Just A Taste: Natasha Davis reviews popular American halal food chain, Halal Guys


Natasha Davis

The interior of Halal Guys on Oakland. They serve American halal food.

My name is Natasha Davis and I’m a senior with a passion for food. After becoming a vegetarian at the beginning of the year, I realized I needed to search for new recipes that would accommodate my new lifestyle. This change fueled a new love for cooking and baking. Even as I write this, I’m eating. I showed up late to my meeting because I was cooking. Somehow, I’ve found some way to incorporate food into every single conversation I have. It’s an obsession that I don’t think will go away anytime soon. I’m constantly looking for new recipes and experimenting with fresh ingredients, shown on my food instagram: @cheftashh. I’m excited for what’s to come from this column. 


Named the pioneers of American halal food, the Halal Guys started their business on the streets of New York City with only a food cart in 1990. Now they’ve expanded nationwide, and even some places around the world including Korea and Indonesia. Shorewood has had the pleasure of having one of those locations on one of its main streets since 2016

I decided to order online and pick it up in the store to try out the ordering system they have. The estimated wait time was thirty minutes, although I suspect they had it made much earlier to my arrival as the food was simply lukewarm. I was happily greeted by two workers and they asked if I needed any help. They kindly pointed to my already made order that was wrapped up in a plastic bag. 

The atmosphere inside radiated fast food but with flairs of personal touch. Bright red tables lined the walls, giving the impression that there was no inside seating due to COVID19. Social distancing stickers were placed on the floors with the logo. I was pleasantly surprised by how clean and shiny everything was. I was expecting some outdated fixtures, but was presented by modern appliances. 

My favorite part was the hand drawn graphic of people lined up for a food cart on one of the walls. It was something I’d never seen before in a fast food restaurant. It portrayed the history of the Halal Guys perfectly. 

The menu was simple so their website was easy to navigate. You have the option of a pita sandwich or a platter. In those two choices, you decide on a source of protein of either gyro meat, chicken or falafel. You might decide to mix it up a bit and get a combo of the two. Sides of extra ingredients, hummus and baba ghanoush (mashed cooked eggplant with olive oil and a variety of spices) are available as well. 

The idea of eating falafel is what first drew me towards reviewing this franchise. Made of chickpeas and spices, falafel is a traditional Middle Eastern dish served as deep fried balls. It is a good source of protein for the typical vegetarian. I have a soft spot for Middle Eastern cuisine as it caters to many diets, including my own. 

I have a soft spot for Middle Eastern cuisine as it caters to many diets, including my own.

My falafel platter arrived in an aluminum take-out container with two kinds of sauces on the side. My eyes immediately went to the vibrant colors the dish contained. The bright yellow rice was a bit unseasoned, but yielded good flavor by itself. Fresh romaine lettuce and chopped tomatoes gave a light and crisp aspect, while the soft pita bread grounded the flavors. 

As for the star of the dish, I thoroughly enjoyed the crispy outside and the blended herbs. The falafel was green on the inside and did not contain any overpowering tastes. It was exactly how I expected it to be, and I was happy with the result. 

Let’s talk about sauce. The Halal Guys feature two signature sauces, plainly called “white sauce” and “hot sauce” in plastic packets. I’ve never been one for spicy dips so I hesitated before dipping my finger into their famous red packet. The fiery burning sensation jolted my taste buds immediately. I highly recommend this to anyone with an affinity for spice. I expected the white sauce to taste a bit yogurt-like, perhaps something similar to Greek tzatziki. However, we found that this was not the case. My family and I agreed that it had an underlying ranch taste, but it added a smooth rich flavor nonetheless. Slather this all over your platter and you will not be disappointed. 

As for the other two kinds of proteins, my family reported that the beef gyro was heavily briny, but the chicken was tender and seasoned to perfection. The two meats were cooked thoroughly, most likely baked or seared on a pan.

The choice of a pita sandwich was decent, but it was very plain without any sauce added to it. The pita was a mix between airy and chewy, which added to the eating experience.

Overall, I wasn’t disappointed with my food. I did wish that hummus automatically came with the platter as it would have completed the dish. If you didn’t care for the sauce, you were left with little options for intense flavor. The meals were simple and exactly like you expect them. You must keep in mind that they are a fast food restaurant serving an American style of a Middle-Eastern cuisine. 

As for the prices, they were a bit high for the flavors given. The large platter is valued at $9.99 while the small is $8.99. The sandwiches are a bit cheaper at $7.99; I expect because they don’t include rice. The Halal Guys definitely cater to the nearby college kids of UW-Milwaukee. 

The workers were attentive, quick, and accurate. Amidst all the additions we included in our order, everything was wrapped up and ready to go as soon as I walked through the door. This restaurant is perfect for a quick lunch if you want a different type of fast food. The intriguing history of the franchise allows for at least a visit one day. However, I would not go back if I wanted truly authentic halal food.