At The Halal Guys in Arlington, the menu is simple, the prices are cheap and the food is predictably delicious.
So here come the crowds, who arrived en masse from other points in Arlington and probably beyond, like us, shortly before noon on a recent weekday.
Sandwiches and simple platters of beef gyro, chicken and falafel await, as does the chain’s inimitable white sauce, as if sent from heaven, if not the god of mayonnaise.
The New York City cult classic of a chain, which began as a food cart in 1990 on the corner of 53rd Street and Sixth Avenue in Midtown to be exact, plays to its strengths and nothing more, and it is fine with that, thankyouverymuch.
There are two other Halal Guys locations in Dallas, plus one in Richardson and one in Plano.
The vibe: Hope you like red and yellow! The prevailing color scheme is a dominating feature at the small order-at-the-counter spot in Champions Park — home to a number of other chains, among them Torchy’s Tacos, BurgerFi, Salata and Tokyo Joe’s. It is possibly the best dining option in the complex — Torchy’s green chile queso notwithstanding — because of its single-minded commitment to the food. Platters are served in to-go aluminum plates — all the better for a re-heat, if there are any leftovers — and there is little in the way of tableside accouterments.
If you need another napkin, you’ll have to head to the counter and ask. And, sadly, while a friend told me staffers visit tables to ladle the precious white sauce atop your food, there was none of that on our visit.
The food: More about that sauce: Mayonnaise-based and containing other “natural flavors,” The Halal Guys famously gave up most of the secrets to the condiment in a 2014 New York Daily News story. Know that it is tangy, and that you might want to swim in it and/or marry it.
It is that good, and the sauce complements whatever it adorns, whether it is a falafel plate (small, $8.99; large, $9.99), four small patties drifting in a sea of tacky orange-colored rice, chopped lettuce, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers and pliant pita triangles, or the chicken and beef gyro combo (small, $8.99; large, $9.99).
It all could make for texturally interesting but bland eating, but the folks here know their way around the spice rack, and the food is enhanced because of it. The all-beef gyro pieces were tender, juicy and a little smoky, and the veggies added brightness as well as crunch.
Even the crinkle-cut potato fries ($2.99), while suspiciously frozen in provenance, were standouts, salted within an inch of their inch-long lives and crispy beyond belief.
Cups of hummus and baba ghanoush ($3.49 each) were pleasant add-ons. Next time, I’d go for the latter, earthy and flavorful, and skip the former, a pedestrian and somewhat grainy version.
The verdict: It’s all in the seasoning and the sauce at The Halal Guys. Fiery-food fans will revel in the house-brand hot sauce, which has enough firepower to clear sinuses. Naively, I made a trip to the counter to ask for more. When the employee gave me one packet, I said rather quickly, “No, I need, like five.” She looked flabbergasted and returned with four more.
Later, at the table, I realized that what I mistook for stinginess was really incredulity. Kudos to anyone who can use five servings of it in one sitting. As for putting down that white sauce, well, fuggedaboutit.
The Halal Guys
- 1805 N. Collins St.
- Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Friday and Saturday