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.


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