Coming from Austin, trailer food capital of the U.S.*, I’m not afraid to eat food off the street. Okay, that sounds bad. I’m not afraid to eat food that comes out of little tiny trailers and trucks and carts that are parked on the street. Better?
I know some people may feel a little hesitant because they think the sanitary standards might be questionable, and hey, maybe they’re right in some cases, but the delicious smell of the food cooking right there on the grill is too much for me to pass up sometimes.
In New York City, there are lots of different kinds of street food vendors, but by far and away the most common kind are the ones selling halal/Middle Eastern food. Most of the time at these carts you have to option to get chicken, lamb, or both over rice or in pita bread.
What makes Rafiqi’s a little different is that you get to choose what toppings you want at no extra charge, as opposed to just the standard fare. Other special options here include corn, black beans, olives and chickpeas. And of course no halal cart would be completely without offering the “white sauce” (that I love so dearly) and hot sauce.
Rafiqi’s is always parked right outside of Union Square park so I walk by it all the time when I’m wandering around during the work day, and I finally decided to give it a go one day. I got the chicken and gyro over rice with lettuce, tomatoes, red onion, and lots of white sauce and hot sauce.
I don’t know what it is about this kind of food but I’m obsessed with the smell. I scurried on over to the park to grab a seat and devour this as fast as I could. Both the meats were so juicy and normally I heavily prefer lamb in dishes like this but the chicken was so tender that it was actually a tie for me. While I would’ve liked bigger portions of the rice and/or veggies, there was a good amount of meat and I was still full afterwards.
Like most places like this, it’s cash only. But again, like most other places like this, it’s pretty cheap. My meal was only around $6 and I think it’s even cheaper, maybe around $4-$5, if you get it in pita bread instead. Sometimes you just need something quick and cheap, and Rafiqi’s has got you covered on both.
* as deemed by yours truly
Chicken and gyro over rice
17th St & Broadway
New York, NY 10003