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NYC’s Famed Halal Guys Opens Chicken Over Rice Shop in Dearborn Heights

It’s the first of at least four planned in metro Detroit, but in an area plentiful with gyros and hummus, can the cult chain’s garlicky white sauce stand out?

An aluminum pan of meat over yellow rice, bathed in white sauce Eater San Diego/Submitted photo

After months of shipping, construction, and pandemic delays, The Halal Guys finally have a restaurant in Michigan.

The NYC-based chain known nationwide for its chicken and rice slathered with garlicky white sauce has opened its newest spot in a strip mall on Ford Road in Dearborn Heights. It’s the first of four stores planned for the area, a company spokesman says. The second is planned for midtown Detroit.

Besides chicken over rice, there’s beef gyro, falafel sandwiches and platters, as well as sides of hummus and baba ghanoush, and baklava for dessert.

Restaurants serving halal food — especially falafel, hummus, and gyros — are already plentiful in metro Detroit, particularly in Dearborn and Dearborn Heights. But franchise partners Mohammad Hamad and his cousin Mufid Farha were raised in metro Detroit, and are well-suited to help the chain compete in this market, the company says. And Hamad says there’s room for the Halal Guys in metro Detroit, where the team plans at least four more restaurants.

“We’re not selling Arabic food,” Hamad tells Dearborn Press & Guide. “It’s kind of a northern Mediterranean food. It’s like an Egyptian/Greek menu, different from traditional Arabic food.

“Halal doesn’t specifically refer to Arabic or Muslim,” Hamad says. “A lot of people are switching to halal or kosher foods, it’s just the way it’s prepared.”

The Halal Guys’ founders, three guys from Egypt, entered the food business in 1990 with a hot dog cart in New York City. After figuring out that New York had its fair share of hot dogs, the ex-cab drivers and restaurant workers pivoted to selling halal food around the clock to Muslim taxi drivers in Manhattan.

While chicken and rice bathed in garlicky white sauce can be purchased from numerous other street vendors in the city, the Halal Guys is the most well-known. It’s common to see long lines at the original food cart on 53rd Street and Sixth Avenue in New York more than 25 years after its inception. On any given day, crowds of tourists and native New Yorkers line up — sometimes for hours — or a meal of chicken, beef, or both, served with yellow rice and a three-ingredient salad, all wrapped in a gyro or served on a round aluminum dish. The garlic sauce is what distinguishes this cart from its competitors.

In the past few years, the Halal Guys has rapidly grown to a multimillion-dollar franchise with more than 90 brick-and-mortar fast-casual restaurants from Chicago to Toronto, Los Angeles to Seoul, and London to Jakarta. The Dearborn Heights brick-and-mortar restaurant is modeled on a new store design, which the company introduced in the spring of 2021 in Aurora, Colorado, a spokesman for the company says.

The restaurant is open from 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Sundays.