Debunking the Myths of 53rd & 6th, the Most Famous Halal Intersection in New York City

53rd St. & 6th Ave is the Chicken & Rice Capital of New York City.  There will never be consensus over who makes the best, but there is no question about who is the most popular.  If you’ve passed 53rd St. & 6th Ave. after 8pm on any give night, then you’ve seen the line.  It forms from the time the cart opens, and doesn’t die down until the cart leaves at 4 in the morning.  Late night club goers, bridge and tunnelers, and cab drivers as far as the eye can see- sometimes stretching as far down as 7th Ave.

A lot of people see this line, and wonder “How could this chicken and rice be so good?”  Not me.  If somebody gets killed just for cutting in line, then I don’t question how good the food is at the front of the line.  I just wonder, where can I get Chicken & Rice worth killing for, in Midtown, during lunchtime!?!   The answer led me back to 53rd St. & 6th Ave., but not necessarily the corner you may think.

The definitive answers to all your chicken and rice questions, after the jump…


Combo Plate from the Famous Chicken & Rice Cart on the SW Corner of 53rd & 6th.
I got it months ago on a very rainy night, so there were only 5 people in line.

Carts can create a lot of confusion.  They appear, disappear, don’t have websites, many look the same, and finally- oftentimes, the people who write about them, just get it wrong.  Just this week, an article was printed in the Columbia Spectator saying that the cart on 53rd & 6th was “Sammy’s Halal” the winner of last year’s Vendy Award.  Sammy’s Halal is actually in Jackson Heights, Queens.

Last week, I was told by a trustworthy source, that the daytime cart on the SW corner of 53rd & 6th, was owned by the same people who owned the nighttime cart- and you could get the same food there as a Midtown Lunch.  Excited, but skeptical, I went right to the source in an attempt to settle this issue once and for all.

MYTH:  The Cart on the SW Corner of 53rd & 6th Ave. during the day, is the same food as the cart that gets the super long lines at night.

As I ordered my Chicken & Lamb over Rice combo, I asked the guy at the cart whether or not he was related to the famous cart at night.

Him: “Brothers.  Owners are brothers.”

Me: “Same food”

Him: “Same food”

Me: “Same white sauce”

Him: “Same”

It sure looked similar.  And it tasted similar too, but it had been months since my dinner at the nighttime cart, so I wasn’t positive.  But there were a few obvious things that caught my eye.  First, the tin was a rectangle.  At the nighttime cart, they use circular tins.  They also have little individual servings of white sauce and hot sauce at night.  The daytime cart didn’t.  And most obvious was the plastic bag.  The famous cart used bright yellow bags.  The daytime cart had regular old smiley face plastics.

If you and your brother own a business, with the same exact food, why wouldn’t you use the same supplier of tins and plastic bags?  Very fishy.

That night, I returned to the SW corner of 53rd & 6th to confirm the daytime guy’s story.  The famous cart arrives at 7pm to set up.  Amazingly enough, even though it takes them an hour, a few people had already gathered in anticipation.  I told them that the guy who parked in their spot during the day had claimed that the owner of his cart was brothers with the owner of their cart.

“Different,” he said.

“Different food?”

“Different food.”

“But he said the owners are brothers.”

“I don’t understand why people lie,” he replied.

I understand why…  Well that solves that mystery.  But wait.  There was more.

“Now that cart over there,” he continued, pointing to the SE corner of 53rd & 6th St.  ”That cart has the same owner as this cart.  And they are there during the day, starting at Noon.”

“Same food?”

“Same food.”

Now we’re talking!  I headed over to the cart on the South East corner, which was still open, for a little bit of dinner.  With this order, there was no question.  (Notice the yellow bags hanging on the cart above.)

Notice the individual servings of white sauce and hot sauce in the upper right hand corner of the photo.  Bright orange rice.  A tiny drop of hot sauce blew smoke out of my ears.  This was definitely the stuff.  And yes, I did eat street meat for lunch and dinner on the same day, and lived to tell about it.  See how I sacrifice for you people???  And just so that I can announce that ”Midtown Lunch’ers can eat the the famous 53rd St. & 6th Ave. street meat during the day!”

MYTH:  At night, there is another cart across the street from the famous cart with the line, that serves the same food.

This myth turns out to be true!  The daytime cart on the SE corner of 53rd St. & 6th Ave. is there until pretty late at night.  So if you find yourself in Midtown after a long night of drinking, or clubbing or driving your taxi, don’t wait in that ridiculous line.  Head over to the Southeast corner and get the same food, in 1/10 the time.


The REAL Deal Chicken & Rice Cart during the day. On the SE corner of 53rd St. & 6th Ave.

Moral of the story.  When a cart tells you something,  don’t take their word for it.  Just look at the plastic bags.

The Famous Chicken & Rice Cart(s)

  • Noon until Late night on the Southeast Corner of 53rd St. & 6th Ave.
  • 8pm to 4am on the Southwest Corner of 53rd & 6th Ave.

UPDATE: And now they have another lunchtime cart on the SW corner of 53rd and 7th Ave.

73 Comments

  • I went to the SE corner cart today. It was very, very good. Anonymous, yes, the sauce is fiery but I smartly asked for more!

  • Ok class, point to Iraq on a map.

  • I finally went to the “famous ” cart waited on line 1/2 hour was a bit dissapointed .I admit it the chicken is fresh tasting and the white sauce tasted like good quality yogurt with mayo also very similiar to ranch dressing .The hot sauce was good .The Lamb was just really chopped up gyro meat and it was tasty until i tasted an msg overload an hour later.I would say it is over-rated in the sense i was not bowled over by the food .I would describe it as good food from a cart.

  • Nate – Thanks for the info!

  • Maybe someone can help me out and give me an answer on this important question:

    Is there mayo in the white sauce?

    I despise mayo. I hate the flavor. I’ve usually avoid the white sauce because I’m not sure what’s in it. I love tzatziki. Can the white sauce be trusted?

  • I’ll be damned if I have the slighted clue as to what is in that crack sauce… white sauce. Mmm. Delicious. I think that it may have yogurt, cucumber, pepper, but other than that I am stumped. I tried searching the net for how to make chicken with white sauce at home, but to no avail.

  • I agree with ForkNewYork. Shendy’s cart on 52nd and 6th in my opinion much better. I grew up in the area, so I’ve been eating chicken and rice since the mid 90′s. I think Shendy’s reminds me of a cart that used to be on 55th and 6th around 1994-2002. They were on the NW corner. (There are 2 new carts in it’s place now)

    I wonder what happened to them… Cart’s weren’t “branded” back then

  • Justin, I agree wholeheartedly. I waited on line one night for a half hour for the famous cart and was very disappointed. The white sauce tasted exactly like Wishbone Ranch Dressing. Exactly. The white sauce I get at all the other carts on 6th are fantastic. The famous cart sauce that everyone raves about- terrible. This is just my humble opinion.

    mamacita, none of the carts have white sauce that tastes like mayo…in my opinion that is.

  • That cart is mediocre – starting with the yellow rice that tastes like rice-a-roni.
    I like the cart at the SE corner of 6th ave and 43street. Basmati rice, better flavor, better white sauce.

  • zach, that is some good reporting!! You should be an investigative reporter. :)

  • Great reporting. Scary thought for me, a Californian who only sees cart food on TV and at sport events. The whole time I’m reading this and looking at the pictures I’m thinking…”how clean is the prep area? How many people get the bends after eating here….” Why, how, is it a N.Y. thing?

  • funny, i was testing the SW 53rd & 6th cart too. Around 6PM, I asked them if they were the ‘night’ ones’… they said ‘yes’. Bag, food, containers weren’t the same, but the food was decent.

  • The “day time” folks gave me what looked to be a matchbook. Upon further examination, it was a “book” of toothpicks with the classic “53rd and 6th” yellow logo. Anyone else get this, or does this only get distributed to frequents?

  • Yep, got me one of those a couple weeks back as well. A subsequent visit did not yield me one, however. I smell a collectors item here.

  • The late-night guys on the SW corner a couple weeks ago put up a big sign on their cart that said something to the effect of “we are not here during the day and are not responsible for your health if you eat from a cart in this spot during the day” (I forget the exact wording, but it definitely implied that the daytime guys might harm your health).

    A few days later, that sign was gone and replaced with a slightly more subtle umbrella that said something to the effect of “Halal Guys, only at night, 7pm-5am.” It also advertised their new website, http://www.halalguys.com, although it appears they haven’t actually put up a website there yet. I’m looking forward to seeing what they put on that site.

  • “Halal guys, only at night 7pm-5am”? What about the daytime sister-cart across the street? Something seems off…I wonder how closely affiliated the daytime cart and the nighttime cart are. Maybe this story requires a follow up?

  • i am a frequent visitor, i have been goin there for about a couple years, the cart on the other side of the street and the same, most people believe that its just another copy cat or whatever, but its the same sauce, meat and chicken.

  • If the two carts are related (aka serve the same food) why would the night-cart not advertise for the day-cart? “Halal guys, only at night 7pm-5am” sounds pretty exclusive, wouldn’t you say?

  • does anybody know the nutritional facts, or a general idea of how bad halal cart food is for u? me and my coworkers have been debating this for weeks.

  • Unfortunately, its pretty terrible.

    Here’s why I think so:

    - Rice = cooked/boiled in water, but with hefty amounts of oil.
    - gyro/lamb meat = giant lamb version of a hotdog. (In other words, all the scraps and inedibles of a lamb ground into a monster hunk of “meat.)
    - chicken = dark meat (probably the “healthiest” thing they have.)
    - white sauce = yogurt/mayo based. (may as well be called “extremely-high-caloric-cholesterol-sauce”)

    overall, this meal is very deceiving, in that…it appears to simply be a dish consisting of carbs and protein. When in fact, its saturated and drowned in fat and cholesterol. This would be a good meal…if you intended on climbing mount everest immediately after.

    I love chicken/lamb and rice, so I want nothing more than for somebody to prove me wrong…somebody pleaseeeee prove me wrong… =(

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