Downtown Lunch: Zak's Halal Cart Says "Call me Musthafa"

Midtown workers shouldn’t have all the fun, so to even the score, I’ve brought on Daniel Krieger as an official Downtown Lunch Correspondent to write up some of the tasty stuff you can get in the lower half of Manhattan. He’s a great photographer (insuring good food porn), but more importantly he is a lover of cheap, unique and delicious eats (or as I like to call it- Midtown Lunch’ish food.)

Musthafa's Halal Cart

Street Meat doesn’t generally peak my interest downtown. I realize you Midtowners have a great selection and crazy competition, but downtown the scene is not quite as fierce. So when I walk by a bunch of street carts I generally don’t stop for lunch, unless I see a line 20 deep- as I saw earlier this week in front of the big red cube on Broadway.

I asked a few people online why this cart was different from the other carts in the area and received answers ranging from “cause its crazy cheap” to “best chicken and rice you can get”, “I don’t know this is my first time but my friend said they have the best falafel.”

Musthafa's Halal Cart

When I finally made my way to the front of the line I asked what I should try, as this was my first time. The proprietor said, “You must have the chicken and lamb sandwich with cucumber sauce.” Done.

Musthafa's Halal Cart

I will go on record saying that although I haven’t sampled every street sandwich in the city, this was the best I’ve had to date. The chicken is marinated in some kind of sauce that to me seemed a bit curry like. I went back afterwards to probe the busy man with a few quick questions. “The marinade is a secret” he said with a smile. I don’t blame him, it was effing good. The entire sandwich was overstuffed and a bit-of-a-mess (needed a fork to really get into it) and only $4.50.

Musthafa's Halal Cart

For another 50 cents you can get the chicken and rice w/salad platter. That’s a pretty damn good deal for 5 bucks. A dollar more with a soda. He sells 100 chicken sandwiches a day and a minimum of 150 of the platters.

Musthafa's Halal Cart

The cart has no name on it but when I asked, was told “It used to say Zak on it but everyone kept calling me Zak and my name is Musthafa, so I took the name off. Now the cart has no name.” I can understand that. If my name was Musthafa I wouldn’t want people calling me Zak (especially considering what a weird name it is.) So from here on out I’m naming his cart Musthafa’s, and I suggest getting that lamb and chicken sandwich because it’s one of the best damn deals in the city.

Musthafa’s Halal Cart (formerly Zak’s Halal Cart), Broadway btw. Liberty and Cedar in front of the big Red Cube

Photos and post by Daniel Krieger



  • Sandwich looks good and damn that deep line.

  • I think I would eat that with no fork, dig in, and watch the juicy morsels slide off the pita…hopefulyl not onto the floor.

  • While I have no doubt that the sandwich was delicious, I feel like the line at that place is misleading. I found the chicken over rice platter mediocre, the portions a little disappointing, and everything drowning in white sauce. The only reason I’ve been able to conclude that the line is so long is because the service is so slow. Every couple months I try that cart again, thinking that I must have missed something, but it’s still the same plate of food. I might give that sandwich a shot, but I feel like that area around Liberty Plaza is lacking a seriously good street meat cart.

  • There used to be a cart downtown by the immigration building I think….not sure what the actually building is called. It was off lafayette I think. There was an AMAZING chicken and rice cart where the line was half a block at least every day. I used to go, and begged for the recipe, but the proprietor would only smile…this was at least 11 yrs. ago so not sure if it is still there. I was hoping this cart was it, but from the photo the proprietor is not the same….

  • So was the cucumber sauce, just white sauce?
    You picked a winner this week daniel, that pita wrap look mouth watering! I love the owner’s smile too! Ha!

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    Wow, I am so happy to see this guy profiled on this site. He used to be my go-to lunch when I worked on Wall Street a few years ago. At the time, he had a smaller cart, but it is good to hear the quality and service hasn’t changed as he’s gotten bigger. As others have said, there’s just something a bit different about his chicken, its a little hotter, more heavily spiced … its hard to put your finger on actually. Even more importantly, he is one of the most friendly street vendors I have ever dealt with, always serving with a smile and a friendly greeting. Everyone down there should give him a try. I might have to sneak out of midtown some lunch soon and catch up!

  • this is all warm and fuzzy – i must visit mustafa.


  • Falafel King – He was incredibly friendly I have to say.

    Mama – I think the cucumber sauce was just a blend of cucumber, mayo, and maybe some vinegar.. but that’s not really what stood was the spice of the chicken that was most impressive.

  • damn, I am craving some good falafel now…

  • Last pic….Super Mario

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    “… doesn’t generally pique my interest … “

  • @cds – you serious? There’s like 5+ street meat carts right there, either around Musthafa or across B’way around Sam’s Falafel (Daniel also wrote up that place a while back)! NONE of them are good??? (I really don’t know because I have my place which is much closer to my office, I’m just really surprised)

  • zak bruks alta igo?

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    Such a friendly guy, great smile and always seems very grateful to have your business. The food is a cut above your average chicken and rice type of street cart. The line is definitely due in part to a slower service, but I feel like he takes a little more care which is partly why it is slower. My favorite chicken and rice guy near wall st.

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