Over the past few months, I've had the opportunity to travel to some of the noted U.S. ports of call. During my tiny tours, I've tried to pay attention to the various food environs, making stops in Chicago, Boston, DC and New York City. The latter of those shined light on a particular question: Why are there no halal carts in Dallas?
The tiny tin boxes, seen on countless street corners in Manhattan, can command giant crowds with their tantalizing smells of delicious lamb and chicken. Halal refers to the preparation and selection of the meat, which must meet certain restrictions according to Islamic law.
The two typical dishes that are offered are the gyro and the meat-and-rice, with lamb and chicken representing the meat options. Taste-wise it's similar to the meat you find at most Mediterranean spots here in Dallas, until you get to the sauces. The carts typically use two sauces in tandem to take this dish to sublime levels. The first is a spicy sauce, brilliant red and applied generously per your capsaicin tolerance. The second, a pale white, is made up of some combination of yogurt, vinegar, mayo and other highly-secretive adjuncts. It's wondrous.
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It is fantastic drunk food, and you can get plenty of it for under $10. So why don't we see these boxes dotting various corners across town?
One reason could be zoning. We've seen the issues that food trucks have had just to attain a toe-hold on the Dallas food scene. It would likely take another Herculean effort by a plucky entrepreneur to pave similar paths for the quasi-stationary carts.
Another reason could simply be demand. While in a wildly walkable city like New York, the food flourishes, it just may not translate here in Dallas. It's much harder for a food cart to rev up and hit another corner if business looks stale on a particular day.
Uninitiated palates could make up another barrier. While Dallas is certainly expanding its culinary profile, some people may just not be as apt to try out an unfamiliar dish when there are other, more recognizable options within earshot.