The Halal Guys: Iconic New York tastes in Korea
From their early beginnings in 1990 as a simple food cart, the Halal Guys have been a shining example of American restaurant expansion. Now a New York institution for American Halal food, they caused a stir late in 2014 when they announced plans for global expansion. Expats everywhere drooled in anticipation. On December 17th, South Korea finally gets to taste the magic when the first The Halal Guys restaurant opens in our own backyard of Itaewon!
Americans Lin Hwang and Yong Yi both spent years in New York getting their regular fix of chicken and gyro platters. “I probably went once a week for more than 15 years,” commented Hwang, “I was addicted to the fast service, value and taste. And that secret white sauce…is magic.” When Lin and Yong learned of The Halal Guys expansion plans they instantly approached them to plead for the Korean market. They reached success earlier this year and many of us have been distracted by the familiar yellow and red colors denoting the shop as Yong and Lin navigated the convoluted franchise and Korean regulations. The Halal Guys have a strict expansion policy which ensures all shops meet their standards and specifications. This hard work and quality control means Americans will be tasting home exactly as they remember it.
I had a chance to eat there during a recent line test and was ecstatic on how delicious it was. I tried the combo chicken and gyro platter which comes with basmati rice, lettuce and tomato all perfectly seasoned with that special Middle Eastern and Mediterranean blend of flavors. I happily covered my platter with their renowned white sauce but dabbed only a small amount of the hot sauce on top. This hot sauce is no joke and is affectionately advertised in the shop with a Caution, Handle with Care poster. One of the things I loved was the ability to create a platter to your desire. Cutting carbs? Skip the rice and go for extra protein and vegetables. Vegetarian? Go for the falafel. There are also onions, peppers, jalapenos and olives available as free add-ons per customer discretion.
The menu will offer three sizes of platters starting at 7,900 won. Sandwiches on pita bread are also available for 8,900 won. As of now, sides include humus, falafel, fries and a deliciously sweet baklava for dessert. It’s an excellent treat for your mouth if you decide to tackle the hot sauce.
Throughout the restaurant design and food preparation you can see the commitment to The Halal Guy’s core values: quality, taste, hospitality, speed, accuracy and great prices. I was especially impressed that the guys are donating hundreds of platters from their line tests to local food banks.
The Grand Opening on December 17th will be a big one. They are offering free medium size platters to the first 100 customers as well as specials and promotional items to the first 1,000 customers. Doors open at 11am so mark your calendars! Military with official ID will be thanked for their service with a 10% discount throughout the Grand Opening phase. The store is located at 187 Itaewon-ro Yongsan-gu. If you are walking from base it’s a bit past the Hamilton Hotel on the second floor.
Hours: M-Th & Sun11am-11pm, F-Sat 11am-3am.