It’s not often a national chain opening a local outpost creates tons of buzz, but The Halal Guys did just that. The beloved New York City street cart has undertaken a massive expansion with brick-and-mortar restaurants across the country, and the first Atlanta location debuted on Buford Highway late last month. Was the opening worth the hype? Here’s what diners and critics are saying in the early going.
Yes, Atlantans were really excited. A representative for The Halal Guys tells Eater Atlanta the restaurant was completely overrun opening weekend: “Saturday’s opening of The Halal Guys was absolutely nuts! Had people lined up at 7 a.m. for an 11 a.m. opening. There were more than 1,500 people on Saturday, and Sunday was bananas, too.”
Some find this outpost as good as the New York original. In a four-star review, elite Yelper says the beef is a hit: “I actually enjoyed my gyro platter here more than I did in NYC (imagine that).”
But others say it’s not quite there. Fried Chicken Lips isn’t buying this expansion: “Their NYC street carts may still have what it takes to keep their name alive, but the franchises are just a marketing tool — all style, no substance”
Get it to go if you’re a control freak. In her first look for Atlanta Magazine, Jennifer Zyman offers a tip for those who want absolute control of their saucing: “When dining in, your order arrives pre-sauced (often generously), but when you order to-go, you can get sauce packets instead — an infinitely better choice if you are a sauce control freak like me.
The patio offers a unique dining experience. Zyman likes the restaurant’s outdoor seating: “If you do snag a spot on the patio, it is a fun intersection to watch. (And how often do you eat al fresco on Buford Highway? Not counting the occasional tamale eaten while sitting on the hood of a car.)”
Want to fit in? Try the white sauce. Halal Guys director of training Juan Bustamante tells the Atlanta Journal-Constitution the white sauce is diners’ condiment of choice: “Besides how long the lines are, the main things people talk about are how good the white sauce is, and how hot the hot sauce is.”
The restaurant should improve as the staff settles in. Calling the food “good, not great,” Zyman wagers any early struggles can be attributed to overwhelming demand. She does have an order to recommend: “Go for the beef and chicken combo with a side of falafel. I couldn’t find fault with the hummus and baba ganoush, but the fries (offered as a side) were cold. That didn’t stop me from dipping them into the hummus, which is a surprisingly good combo.”
• All Good News/Bad News [EATL]