We’ve been counting down to the opening of The Halal Guys since last year and now the wait is almost over.
The Halal Guys is opening on October 13 at the fifth floor of the SM Megamall Mega Fashion Hall and Inquirer Super went for a sneak peek to tell you the things you need to know before it does:
If you’re excited about The Halal Guys opening, you have basketball to thank. “The reason we have The Halal Guys here is because of my love for basketball and my love for the San Antonio Spurs,” said Jaime Daez, the man behind Fully Booked who brought The Halal Guys to the Philippines. Jaime loves the Spurs so much that he named one of his sons after Manu Ginóbili. (Pick up a copy of Inquirer on Friday, October 9, or read Inquirer Plus for the full story.)
Jaime and his wife Chris have been fans of the iconic New York food cart for years. Chris had her first The Halal Guys experience in 2006 while Jaime tried it in 2010. “I was with Chris, we went with a good friend of hers. Ever since that time, I would frequent it… We’ve eaten there tons of times.”
Jaime was the first franchisee of The Halal Guys in the world and the store, which will be opening at SM Megamall’s Mega Fashion Hall on October 13, is the first one outside the United States. “We were the first to sign up, faster than anyone. We were really that eager to make sure that we got it first.”
The three founders of The Halal Guys are flying in for the grand opening. And when it opens on October 13, the first 100 people in line will be given a free New York-sized gyro-and-chicken platter.
The Halal Guys Philippines is the first restaurant to be halal certified by the Halal Development Institute of the Philippines. It was a process that took six months. “We wanted to make sure that for any Muslim, it’s safe to eat our food… The HDIP checks everything—the cleanliness of the kitchen, the sourcing, every single ingredient has to be halal certified.”
The Halal Guys Philippines is slightly more expensive than The Halal Guys in New York but slightly cheaper than The Halal Guys in Chicago and Southern California. “In New York, it’s seven bucks in the food cart and $8 plus sales tax in the stores. In Chicago, the regular platter is $9 plus sales tax so it’s gonna cost you around $10,” said Jaime. “We have the most varied menu in terms of pricing… The cheapest meal in our menu is the falafel sandwich. It’s P175.” (See the full menu below.)
The platters come in three sizes—small, regular and New York size. “Our objective was friendly pricing but we also wanted to make sure that when people who have tried it in New York come in, they won’t feel cheated and think, ‘Oh, the portion is smaller.’” A New York-sized platter is P469 (P499 with a drink) and is big enough to be shared by two people.
The small and regular gyro platters cost a little more than the chicken because they import the gyro. “The gyro is exactly the same as the one you enjoy in New York.”
They import the legendary white and red sauces too. “It’s exactly the same.” (Yes it is. Our proof: we ate a lot of it.)
And will they charge for extra sauce? (Like many of you, we like drowning our platters in white sauce.) “Unfortunately, yes. We have to because of the fact that it’s imported. We have a 2-ounce white sauce sachet that we’re charging P25 for. It’s honestly quite big. That’s much bigger than the typical ketchup sachet. But honestly we feel that our portioning is quite sufficient. For the New York-sized platter, our portioning is four ounces.”
Be wary of the red sauce—it’s super hot. (We usually just go for three drops.) “We will ask them how much they can take. For the hot sauce, you have to be pretty crazy to ask for more.”
There’s one difference: the rice. Instead of basmati, The Halal Guys Philippines will be serving jasmine rice. “The flavor is exactly the same, the seasoning is exactly the same, the spice is exactly the same, the color is exactly the same. There are two reasons we made this change: one is you cannot get a steady supply of basmati rice here and if you can, it’s probably gonna cost three to four times as much as jasmine. Secondly, everyone here is used to jasmine rice. One of the people who went with us for training had the basmati rice and the jasmine rice and he loved the jasmine rice much more. I honestly don’t think it’s gonna be a big deal, I think most people would even prefer it.” (And it’s true—we do prefer it.)
The Halal Guys will be opening another branch at Fully Booked Fort before Christmas. “It’s going to be a counter, just for takeout. But the beauty of it is the park is right in front and there are benches there. I love it because you kind of replicate the New York experience.”
And there are plans to open more branches in the coming years. “We will concentrate on Manila for the next 12 months but we are definitely targeting the provincial market too.”
And if it’s your first time? The gyro-and-chicken platter is also the dish Jaime thinks you should try.
Here’s the full menu: