Elm City residents spent Wednesday afternoon snacking on platters of falafel, pita and beef gyro at Chapel Street’s newest eatery.
The Halal Guys — a franchise of the New York City food cart — opened its doors on Wednesday at 906 Chapel St., just two days before a grand opening celebration which already has more than 1,000 RSVPs on Facebook.
Like other The Halal Guys franchises across the world, the New Haven location features an assembly line for sandwiches and platters that cost roughly $7 to $9, with extra sauce for $0.52. For many Elm City residents, it’s a lunch option priced comparably with existing eateries in the area.
“Two thumbs up,” said New Haven resident Wali Muhammad, who attended the soft opening. “I had it in New York and I’ve been waiting for it to open since they put the sign up.”
For Muslims in the area, the store provides a welcome addition of Halal — food prepared to adhere to Islamic law — in the area, Yusuf Hasaan, another attendee of Wednesday’s soft opening who lives near Downtown New Haven, noted. Downtown, Hasaan said his lunch options are often limited to Pitaziki Mediterranean Grill and Aladin Crown Pizza.
Other restaurants in the area with Halal options include Tikkaway Grill, Zaroka and Mamoun’s Falafel Restaurant, according to Zabilah, an online guide to Halal restaurants.
The new store is the first of at least two franchises in Connecticut as The Halal Guys’ corporation seeks to expand in the state, said Jack Yeung, the store’s managing director. New Haven was chosen as Connecticut’s franchise launch pad because of its student populations, as well as its proximity to other towns like West Haven and Woodbridge, Yeung said.
The Halal Guys cart in New York City opened in 1990 and has become one of the most Yelp-reviewed eateries in the country. Three years ago, The Halal Guys began to open up franchises across the country and abroad, with brick-and-mortar locations now in at least nine different states and four different countries.
“If you can make it in New York City, then you can make it anywhere,” Yeung said.
Several lunchgoers interviewed Wednesday said they ventured to the store after having enjoyed the New York City carts — a popular destination for tourists and Manhattanites alike. One such visitor, Brittany Casey, a Jehovah’s Witness recruiter, recounted half-hour-long waits for food at those carts.
Yeung added that a previous week’s opening in Vienna, Virginia, had attracted lines of hundreds of people. The chain’s popularity can often be attributed to the fact that many communities outside of New York City lack plentiful Halal options.
The new restaurant employs 53 people, almost all from New Haven, Yeung said.