- Halal Food Cart – 101 North Tryon
- Halal Gyro Man – 130 North Tryon
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of “what the f*ck?“; it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness (especially when you stepped off the early morning train before sunrise and had to tiptoe around the homeless, still sleeping on the sidewalk); it was the Spring of Hope over new possibilities, it was the Winter of Despair over losing so much we held dear (like free parking and short commutes); we had everything before us, we had nothing before us; we were now all working in Heaven, we had all been relocated to an office direct the other way – in short, it was the second week of my office being relocated uptown, emotions were high, tempers were short, and mood swings were rampant as everyone alternated between excitement at starting a new chapter and resentment at being forced to end what for most had been a very pleasant and comfortable chapter.
Business pundits would tell us:
It is what it is!
Think outside the box!
Tell yourself, “I love a challenge!”
Someone moved your cheese – go chase it! Or find new cheese! (Not the most motivating anology to give a vegan, BTW.)
My advice: Remove yourself from the situation. Get some fresh air, some exercise, and some good food. That, more than anything else, will make an amazing change in your attitude.
So I follow my own advice, every lunch time.
I start off down Tryon, stopping to read restaurant menus posted in windows, keeping my eye out for food trucks.
As I approach the intersection of Trade and Tryon, I notice what seems to be a halal food truck.
At first I think it’s a mirage. A halal food truck? In Charlotte? Charlotte has never struck me as being particularly welcoming towards Muslims.
But … yes … as I get closer I see the little truck with the green lights is named The Halal Cart. It has a patriotic American flag on the back (which, perhaps, helps it gain more acceptance in conservative Charlotte).
There’s also a sizable crowd of about 20 men (mostly Indian or Pakastani) gathered around the truck, which I take to be a good sign. They are also happy, smiling, not minding the wait – which I take to be another good sign.
Note One: In case anyone is wondering why a vegan is happy about seeing a halal food truck, it’s because devout Muslims eat only halal meat (similar to kosher); otherwise, they eat vegetarian. So a halal restaurant will usually have some very good veg dishes. And a halal cart will usually have some very good falafel!
Note Two: If you don’t understand my obsession with falafel, it’s because you’ve never had good falafel. There is a huge difference between the fast food falafel you get at Pita Pit or the frozen falafel nonsense you buy at Trader Joe’s – and the delicious falafel you get from street carts in New York or on every other street corner in London.
And YES! On the side of the truck: Falafel On Pita. Falafel Salad. Falafel Over Rice.
I skip happily to the window of the food truck. “Falafel on pita, please, no white sauce, red hot sauce!”
The handsome young Pakistani man smiles and directs me to my left, where a young woman is taking food orders and payment. She is absolutely gorgeous, with a dazzling smile and painted-on jeans. I suddenly realize why all these businessmen look so happy waiting for their food. I repeat my order. “Falafel on pita, please, no white sauce, add red hot sauce!”
She sweetly tells me it is cash only. I must have looked crestfallen, because she then directs me to two nearby ATMs – Bank of America one way, Wells Fargo the other. I dart off for cash, return, re-place my order. She offers me a can of soda on the house to make up for the incovenience.
It’s a 15 minute wait for my pita. As I wait, I notice almost everyone else is ordering the “chicken and lamb combo over rice, extra white sauce.”
I finally get my order and race back to the office courtyard to eat.
And … I am so disappointed!
I ordered a falafel on pita … and that’s EXACTLY what I got. Falafel on pita. With a little iceburg lettuce. AND NOTHING ELSE. No white sauce, as I requested (well, perhaps a small dot, but I’ll overlook that – cross contamination happens, and I am not a prude). But also, no hot sauce.
This was my first time; was I supposed to separately specify the salad veggies (tomatoes, onions, peppers, cucumber) that are standard on a falafel wrap? Yet, I didn’t specify iceburg lettuce, and I definitely specified red sauce.
Let’s take a closer look at the pic on the side of the cart … definitely looks like there’s a little tomato action going on there!
Also, the falafel was VERY dry and crumbly. Maybe on purpose? – since I overheard the majority of customers ordering “extra white sauce.” The bread itself was good, though – soft and stretchy.
So disappointed. I REALLY wanted to like this place – was excited about finding a falafel supplier uptown, plus the people were so nice! Maybe they were having a bad day? Maybe there was someone new helping with the food? Maybe I’ll give them another try.
Halal Food Cart – 101 North Tryon – According to Yelp, 10:30 AM – 4:00 AM, 7 Days Per Week
Or maybe NOT.
Because today, I notice ANOTHER halal cart.
I hesitate about trying it, since my Monday experience was so bad. And this cart seems a little cheesy – Halal Gyro Man. A not quite-so-spiffy food cart and a much smaller crowd.
What the heck, I think.
Can’t be any worse.
And so I cross the street and give it a try.
The young man is not quite as outgoing as the workers at the Halal Food Cart. He is pleasant and polite, though (also easy on the eyes).
I have a short wait to order.
“Lettuce, tomato, cucumber, peppers?”
“Yes, everything it typically comes with. Just red sauce instead of white sauce, please.”
Within 5 minutes I have my order and I’m GONE! (I paid cash as I have learned most halal stands take only cash, but this cart does take debit and credit cards!) Running back to the courtyard, peeling the foil from my wrap and …
IT IS DA BOMB!
There’s lettuce, tomato, cucumber, red and green pepper having themselves a party inside the soft pita bread … There’s my requested red sauce (hidden under all those veggies) … The falafel is moist and seasoned well, I can taste some spices… I am literally tearing up because I’ve found cheap and delicious vegan falafel in Uptown Charlotte …
While I am almost orgasmically devouring this pita, a woman (I don’t want to classify her as “homeless” but she’s very skinny, smelly, and strung-out) plops herself down at my umbrella table and tells me she’s hungry. I offer her half of my wrap – as this thing is so stuffed with falafel it is easily two meals for a woman. She isn’t interested. I then offer her the apple and vegan jerky chew I currently have in my “Mary Poppins bag” – she isn’t interested in that, either. I tell her I have no cash, only food, and she gets up and does her uptown Charlotte zombie shuffle away.
Just for funsies, let’s compare the falafel pitas …
The one on the left, from Halal Food Cart, is $5.00. (Actually $4.99, but they don’t refund you that penny.) The one on the right, from Halal Gyro Man, is $6.00. A dollar more, but it’s a falafel wrap you will actually enjoy eating.
Note: I later found out Halal Gyro Man also offers a green sauce and a few more additional options for toppings, such as black olives and pickles.
Halal Gyoro Man – 130 North Tyron Street – Hours on Yelp listed as 9:00 AM – 3:00 AM seven days a week