Big Guys Chicken and Rice has turned a New York City halal cart into a Deep Ellum restaurant. With eight menu items and three sides in a 1,300-square-foot space, Big Guys opened on May 20 across from Stonedeck Pizza on Elm. This spot focuses on doing a few things really well, is open late with quick takeout and offers vegetarian options.
Chef Hanif Islam grew up eating New York street food. He used to work as a security guard in Times Square, but he always wanted to open a restaurant, and street vendors are what made the biggest impression. The food was great and there was always a line, but it moved quickly. He was especially interested in the halal carts with platters combining the wildly different flavors of a white mayonnaise-based sauce, a bed of orange jasmine rice, salad, hot sauce and pita bread with lamb, chicken and beef.
Islam made friends with the street vendors, eventually working hands-on with a few halal carts in New York and developing his own recipes. Street vendors typically salt and pepper chicken, boil it and toss it on the grill. Islam marinates his with several different spices. New York City seemed to be oversaturated with halal carts, but the same cannot be said of Deep Ellum, which has an incredible amount of foot traffic.
Big Guys has just opened, but people familiar with halal stands have already found their way to the new spot. There are a few tables and chairs, but for many people, this is going to be a takeout spot. The kitchen takes up most of the building’s space, which is sparse with brick walls and concrete floors. The owners are planning to commission murals that combine scenes of Dallas and New York City.
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The menu is exactly what you would expect from a halal cart, with options available as platters or wraps made with pita or paratha. The signature item includes chicken, beef and lamb. There are gyros and NYC-style chicken — grilled and chopped — with that zesty, top-secret marinade. The food is also presented exactly like it would be from a halal cart; wraps are snuggled in tin foil and platters come in round aluminum containers.
Vegetarians can get a platter or wrap with aloo (potato), breaded and fried. This is a good way out of yet another slice of cheese pizza, grilled cheese or veggie burger.
Big Guys has a New York hole-in-the-wall takeout vibe, and with hours as late as 4 a.m. on weekends, this is a perfect spot for Deep Ellum.
Big Guy’s Chicken & Rice, 2614 Elm St., Ste 130. Open 11 a.m.-midnight Monday-Wednesday, 11 a.m.-4 A.M. Thursday-Sunday.