Food & Drink

Are You Brave Enough for the Red Sauce?


EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ -  As many commuters from Millburn/Short Hills to The City know, The Halal Guys aren't just good but highly sought after for lunch, dinner and even breakfast.  Many have waited in long lines for the enviable Middle Eastern platter.  Even at 3 a.m. on a Wednesday night, there could be a hundred hungry folks lined up behind the Midtown food cart.

"Don't be a hero, " says one online reviewer of the "red sauce" served by The Halal Guys, a chicken and gyro casual eatery opening soon in East Brunswick.  "It's really hot!  Go to town with the white sauce, but be careful with the red."  The foodie page Thrillist says, "Speaking of fiery, THG’s hot sauce has a Scoville rating of 100,000-130,000.  In layman’s terms? That’s REALLY hot. As in hotter than a thai chile and twice as hot as a tabasco or cayenne chili, so proceed with caution."  East Brunswick, you have been warned.

The Halal Guys offers a simple menu that has made the food truck/restaurant transition worldwide.  Chicken, falafel, rice, lettuce and tomato, pita, french fries, and hummus, with those iconic red and white sauces on top.  Maybe, afterwards, some sweet and nutty baklava.  Order up, dude.  Don't dawdle.  There's a line behind you.

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Halal means that the food has passed inspection for Muslim purity in production and preparation.  The success of The Halal Guys means the food has passed inspection for contemporary tastes as part of the growing appeal of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine in America.  Halal restaurants are growing in number throughout Central New Jersey as part of a long list that includes the Koy Grill near the Stop and Shop.  The Halal Guys in East Brunswick shares Route 18 space with Chipotle, Smashburger, Sarku Japan - all locations popular with young diners who are interested in faster food that is not mass-produced.

Super-spicy not for you? As noted on Thrillist, "The Halal Guys -- Mohamed Abouelenein, Ahmed Elsaka, and Abdelbaset Elsayed -- invented their famous white sauce in 1990, just after ditching their hot dog stand to sell halal food from a cart that met the demands of hungry Muslim cabbies. At the time, the only thing similar was Greek tzatziki. “Customers were surprised in the beginning because they were expecting yogurt sauce, but they still liked it, and they wanted more of it,” says Hesham Hegazy, general manager of The Halal Guys. “It’s not traditional. It’s what Americanized our halal food, and what I think popularized it for non-Muslims.”

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