Street Meat Palooza 5: Old School Greek Wins the Day

Two weeks ago, a troop of brave Midtown souls gathered in Bryant Park for our annual Street Meat Palooza! They sampled chicken and lamb over rice from 17 different carts and trucks, all to crown the winner of them all. For those of you playing along at home, the 2008 crown went to Famous Halal Guys’ daytime cart (SE corner of 53rd+6th), followed by Kwik Meal (SW corner of 45th+6th) and Kwik Gourmet a year later. Since Comme Ci, Comme Ca won last year, they were out. Who would be our new winner?!!

Street Meat-Palooza

I’ve been crunching the numbers for days in ways that make my inner-economist proud, and it’s time to reveal the results.

17. Times Halal

5-Times Halal

Location: NE Corner 40th Street & 8th Ave
Price: $5
Last Year’s Rank: 13

Last year’s judges found Times Halal mediocre, and this year’s judges didn’t hold back either. First off, they didn’t even give us lamb, but that probably wouldn’t have saved it from last place. The “stringy chicken” and “mushy” rice were both “bland.” “Nothing stood out” and one even commented “I can’t even finish this.”

16. Mr. Khan’s Best Food

16-Mr. Khan's

Location: NE Corner 45th Street & 6th Ave
Price: $6
Last Year’s Rank: 17

Mr. Khan’s bumped up a spot, but we can now all agree that unless something radically different starts happening at this cart, it’s one of our worst. The “lamb was mushy,” the “rice has no flavor,” the white sauce was mayo-based, and we all “hate carrots in [our] halal.”

15. XPL Halal Food

10-XPL Halal

Location:NW Corner 52nd Street & 3rd Avenue
Price: $5
Last Year’s Rank: N/A

We went on a limb and had offerings from two XPLs this year. This one elicited responses of “just bad overall,” “nothing special,” “lamb too dry,” and “lots of average where average is just fine.” We’re not looking for average here! Someone did think they had the “coolest calming sauce” though I’m not sure what it was cooling since no one found it hot.

14. Trini Paki Boys

14-Trini Paki

Location: SE Corner 43rd Street & 6th Ave
Price: $6
Last Year’s Rank: 8th

Oh, how the mighty do fall. We love Trini Paki here on ML, but the people have spoken and they do not like ice in their rice. Maybe that’s why it was “weird and mushy”? The “big chunks” of lamb was “good” though “average” and “gamy” and that’s about all that can be said there. Some carts just aren’t made for the Palooza.

13. Moe’s Falafel

1-Moe's Falafel

Location: SE Corner 36th Street & 7th Ave
Price: $5
Last Year’s Rank: N/A

Moe’s was one of the new carts suggested to us, and I’d say it did alright. What appears to hurt its chances of scoring higher were the “little pieces” of meat, lack of sauce, and onions. The meat did appear to be high quality, though salty, and many liked the peppers. But “whatevs.”

12. No Name Cart

12-No Name Cart

Location: NE Corner of 40th Street & 3rd Ave
Price: $5
Last Year’s Rank: 3

This cart came out of nowhere to do phenomenal last year, and now it looks like we might have to chalk that up to a fluke. The frozen veggie medley was panned across the board, and the fries and olives took away from enjoyment of the street meat- not that we want to focus on gristle and chewy meat. If only we gave “points for originality”, maybe this “all over the map” cart would have done better.

11. Biryani Next Door

17-Biryani Next Door

Location: NW Corner of 46th Street & 6th Ave
Price: $6
Last Year’s Rank: N/A

I always have high hopes for the newcomers. Maybe some cart has been flying under our radar awhile and this is their moment to shine! If Biryani Next Door ups their game on the “dry chicken” and “bones in the meat,” they might have been a better contender. It was nice to see a cart giving us rice with actual flavor.

10. Amira Halal Food

13-Amira Halal

Location: SW Corner of 43rd Street & 6th Ave
Price: $6
Last Year’s Rank: N/A

If we had a “best use of potatoes” award to hand out, it would go to Amira’s Halal. While the chicken provided ample flavor to this huge plate of food, it lost points for having salty lamb.

9. Best Fast & Fresh

15-Best Fast & Fresh

Location: 33rd Street between 7th Ave & 8th Ave
Price: $5
Last Year’s Rank: N/A

Right smack in the middle is where Best Fast & Fresh belongs. The meat was “chopped nicely” yet everything lacked something. The gyro style was nice, but the lamb either lacked flavor or was great depending on who you asked.

8. Magdy’s


Location: SW Corner of 40th Street & Madison Ave
Price: $5
Last Year’s Rank: 11

After a few years off, Magdy’s came back and made another decidedly middle-of-the-road showing. Many liked the chunks of meat, grilled onions, and sauce ratio, but the meat was dry, “spongy,” and possibly undercooked. Also, “orange rice is orange.”

7. The Halal Guys

3-The Halal Guys

Location: SW Corner of 53rd Street & 7th Ave
Price: $6
Last Year’s Rank: N/A

This 7th Ave. branch of the Famous Halal Guys cart from 53rd & 6th brought the heat, enough that you really needed the white sauce. The huge platter and dark meat chicken evidently was enough to bump it up with most judges… but not enough to replicate their first year victory.

6. Gyro Xpress


Location: SW Corner of 40th Street & Madison Ave
Price: $5
Last Year’s Rank: 11

Here’s where the tide turns from meh to “very nice.” The banana peppers, white sauce, and “chicken with actual chicken flavor,” won over most of the judges.

5. XPL Halal Food

9-XPL Halal

Location: NW Corner of 48th Street & Park Ave
Price: $5
Last Year’s Rank: 12

This XPL has had a roller-coaster of a time in our rankings.  In year one it was breakout cart, surprising everyone with its 2nd place finish.  In following years it never quite lived up to that first year performance, but this year it’s back on top- likely because the judges were missing the gene that makes cilantro taste like soap. Juicy meat and tasty chicken led more than one person to call it delicious.

4. Rice the Great

4-Rice the Great

Location: Northside of 50th Street between 6th & 7th Ave
Price: $6
Last Year’s Rank: N/A

We had a feeling that Rice the Great, a brand new cart on 50th btw. 6+7th, would be the sleeper hit of this year’s Palooza and they delivered with a 4th place finish. Their “bizarre rice” has raisins, and good God, they give you a bunch of salad, but the meats themselves? Nice-sized juicy chunks of well-flavored meat with a side of a dill yogurt sauce.

3. New York’s Best Halal

2-New York's Best Halal

Location: SW Corner of 53rd Street & 6th Ave
Price: $6
Last Year’s Rank: 5

Well, well, well, what do we have here? For the second year in a row the “Imposter Cart” has bested the “famous” cart they have modeled their food after.  With it’s “hot, hot sauce” and “flavorful chicken” and pure heaven white sauce, it’s almost like they deserve though half-block long lines I’ve seen during lunch time. And yes, those of you judges who guessed, all got this one correct.

2. Everyday Fresh Halal

6-Everyday Fresh Halal

Location: SW Corner of 41st Street & Madison Ave
Price: $8
Last Year’s Rank: N/A

After winning Street Meat Paloozas 2 and 3 Kwik Meal (and Kwik Gourmet) are no long eligible to compete.  But their imitators are doing pretty well.  Last year Fahima Halal came in 4th.  And this year another imposter surprised with an excellent showing.  Nicely cooked meat, well-marinated lamb, a great white sauce, and a green hot sauce led many of our judges to place the obvious Kwik Meal inspired Everyday Fresh in their top two.

1. Uncle Gussy’s

11-Uncle Gussy's

Location: SE Corner of 51st Street & Park Ave
Price: $6
Last Year’s Rank: 2

After a second place finish last year it was finally Uncle Gussy’s turn to take home the big prize. The high quality meat, actually cooked on a grill, leads to some nice char. Top that off with their thick, tangy tzatziki, and you have yourselves a winner. Congratulations, guys!

And there you have it. Another Palooza is done and done. Agree? Disagree? Was your favorite not not even in there? Feel free to sound off in the comments. Because we’re only 340 odd days away from Street Meat Palooza 6, when a new plate of chicken and lamb over rice will be crowned Street Meat Champion of Midtown.

A quick thank you… to all of the Midtown Lunch’ers who nominated the carts, picked up the food, and judged the competition, despite our small mother nature induced scheduling snafu. Sampling 17 plates of street meat is a lot harder than you would think, and we’re thankful they all sacrificed their bodies for the cause. Also, thanks to all the vendors for doing what they do. None of them knew this competition was going on, and even though we crowned a winner, everyone is a winner in our eyes! Street Meat Palooza isn’t really about winning or losing. It’s about showing how unique and different every single plate of chicken and lamb over rice is, a fact that become infinitely more apparent when 17 of them are eaten side by side. Until next year!

Past Street Meat Palooza Results: 4 | 321



    I’ve never had ‘mushy’ lamb, and the rice is flavorful. Just last year the rice was the highlight as mentioned by the judges. I claim that burnt out palates again ruined what was destined to be Khan’s year.

    • I’d also like to mention that Gussy’s was destined to win because of bias (a near circlejerk of praise in the last 2 months) and differentiating itself with tzatziki over the generic white sauce.

      The fact that the XPL chains’ results are wildly different leads me to believe that you roll the dice every time you visit a cart anywhere in Midtown and a generic cart on a good day will beat out any of the ‘named’ carts on a mediocre one.

      • A note on differentiating: Khan’s now does a quite good cilantro sauce (it’s green). Dunno if that was an option the day of, but it’s been available for a couple weeks now.

      • I’ve never had Gussy’s outside of SMP and this year it was my clear favorite (I asked Blondie to identify it after the voting was done). I don’t think I was biased at all. (As for palate fatigue, I went for a second sample of my top 5 and a few of the early samples to double-check–small tastings help here!)

      • Well, aren’t you Superman.

    • Rice Redacted: It was two years ago the rice was ‘flavorful’. Last year the rice was ‘mushy’. Goddammit, I have to use motherfucking ‘air quotes’ for everything.


    • Do you happen to know what number was Khan’s in the comp? There were a whole lot of mushy-rice plates. As to palate fatigue, I wound up tasting two of my top-five choices as my last two samples.

      If Khan’s can be that inconsistent, however, you’re pretty much guaranteeing a poor showing at the Palooza. I could say the same for Halal Guys, who I buy from a couple times a month at the 53rd/7th location.

      • When I actually ate the rice from Khan’s (I do my combo over salad now for my diet’s sake) it was never mushy. Since it was long grain it never stuck together and was perfectly cooked.

        What the hell is mushy rice anyway? Over steamed? Sounds like when I fuck up my rice at home with too much water actually.

      • Over-steamed, over-watered, waterlogged rice, basically soaked up too much water in the cooking process. There were quite a number of those plates at the comp, even on plates I sampled early on.

    • And whining about carrots?!?!??!!! What are you, 8? You can ask for it without vegetables, by the way

  • Trini Paki Boys, WTF??? Ice in the rice?? This has never been a problem I’ve had with them, and that picture looks like a smaller portion than I’ve ever gotten there. Are you sure you’re matching this food to the right cart?

    • I think the ice may have been from #12 (no-name cart)–someone mentioned a piece of ice in the sample # that I picked up, and I recall that the cart had a few pieces of ice sitting on the lettuce.

      And yeah, I do remember the meat from Khan (a big chunk) being mushy/undercooked. The pictures really help to put a name with the food!

  • I like Greek street meats too but plenty of love for Halal!! And after years of Carnegie John’s trying to top these charts… Oh well.

  • Hold up, how did Rice the Great even qualify? According to the rules:

    1. Street meat = chicken and lamb over rice with white sauce and hot sauce. Not jerk chicken. Not biriyani. Not schnitzel. Not tikka masala. It doesn’t have to necessarily be “halal” but it does have to be chicken and/or lamb over rice with white sauce and hot sauce…

    They dont have lamb, and they dont have hot sauce!

    • Because Zack wanted them in the competition, and it was pointed out that it’s beef, not lamb, to the judges. I get your point, though, and when I picked it up I should have just got chicken and not a combo.

      • does Rice the Great just put a measly dab of their white sauce on the side as pictured?

        Just curious, I’m of the beliefe it’s got to be slathered all over everything.

      • The one time i had Rice the Great, yes. A little dab of white sauce on one side of the container, and a dab of red (NOT HOT) sauce on the other side.

    • I thought their chicken/beef combo over rice with white sauce and red sauce was clearly enough of a play on “street meat” to be considered…


    We’re taking this shit to the Supreme Court!

    Surely it is more important than steroids in baseball.

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    #6 Gyro Xpress has been absent this week from its usual location where it takes up nearly half the sidewalk near McDonalds at 40th. As to #2 Everyday Fresh at the Southwest Corner of 41st, your review is solid and really accurate. Had it today for the first time based on your review and the Green Hot Sauce is exceptional as is the fact that their Lamb is tender moist and perfectly seasoned. The fact that they clearly pay attention to keeping the cart and cutting board clean is obvious and a plus is that whiel they pre-cook the meats they actually remove them from the grill into plastic covered containers and then as ordered place them back on the grill to sear. Impressive food cart. A little pricier than most but worth the extra buck or 2. Suprised he doesn’t have a longer line as his food is top notch for Street Lamb

    • You can tell that its a carbon copy of Kwik meal. Although much more inconsistent.. Had a chicken pita the other day that was pretty bad but they redeemed it this week with a better plate. (although you practically have to beg or get in the cart for him to put on the other green hot sauce, not just the jalapeno sauce). I also don’t love the yellow rice.

  • I ranked the #2 finisher, Every Day Fresh Halal as my #1 in the contest, and I think it was the best by a mile. The meat was so good, it blew everyone else out of the water. I actually went back for seconds.

    As for Uncle Gussy’s bias, I think that’s just plain silly. I work across the street from UG, so it’s my go-to spot, but I had no idea which plate was theirs. Seriously, when you’re looking down a table of 17 nearly identical containers of sauce-covered food, it’s not so easy to identify what’s what (especially if you’re not trying to do so).

    • I’m really glad Every Day Fresh is getting some ML love. They’re my personal fave (although admittedly I haven’t gotten around to Uncle Gussy’s yet.)

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    Rice the Great 4th while Trini Paki is 14 & Khan is 16???? This is a travesty of epic proportions!!
    Uncle Gussy’s does deserve a top spot though, they serve up a great plate of food every time.

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    Rice the Great got picked to enter the competition but King Tut didn’t? I told you guys they have a new hot sauce, and they have actual lamb instead of beef!

    Though I guess if you people are weird enough to complain about carrots in your street meat, then maybe you’re not yet ready for the real deal.

    • Tell you what. I’ll go by on Monday or Tuesday and try it with my eyes wide open. Just for you.

      Also, I doubt the carrots are what kept KHAAAAAANNN!!!! from a top finish.

      • User has not uploaded an avatar

        Woo, validation! That’s all I really wanted. Let me know what you think!

      • I got this today fairly late, so the lamb was freshly de-spitted and the chicken freshly chopped from the thighs simmering. Good flavor to the meats, in that “standard” Middle Eastern way, not overly salty. The lamb was quite moist, no gristle.

        However, the “spicy rice” was undercooked, though heavily dosed with the dry spices. The red sauce tasted ketchup-based and wasn’t all the hot, and the white is mostly mayonnaise.

        Bonus points for the green peppers and onions chopped in for some crunch, as well as the falafel ball (dense and mealy though it was). Also happy the broccoli and carrots were not included. Certainly not a bad street meat platter, though I might avoid the rice altogether next time.

      • Dave, sounds like we’re on the same page (see my review below a few hours ago). Although I didn’t get a falafel ball (not complaining). There’s just too many better options in the immediate vicinity.
        Improved – yes.
        Will I return – nope!

    • Grither- I tried King Tut the other day when Obama’s arrival forced all of the good vendors away from the 53rd street vicinity. It was about as bad as your taste in street meat.

  • I’d love to know the plate numbers. I remember what numbers I liked but can’t for the life of me pick them out from the photos.

  • I’d been to Every Day Fresh a few times and enjoyed it, but returned today. Enjoyed it again. I tried to explain to the dude that he got a really nice write up (of sorts) here yesterday. He gave me a smile that said, “I have no idea what you’re talking about, but you seem happy, so I’ll smile now.” Blissfully ignorant of the praise being heaped on him. Awesome.

  • 2 and 4 look too fancy. Not my cup of tea, I guess my poor ranking of them was offset the rest of the paloozers.

  • On the left side of the table in the first picture of this post were laid some of the most vile platters I’d ever eaten. I’m thinking Khan’s was one of them because I totally remember all of those complaints being on that side (save the carrots, which I did not mind.) Sorry CHeeeEEeese

  • I still think @Grither is a King Tut shiller. Just sayin’.

    I might be on the Gussy bandwagon but I only tried them about a month ago and went back 3 times since. I’ve been away so much it’s been about 40% of my midtown lunches. So I’m a big fan. Good for them.

    • Grither is definitely shilling for King Tut. Both of his posts thus far are about King Tut. Does he not eat anywhere else?

      • User has not uploaded an avatar

        I’ve tried most of the other carts that have been visited in these Street Meat Palooza’s (except the ones that are too far away), and I always end up kinda disappointed and back at King Tut. Though I will admit, I only go for the chicken, as their lamb is super salty and not very good.

        Also, I commented on Pizza in some other thread! If I was getting paid for this, I’m sure I’d do a much better job. And yes, I eat entirely too much street meat. Like…about 4 days a week for lunch.

      • Nah, I’ve seen you comment before, you’re cool. Sansaidan is just PMSing 24/7.

  • I tried Every Day Fresh Halal this week after seeing this write-up. I loved the chicken – so moist! – and LOVED the green sauce, but my lamb was extremely gristley, so much so I couldn’t finish the portion. Was it an off day? I find it hard to believe that lamb made up of more gristle than meat could rank #2…

  • I decided to give King Tut another try just for the sake of arguement. It was improved from the last time I went, which was a few years ago. HOWEVER, still sub par overall. The white sauce, mayo based, was ok. The rice sucked. The have yellow and spicy. I asked if the spicy really meant spicy and he actually backtracked, but offered to do a mix so I could try both. The spicy hadn’t changed since the first time. it’s gritty. The yellow was just bland.
    The chicken was ok. Lamb a little salty but edible. I liked the amount of veggies. perfect proportion.
    I begged for their spiciest sauce. I assured them my wife is indian and i KNOW what spicy is. So they gave me the “good” stuff. My 6 month old could handle that spice. big disappointment.

    Still too many better options.

    • User has not uploaded an avatar

      Ooof. Reading your post today made me crave some King Tut. So I went back today, and there was some new dude doing the cooking/plating. Did you get fries and a falafel with your order? Cause I did. And it was literally swimming in white sauce. Which totally killed any spice the hot sauce might have had. So disappointing. WHAT DID YOU DO TO MY CART!?

      Also, this is hilarious: “My 6 month old could handle that spice.”

      Duh! She/he is half Indian!!

      • I wrote up mine above and largely agreed with Username. (Unwritten: the fries were undercooked and terrible on mine – I left most of them.) I got only a little white and a lot of hot sauce, and it barely registered even when I found pockets of undiluted hot sauce to ingest on its own. I think your average six-month-old would be okay with it.

      • User has not uploaded an avatar

        Yeah, I’m very much not happy about how my lunch was today. I’ve never had them give me fries and/or falafel before. And the white sauce was nutso…it looked like the guy used half a bottle! They need the guy who burned his hand and half his face off a couple years ago when the cart exploded to get back to cooking! Not a good start to my weekend, that’s for sure.

      • The portion of sauces on my plate were good, only because I had to say add more or each. I didn’t get any fries or falafel but don’t care either.

        It was the same guy that has been there for years. The one that tries to take an order of EVERY single person that walks by. Same as Dave, I was able to get a piece of lamb with just hot sauce and it wasn’t hot. @Grither, you might just be a serious light weight. Give Famous Halal Guys a try. Their hot sauce will not disappoint.

      • User has not uploaded an avatar

        Oh, I’ve had the famous halal guys hot sauce. It is certainly hot, but the flavor of it is no good, I like my spice to taste good. Not like butt. No clue why everyone is all het up about them (hah, I am so funny!)

        And I’m no lightweight in spice. Super Wow wings at Mudville Nine? Love ‘em. Brick Lane Phaal challenge? Done. (But again, the flavor of the Brick Lane dish wasn’t that great).

        It seems like we’ll just have to agree to disagree. Such is life. (Though I’m mostly agreeing with you now, as my latest venture at King Tut was highly disappointing. To be clear, I wasn’t happy about the fries/falafel, nor the swimming in white sauce thing.)

        Oh, and the owner guy was there when I went, but he was sitting on the corner talking to some other guy instead of his usual soliciting/plating/cooking role.

  • i’ve been trying to hit amira halal for the past couple weeks, but i never see a cart at the SW corner of 43rd and 6th. can anyone confirm if that’s the right address?

  • I just had the everyday fresh halal, I would say its comparable to kwik meal, though I would say kwik meal is a little better. There green sauce is really hot. I think its hotter than the fake famous halal guys cart.

  • Does anyone know if Amira Halal actually exists. I haven’t seen the cart since this list came out.

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