Back in the mid-90s when you’d never miss a Bulls v. Knicks highlight on Ahmad Rashad’s NBA Inside Stuff and when Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf was the OG Colin Kaepernick, my family spent every holiday break driving our beige Volvo station wagon across the Northeast to visit family and friends.
Long road trips meant preparing sandwiches and orange slices before double-checking AAA maps as we headed out the door. As a family practicing Halal (the Muslim version of Kosher, see our key below), we had limited options for eating out; so when traffic got in the way of catching dinner with family, we’d pull over to a Pizza Hut or McDonald’s and order vegetarian personal pans or Fish Fillets. In those moments, the car smelled like we were finally assimilating into American life.
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Today, nearly every aspect of this scenario has changed, Alhamdulillah. GPS has replaced dashboard covered maps, immigrant Muslim families have collectively transitioned to adopting the indestructible Toyota Camry, and it’s far less difficult to find the nearest Halal restaurant because there’s an app for that.
In fact, the US Halal food market has grown by a third since 2010 to a whopping $20+ billion in annual sales. Influenced by a Muslim diaspora that is growing in size (and in net worth), Zabihah Halal meats are increasingly available at many big box and grocery stores, while prepared Halal meals are no longer exclusively associated to food carts. While Halal food has a long way to catch up to big brother Kosher (40% of all new foods are certified to meet Jewish dietary laws in the US today), it’s only a matter of time.
To celebrate the American Muslim identity and how it continues to enrich our American culinary experience, we asked ten notable Muslims to tell us about their favorite spots. We’ve invited everyone from food entrepreneurs to chefs to cookbook writers and even a comedian to the party. And so, we are excited to introduce the 10 Best Halal Restaurants In America.
Following Islamic dietary laws means Halal food avoids all forms of pork (including its gelatin), use of alcohol, and must follow a meat production process known by American Muslims as Zabihah.
"After opening Silk Road with his father in Warren, New Jersey, Mustafa Sidiqee and his partners Abdul Wali and Abdul Saboor Sidiqee created another memorable Afghan restaurant just a few towns over from his first endeavor. At Hills of Herat, he offers one of the best Halal meals you can get in America today. While “Hills” has become my go-to for hearty, protein-rich meals after a workout – I’ve bumped into Sidiqee many times at the gym – Hills offers a warm and welcoming environment for everyone."
"Start off with the mantu steamed ground beef dumplings seasoned with mint yogurt and lentils, before digging into their combination platter that includes juicy chicken pieces marinated in traditional Afghan spices alongside its well-known tender filet mignon. Scoop up each bite with soft, sweet Kabuli palow (rice) sprinkled with sweet carrots and raisins. Don’t forget to grab a cup of their chai on the way out."
"P.S. Drive carefully. The food coma is the real deal here."
"I was introduced to Tanoreen by a dear friend over a decade ago. Our trek from NYU to Bayridge was the furthest I had ventured out for a halal supper club I continue to host today. It was my first Palestinian meal and to this day I can close my eyes and remember each complimentary flavor."
"Brussels sprouts? Is that you?! Dressed with pomegranate sauce, yogurt, and sprinkled with panko bread crumbs, it’s a dish that you won’t forget. Then came the Fatoush! How can you taste so good?! Of course we left room for the warm ooey-gooey-cheesy Knafeh. I felt like I was being fed by a mother who had taken me in as one of her own. I’ve gone back many, many times since and not much has changed over the last decade. Chef Rawia continues to greet her guests like family. And to this day, I continue to thank her for her brussel sprouts and knafeh. It leaves you missing home wherever that may be for you." Alcohol served on the premises.
z -- Sumaiyah Ahmed, food-obsessed business analyst and operator of the Halal Train Supper Club
"Not all start-ups are born in a Silicon Valley garage. With the same spirit as the best entrepreneurs, Ali B. (known as “AB”) began offering classic BBQ to customers out of his garage with the idea of showcasing his homemade sauces that are made from scratch. I’m happy to call myself one of his first customers and to see him grow from borrowing a smoker to what it has become today -- one of the best BBQ joints in Michigan."
"While many BBQ spots offer a short rib once a week, AB’s Amazing Ribs offers it every single day. His ribs come with an unforgettable horseradish-based white sauce. For sides, scarf down the creamy mac and cheese before you enjoy his “meat candy” chicken wings, which are sweetly glazed with just the right touch of smoke. If that isn’t enough, AB has the only restaurant in Michigan that offers Halal wagyu beef burgers and who dares to prepare (and perfect) fish & chips. Made with wild cod, it’s just like everything else on the menu -- memorable."
"I frequently walk across Atlantic Ave to take in the sights and sounds of one of the most diverse parts of New York -- Little Yemen. If Brooklyn is a religion, Little Yemen is the pilgrimage its followers must make. Surrounded by a handful of great eats, there is one restaurant that continues to build on its history without any plans of changing its mature walls. Yemen Cafe is led by third-generation managers and brothers, Abdulerahim and Sidieg, and partner Mahmoud who continue to serve a steady stream of customers ranging from veteran New Yorkers to fancy diplomats stopping by after the latest UN General Assembly."
"Pour yourself some of their house chai before the busboys hustle over with menus. Enjoy lamb broth soup and salad before your main, which needs to be any of their lamb dishes. Marinated for at least 48 hours before its cooked in the oven for another four, Yemen Cafe offers the closest experience you’ll ever have to the traditional mandi cooking style that includes preparing meats underground with heated rocks (Blame the city’s health department for missing out!). For the most authentic experience, dip fresh, clay oven bread into a Fahsah -- a traditional stew with a handful of vegetables and shredded lamb. The dish is enjoyed by Yemenis practically every day of the year. It’s that good."
"Aside from typical American fast food, it’s rare to see a halal restaurant where the cuisine isn’t from the proprietor’s own culture. But Bebop Korean-Mexican Grill run by Pakistani-American Sohail Shaikh, strives to combine both Korean and Mexican flavors in respectful ways to create irresistible menu items."
"Coming from California, I was familiar with Korean-Mexican fusion (mainly in taco form) but Bebop has taken this to another level with rice bowls, burritos, and their signature GOGI Burger, which combines bulgogi beef with halal turkey bacon, eggs, and shaved onions. The bowls are daring, as they combine ingredients you wouldn’t otherwise expect to be in a bowl together (think kimchi, cheese, and avocado) but they somehow work. The restaurant has increased in popularity over the past month due to increased mentions on social media -- it’s one of the trending restaurants on Halal restaurant guide Zabihah.com -- and is popular with foodies (Halal and otherwise) who are looking for something unique to eat."
"When I head into Detroit for a night out with friends I always crave a classic cheeseburger. I’m not comfortable eating at restaurants with bars so my options for American Halal food are limited. Fortunately, the latest wave of Detroit’s restaurants are defining Halal beyond just offering Zabihah; they are fostering creative, inclusive spaces (and food dishes) for everyone."
"Royale With Cheese is the perfect example of Detroit’s take on Halal food that checks all the boxes -- a Pulp Fiction-inspired burger spot covered with fun murals and photographs that offers something for everyone in the family. And you’ll need the whole crew because you should family style and try as many burgers as you can -- Classic Royale (duh!), Havana, and the Kruncher are a must! Don’t forget the All Up In your Grilled Cheese Sandwich too. Packed with candied turkey bacon, fried egg, cheese fondue, smoked gouda cheese fondue, and served with roasted tomato basil soup; it will leave you breathless. Literally. You will shamelessly stuff yourself with no regrets. If you don’t “do” burgers and shakes -- who are you?! -- Royale offers beautifully plated salads with edible flowers you’d never expect at a burger joint in Detroit. My fave is the Kale Beirut. Bon Appetit!"
Indian Darien, Connecticut "Coromandel has garnered enough accolades for anyone to appreciate its high-quality food -- it even won praise from State Rep. Terrie Wood -- but it has become an establishment that is inspirational beyond it’s culinary excellence. As the first restaurant in the area to offer organic Halal dishes and one of the few white-tablecloth Halal restaurants around, owner Jose Pullopilly (who is not Muslim) transitioned to offering Halal meats to better respect and care for his Muslim workers. Jose has intrinsically, and perhaps unwittingly, nurtured key halal and tayeeb values: being mindful of sourcing clean food with grace while having compassion and respect for his staff, customers, and community."
"Coromandel’s story is a worthy one, but the food is what keeps everyone coming back. The Sham Savera, their signature appetizer amusingly named evening and morning, is to die for and comes with a handful of homemade spinach and cheese dumplings served with tomato honey sauce. Do yourself a favor and get two because your friends will want yours. For the main, try the halibut version of the Hariyali Machli: green herb-marinated halibut grilled in a tandoor or alleppey, which are well seasoned, grilled, and worth the trip to Connecticut. Coromandel’s Darien location is my go-to Indian bistro anywhere." Alcohol served on the premises.
"Growing up in a segregated suburb outside of Boston meant my mother and I had to trek more than an hour to buy meat from the nearest Halal butcher shop. It was cold. It took all day. It wasn’t fun. So when I moved to California and discovered a more diverse world outside of the Northeast, food helped me cross cultural boundaries. It was the old school Chinese Halal joints that ignited my joy for exploring ancient worlds behind each recipe. I had no idea Chinese Muslims even existed, let alone cooked Halal dishes that ultimately introduced me to an entirely new culture."
"The Old Mandarin Islamic Restaurant sits at the edge of the Sunset District in San Francisco, holding on to the last signs of old SF many of us miss so dearly. Take your crew and order family style. Any of their hand-pulled noodles are a great start, but leave room for their 10-piece three flavor dumplings and the infamous cumin lamb dish that tastes too close to home for anyone familiar with Arab cuisine. Finally, order the chef’s special hot braised lamb ribs. Trust the chef -- they are special. Somehow I’ve found myself once again trekking more than an hour to get my Halal fix. It’s worth it every time."
"Food carts are how many Muslim food entrepreneurs got their start -- now the chicken and rice platter has arguably become the posterchild of Halal food in America. For an upgrade from the shiny silver containers check out Juicy Platters. I first went to their Fair Lawn location during my college days and have since gone back too many times. They take the to-go food cart culture to the next level with clean brick and mortar locations, high-quality meats, and vegetarian-friendly options."
"Douse their spicy sauce on their chicken wings (available at select locations) to start off before you go after the mixed platter. Extra white sauce is a must. Add the green blast for your toppings and you’re set for Fajjr or the perfect meal after Jummah at ICPC. Jersey, whattup."
"If brunch is your calling, let Kurdish-Turkish immigrants Mehmet Besir Duzgun and Mehmet Besir Yavuz show you how it’s done at The Gundis Kurdish Kitchen in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood. Outside of Turkey (where I frequently work), the Gundis captures the most authentic array of Kurdish-style Turkish dishes I’ve experienced. This casual eatery honors Kurdish heritage with vibrant flavors and colors."
"Its spreads of jams, olives, cheeses, and freshly baked loaves of bread leave you needing to snap a photo before you devour their picture-perfect dishes. No filter necessary! Order the Kurdish Breakfast for Two and choose eggs and a type of meat to relish with all the sides. I suggest the soft scramble with lamb. It’s unique, layered flavors are hard to replicate if you ever dared to at home. My other favorites include the Ezme and Walnuts appetizer and a spiced vegetable stew with bulgur known as Tirsik. For your sweet tooth, order the Kurdish baklava with goat cheese and iced Kurdish coffee or Salgam, a salty non-alcoholic fermented juice originally from Turkey's Southeastern region of Mardin and Adana." Chicken and lamb are halal, alcohol is served on the premises