Our drive-by tasting of the trendiest new restaurant:
The Halal Guys

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES | Executive Editor

img_5609Dallas: Buckle of the Bible Belt. A city so conservative and Christian, even the gays flock to church in droves. Why, the thought that Red State U.S.A. would permit Islamic fundamentalism is as unthinkable as… as… well, as the city’s largest daily endorsing a Democrat for president.

See? Times change.

Dallas may split near the center along liberal-conservative lines, but it’s also the premiere foodie city in America. We dine out more often. We embrace more chain concepts (Brinker, Romano and Lombardi are all based here) and more chef-y boutique restaurants (Pyles, Fearing, Rathbun are here as well) than just about anywhere on the planet.

So yes, Christianity may thrive here… but who doesn’t enjoy a little halal cuisine?

That would explain why there’s often a line out the door at The Halal Guys, the traditional Middle Eastern fast-caz resto that opened this summer in the gayborhood. (Halal is basically the Muslim equivalent to Jewish kosher rules regarding food handing and preparation.)

It’s new to Dallas, although the food cart version has been a staple in New York for a quarter-century. The concept is basic, as most edgy cultural touchstones are: A small menu of gyro (beef) meat, chicken and falafel, served in a pita or as a platter with rice and veggies, plus a few sides and a wedge of baklava for dessert.

That’s it. If you’ve spent more than $15 on yourself, you’re a glutton.

The sunny, cafeteria-style setting assembly-lines you through a limited but inviting selection of proteins and presentations. You’ll probably be tempted on your first visit to overdo it; resist the urge if you can, as you can always come back, line or not.

The ingredients are fresh and colorful (and the meat, of course, prepared in accordance with halal rules). Two sauces are available, called simply “hot” (red) and “white” — a proprietary blend that’s essentially a spicy mayo. The red version, even by Texas standards, is a peppery concoction.

You can ask for either or both upon ordering; even better, there’s a roaming “sauce guy” — an employ who comes around not to refill your water glasses, but to brighten up your meal with an extra dollop. Go ahead, ask for a squirt; that’s what he’s there for.

Obviously, this is not fancy dining. Soft drinks are self-serve; employees have been friendly but unobtrusive; the baklava (a honey-nutty confection of phyllo, moist and sticky) comes in a plastic clam shell.

Who needs fancy?

But neither does it convey the whiff of corporatized cuisine, processed and churned out. It is, rather, addictively delicious.

Lean beef (not the more classical lamb, sadly) melds well with the perfectly cooked rice and medley of veggies; white-meat chicken shredded fine with a clean, succulent flavor.

The Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha, the “sacrificial feast,” passed last week. Perhaps you thought of celebrating with a trip to the Halal Guys. But even if you knew nothing of it, it’s not a religio-political statement to stop in for a gyro. Palate comes before politics every time. It’s the American way.

  • 5444 Lemmon Ave. Open daily 11 a.m.–11 p.m.