Take a trip to New York City and it's nearly impossible to avoid The Halal Guys, a company that serves chicken and rice street food. Did a social-savvy friend join you on the trip? Surely, then, your lunch or dinner landed on Facebook, Instagram or Yelp.
"It's such a 'foodie' food," says Dallas franchisee and co-operating partner Danny Bui. "People love to post about it."
The Halal Guys, around since 1990, has become popular in New York City especially among urban millennials. Now a franchise, The Halal Guys are expanding from the Big Apple to Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., New Orleans and Dallas, among others. An estimated 300 new Halal Guys restaurants are expected to open in the coming years, says Dallas franchisee Bui.
To understand the draw to The Halal Guys, take a look at the first big expansion of the company in Costa Mesa, California, in fall 2015: The line wrapped around the building and lasted as long as four hours, according to media reports. How did its hungry customers hear about it? On social media, of course. Pictures of those long lines are still on Yelp.
Dallas' first Halal Guys is expected to open in July on Lemmon Avenue in Dallas, but it isn't the only halal in the area.
An unaffiliated restaurant called Big Guys Chicken and Rice is expected to open May 16 in Deep Ellum. Its owners were influenced by the original Halal Guys in New York City.
Of course, halal has been available in the Dallas area for years, and many people who practice Islam eat halal daily, similar to how many Jewish people keep kosher.
The exponential growth of mega-chain The Halal Guys means Dallas will be a hotbed for halal as early as this summer.
Halal means "permissible" in Arabic and refers here to a cut of meat that aligns with Muslims' religious beliefs, as established in the Quran. On the whole, dedicated halal shops serve chicken and rice, either on a plate or in a wrap. Meat that can be classified as "halal" means the animal was humanely slaughtered.
Other halal food, typically served at Middle Eastern or South Asian restaurants, is served in curries or pilaf.
The dishes at The Halal Guys and Big Guys Chicken and Rice is mostly considered "halal-American food." Each dish -- chicken, beef, beef/lamb or vegetarian -- comes with the option of white sauce that's tangy, with a mayo-like base; or hot sauce, a red pepper and vinegar combo. Much has been written online about The Halal Guys' beloved sauces.
Halal at all hours
Big Guys Chicken and Rice and The Halal Guys will be open for lunch and dinner. But both also hope to serve a late-night crowd, which is what helped make The Halal Guys in NYC so popular in the first place.
"There's got to be something to eat after clubs and bars besides tacos and pizza," says Anika Hossain, who is in charge of hiring and operations at Big Guys Chicken and Rice. The Deep Ellum shop will likely stay open until 4 a.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
The Halal Guys' first shop in Dallas will stay open until at least 2 a.m., Bui says.
"Part of the DNA of the Halal Guys is they're always available," says the Dallas franchisee.
The Halal Guys' huge expansion in D-FW
Once the first shop opens in Dallas in summer 2016, Bui says the next shop will pop up in the Richardson Restaurant Park in the fall. Next up: Bui and his two partners are shopping in Addison, Irving/Las Colinas, Arlington and Frisco and have dreams of opening 15 Halal Guys restaurants in D-FW.
Bui got involved in The Halal Guys after Fransmart, a restaurant franchising company, signed on to grow the brand. "My partners are all from D-FW, born and raised," Bui says, "and we wanted to bring this awesome food back to our own backyard."
"I think it's a really exciting time for food [in Dallas]," he says.
Big Guys Chicken and Rice's smaller expansion in D-FW
Someday, Hossain would like for the Deep Ellum shop to expand regionally. But for now, their focus is on the one restaurant.
And the name? "My brother in law is a big kid, I'm a big kid," says Hanif "Mo" Islam, one of the co-owners, in an interview in 2015. "We thought, let's do Big Guys Chicken and Rice."
At both coming-soon restaurants, lunch or dinner will cost about $6 to $8.
The where and when
- Big Guys Chicken and Rice is expected to open May 16 at 2616 Elm Street, Suite 130, Dallas, in Deep Ellum.
- The first Halal Guys is expected to open in mid or late July at 5444 Lemmon Avenue, Dallas. A second Halal Guys is slated for the Richardson Restaurant Park, at Central Expressway and Floyd Road, Richardson. (What's the Richardson Restaurant Park? Details here.)
Follow Sarah Blaskovich on Twitter at @sblaskovich.