety, all the men manning carts on Avenue of the Americas are unsung heroes of New York’s food world.
Click through the gallery to witness NYC’s Kings of Halal in all their glory.