Halal-cart-style eateries are opening on Long Island almost as fast as poke-bowl spots, and many of the major players — Shah’s Halal, The Halal Guys — operate multiple restaurants and carts. At The Halal Chicken & Rice Co. in Hicksville, A.J. Singh is trying to compete without the money- and labor-saving use of a central commissary.
In January, Singh and his partners Pat Patel and Mohammed Hassan took over the small storefront that used to be Grill Junction (serving Peruvian and Turkish food). Within a few months they had expanded into the former insurance office next door. They also expanded the menu. Initially, it comprised wraps and rice platters with a choice of chicken, beef-lamb gyro, fried flounder, shrimp, falafel or chicken kofta. Now you can also get salad platters, burgers, cheesesteaks and wings, fries and samosas. Still, almost everything is less than $6.99.
The food is simple and fresh. Chicken thighs are marinated, poached, cut up and grilled to order in the little kitchen; basmati rice is cooked throughout the day; pitas are fresh, not frozen; all the sauces — classic white, green (white with a slew of fresh mint), barbecue, spicy and extremely spicy — are made from scratch.
The eatery is open from 11:30 a.m. to 3 a.m., but quite a few customers are LIRR commuters transferring at Hicksville for trains headed farther east. “We have customers from Ronkonkoma, Huntington, Bay Shore,” Singh said. “They just come down the stairs — we’re about five minutes from the platform — pick up dinner, and then get back on the train. Apparently it’s easier for them than getting something closer to home.” In the wee hours of the morning, it’s young people coming home from a night in Manhattan who need to get down something solid before heading home to bed.
The Halal Chicken & Rice Co. is at 8 Jerusalem Ave., Hicksville, 516-433-9700, thehalalny.com.