The Halal Guys

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When I was visiting New York City, I had the opportunity to eat at a halal cart. It was pretty amazing. The Halal Guys are the most popular of the halal carts. Three partners opened up a hot dog cart on West 53rd & 6th Avenue in New York City in 1990 and then switched over to Mediterranean food to cater to Muslim cab drivers. That’s how Halal Guys were formed. They are pretty well known all over Manhattan and have expanded outside the Big Apple. Now they are here in the Valley of the Sun with a few locations planned. I had a chance to visit their Tempe location which is in the perfect spot because nearby Muslim community. The menu consist of platters (with salad and rice) and sandwiches. You can either get chicken, beef gyro, a combination of both or falafel. I got the beef gyro sandwich and really enjoyed it. The white and red sauce are a must and really add some spice and flavor to your meal. I’m excited to made a return visit!

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Beef Gyro Sandwich

The Halal Guys Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Hummus

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I like this recipe guide from Epicurious on how to make hummus. Its simple but delicious. I usually like to add red peppers or black beans. But of course Sriracha is always a must!

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Halal Carts

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Chicken over Rice

I just took a red-eye into New York City and was looking for quick bite. Everyone raves about the Halal food carts in NYC and I had to give one a shot. To me, food carts are what make NYC because people are always on the go and need a quick bite. Halal carts have only been on the scene for a few decades. But today halal carts are pretty native to NYC and found everywhere. The Halal Guys carts are the most popular ones in NYC and are expanding to other states. Halal food is that which adheres to Islamic law, defined in the Koran. The key is to find a Halal cart that is authentic as there are some that are not. New York City halal usually consists of a combination of rice, greens, halal meat in a bowl or in a pita. They top it off with they famous spicy red or white sauce. The red sauce is an offshoot of Egyptian harissa sauce where the white one is an offshoot of zabadi sauce. I ordered the Chicken over Rice and drowned it with both their red and white sauces. Wow – it was super spicy and super delicious! What a great way to start off my trip to the Big Apple.

Opa!

My Big Fat Greek Restaurant is is a fun cultural experience that serves up a delicious Mediterranean flare. I love the fresh pita bread with hummus and taste of fresh olive oil, feta chesse and herbs. Inspired by the movie that came out in 2002, MBFGR is a fun place to dine at with a large party. Opa!

My Big Fat Greek Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Pita Jungle

Pita Jungle has been serving up healthy and fresh food since it’s first location opened in 1994 by three Arizona State University students. Their goal was to provide Tempe residents with a healthy alternative to other restaurants around campus. They serve up Mediterranean food with a touch of modern flair. Their wood-fired pizzas and pita sandwiches are some of the popular selections. I’ve been eating here since my days at ASU going to the Apache location for lunch. The Mediterranean Roasted Chicken (Shawarma) and Beef Gyro are probably my 2 favorite items along with some hummus and their amazing iced tea. I had a fun night here with my friend Sarah at the Phoenix location in the arts district.

Pita Jungle Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Zaytoon

I love how Simon finds these little places. We had lunch at Zaytoon Kabob Bistro – a Mediterranean grill. They serve a variety of menu items that also satisfy the health-conscious individuals. The kabobs are cut, marinated and skewered daily and cooked to order over an open flame. I got the chicken kabob – a marinated boneless chicken that is skewered and grilled and served over a bed of Basmatti rice with a garden salad. I also added a beef kabob. I had a great time of fellowship with my friend and enjoyed a great lunch.

Zaytoon Kabob Bistro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Juba Restaurant

Juba Red Sea & Mediterranean Cuisine specializes in Mediterranean & East African cuisine and has been serving the valley since 2005. This restaurant is located in a shopping plaza that is cultural hub in Phoenix. After teaching at the Somalia center, we headed here for lunch. Their samosas have been voted best samosas in Phoenix. I ordered the chicken shawarma, hummus, a samosa and Somalian tea. The food was excellent and I look forward to many lunches here.

Juba Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

A Taste of Muslim Culture

I have been taking this class on Muslim culture and I wanted to spend my week engaging with the people. I figured being a foodie, the best way to start is with Middle Eastern cuisine. Along Apache Blvd in Tempe are a ton of restaurants that represent different cultures. You see little pockets of communities of people all over the place trying to make a living. It’s a wonderful thing and I loved eating the food and asking stories about how each place started.

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The first place I went to was Haji-Baba. They are located in a little strip mall and have both a restaurant and a small marketplace. I went at lunchtime and it was packed. It was good to see a bunch of Americans enjoying their food and supporting the business. I had the gyro and hummus (with some Sriracha of course) plate. It was delicious and I enjoyed every bit of it. Very good price too!

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Gyro

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Hummus

Haji-Baba Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Then I traveled to Cafe Istanbul. They too have a marketplace and have a bigger restaurant. They are known for their lunch buffet and their hookah lounge. I’ve done their buffet in the past and it is very good food for a good price. They also have live belly dancing on the weekends. The people who run the place are from Lebanon. I had the chicken shawarma and it was fantastic!

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Chicken Shawarma

Café Istanbul Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

I decided to try a little Indian food and made my way to the Bay Leaf cafe. It definitely smelled like curry when I walked in. The restaurant was really nice and the food was authentic. I enjoyed talking to my waiter as he lives not too far from where I visited last year. I had the Chicken Tikka Masala – chicken barbecued and cooked in a tomato based curry with herbs and spices. I also had some chai. Wow – I forgot how much I love Indian food. I even ate with my hands like I did in India.

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Chicken Tikka Masala

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Curry Bowl Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

My last stop was for some desert and chai in a place in Tempe called the Phoenicia cafe. I had a pistachio baklava and the chai was awesome. This place is located next to a popular mosque. I really enjoyed coming here because I spent a lot of time talking with a gentleman named Hakim. We talked for a good hour about culture and our worldview of people. I appreciate how genuine he was and I know we as Americans can learn a lot from other cultures.

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Baklava and Chai

Phoenicia Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce

Today I purchased a huge bottle of Sriracha. This is seriously my favorite hot sauce. I love pouring it over my sandwiches and hummus at Pita Jungle. You also see it at middle eastern restaurants. It is a type of Thai hot sauce and it has a sweet but hot flavor to it. It’s so good!!

From their site: Sriracha is made from sun ripen chilies which are ground into a smooth paste along with garlic and packaged in a convenient squeeze bottle. It is excellent in soups, sauces, pastas, pizzas, hot dogs, hamburgers, chowmein or on anything else to give it a delicious, spicy taste. Like all our sauces, we use only the highest quality ingredients and never any artificial colors or flavorings.

Queen Creek Olive Mill

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I love the Queen Creek Olive Mill. I laugh because I hated olives growing up, but now I really appreciate them. The Olive Mill was started by Perry and Brenda Rea. There are over a thousand olive trees on their property and the Olive Mill is one of Arizona’s largest suppliers of extra virgin olive oil to the Valley. They have a Mediterranean eatery here that serves up some great food. Christin and I went on a tour of how they process their olives and met my good friends the de Klerks for lunch.

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Queen Creek Olive Mill Eatery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato