A lot of people, but especially recent New York transplants, are pretty psyched about the arrival of The Halal Guys in San Francisco something we've known about for a year now, but which only became a reality yesterday when the Tenderloin-based shop began lunchtime delivery service via Caviar. Famous for their gyros, gyro plates, and chicken plates all slathered in mayonnaise-y white sauce the Halal Guys are an old-fashioned American success story, growing from a food cart in midtown Manhattan now to a nationally expanding franchise.
I, myself, vaguely remember the cart near New York's MOMA from when I lived in the city over a decade ago, but this was in an era before street food became a more trustworthy "thing," and beyond hot dogs I was pretty wary of it. So, never having eaten anything from the Halal Guys, I logged a pre-order for today, and it just arrived an hour ago, and at the risk of sounding like a Yelper, I have some thoughts.
The Food: I got a standard chicken platter, which did indeed closely resemble the photo above, which was taken off the Caviar site on Monday. The site, and/or the restaurant, has since updated the menu with brighter, better styled images of the food, but make no mistake, you're not ordering anything pretty. It's a generous portion of what appears to be mostly dark-meat chicken, decently seasoned and tender and without any errant cartilage or gristle, sitting atop some bright orange-hued turmeric rice, with a few warm pita triangles, and a simple, undressed salad of iceberg lettuce and chopped tomato.
The white sauce reminds me of a more peppery take on ranch dressing, and it's got a creamy, canola oil/egg yolk base with a bit of vinegar, like mayo. It's a good match for the chicken and the simple salad, along with a few drops of the legit-hot hot sauce, and all told it's a good and satisfying, no-frills lunch. [Note: Via Gothamist, we provided this recipe last year of the original sauce from NY, nicknamed "Angel Jizz," and I can assure you that what's in these plastic packets from the franchisees contains no Greek yogurt, or sour cream, or horseradish, and it is canola oil-based. I suggest making your own.]
The Price: While $11.99 feels like an OK price for lunch that gets delivered, there are of course some hidden costs. First of all, Caviar has a $15 minimum order, so I tacked on some unnecessary extra packets of white sauce (99 cents each) to get me to the minimum. Then comes the $2.99 "service fee" and the $4.99 delivery fee, plus tax, so my $12 chicken plate actually cost $23.99. Compare that to the $7 that New Yorkers pay for the same meal, and we start to lose the value proposition here.
It remains unclear what the prices will be when the brick-and-mortar spot fully opens in the 'Loin, which may be soon.
One Minor Objection: It may not be so minor for you, but I did have a hair in my food. Maybe the assembly line ought to consider hairnets?
To be fair, they're on Day 2 (they have exactly zero Yelp reviews so far) but for some eaters, finding a hair is game over.
Would I Order Again: Eh, I'd probably wait to go to the actual shop, given the Caviar price issue. But, yeah, I'm hungry enough for a good gyro that I'll give it another go. Plus, I've got a stockpile of white sauce now, so...
Photo: Jay Barmann/SFist
The Halal Guys - 336 O'Farrell Street, but only currently offering lunch delivery via Caviar. Opening TBA