799 Elmont Rd., Elmont
SERVICE: Friendly and informative
AMBIENCE: Spartan space filled with upbeat Arabic music
ESSENTIALS: Open Sunday noon to 10 p.m., Monday to Thursday 1 to 11 p.m, Friday 2 p.m. to midnight, Saturday 1 p.m. to midnight; credit cards accepted; wheelchair friendly
In the department of niche restaurant genres, halal spots cooking all-American pub grub is a fairly obscure one. Yet, with promising prospects on Long Island, where a growing population of young, observant Muslims just want a well-made, diet-approved cheeseburger, there are places answering the call.
At Addy’s BBQ in Elmont, chef Adnan Alam Khan has developed a halal version of his own proprietary patty, laced with a delicate mix of spices, garlic and onion. The burger is served 11 different ways, including a four-cheese stuffed juicy lucy, one topped with chili and cheese, and an over-the-top house special with a crown of mushrooms in a cream sauce, dubbed Amarillo for its slightly yellow tinge.
Since 2015, the Irish-trained chef, who has come to be known as Chef Addy, has cultivated a following in Teaneck, New Jersey, at Addy’s BBQ. There, halal meats — chicken, lamb and beef that have been slaughtered in accordance with Islamic law — become wings, burgers, short ribs, fried chicken and mishkaki, a barbecue dish from his native Kenya.
Since January, Khan has been working to do the same in Elmont, where he launched the second outpost of Addy’s in the space that briefly housed Red Snapper Seafood Kitchen.
It’s a large and Spartan room with upbeat Arabic music and servers armed with touchpads to take your order. Come night, hip lights illuminate imitation wood walls and faux brick wallpaper as families with young children and groups of 20-somethings fill the restaurant’s bar stools and four tables.
Addy’s is not the only spot on Long Island where you can find halal-approved American cuisine. A growing cadre of meat-over-rice spots offer similar fare. Al-Nawaab, a Pakistani restaurant and sweet shop down the block, has a tiny section on its menu dedicated to “fast food,” advertising halal burgers, wings and fried chicken sandwiches.
What sets Addy’s apart is Khan, who attempts to elevate the experience to one that is not all that different from what one might expect at a gastro pub — classic fare with personal twists designed in part to draw folks beyond the halal-seeking set.
Surprisingly, some of the most intriguing menu items were not available during multiple visits — beef bacon, suicide wings, chicken-fried steaks and the rib eye, which Khan says are in short supply since he purchases whole cows. This means he only has a few dozen steaks on hand on any given night and must wait a few days until his next cow is slaughtered to replenish his supply. If a halal steak is what you want, best to call in advance to make sure they are on the menu.
Of what was available, Khan’s proved to be a mix of hit and miss cooking with sauces that can be cloying and too sweet. Side dishes, including mac-and-cheese, onion rings, mashed potatoes and cheese-smothered French fries, had a middling diner quality about them.
The erratic menu and dishes don’t seem to faze customers. Addy’s has cultivated a loyal following of all-too-happy eaters who once did not have a place to go and have expressed their joy all over the internet.
Among the successes is the lassi, a South Indian yogurt drink that comes in flavors that one would find on a margarita menu: strawberry, mango, piña colada or a mix of any of the two. It’s surprising that every Indian and Pakistani restaurant doesn’t take this tact. Pineapple and coconut marry well with silky yogurt. In this pina, no booze is fine by me.
The wings are also winners — modest but meaty portions that are deep-fried and sauced 11 different ways. The “atomic” are bright red, spicy but not overly so, from a mix of three house sauces that include a touch of jalapeño. The masala is a fragrant play off Indian curry, an homage to Khan’s two years studying in India. The same masala sauce makes French fries enjoyable.
Skip the overly sweet short ribs and the fried chicken for the beef mishkaki. Instead of serving them traditionally on skewers, Khan gives them an American twist. Marinated hunks of beef arrive on a sizzling platter with blistered onions, peppers and tomatoes, all finished in a slightly sweet and tangy sauce.
In Khan’s kitchen, there is plenty of room for improvement, but Chef Addy is on to something.