Note: Only the first 100 will be served on Thursday's soft opening. There are only free bags and hand fans with purchases.
The Halal Guys' first Chicago restaurant soft opens at 6 p.m. today, serving only the first 100 customers. The New York cult favorite, which started as a food cart, hopes its first spot outside the Empire State will build the same following. Additionally, the local franchise owners have plans for four more Halal Guys in Chicago, as well as 10 in Malaysia.
The Gold Coast location drew a line comparable to the New York street queues on during a preview event on Wednesday night. Rick Eggert, a Halal Guys superfan, drove three hours from Milwaukee, even leaving work early to arrive on time.
Eggert, whose future son-in-law is deployed in Baghdad with the Army, has become interested in Halal foods, even making a Halal pizza for the Super Bowl. These are foods made in accordance with Islamic Law, but contrary to some misguided beliefs, the food is meant for everyone, hence the central Gold Coast location.
Local franchise owners Steve Chong and Vince Tan last year convinced corporate that their team should be the ones helming the Chicago expansion. They weren't yet ready to reveal Chicago's other four locations, but competition for the franchise was fierce, as Tan said "we were up against a billionaire from Malaysia."
But monetary backing wasn't the only thing corporate was concerned with. They wanted someone who would "cherish the brand," Tan added, calling their opening a "very American story."
That tale continues tonight. They'll close Friday to restock before the formal grand opening on Saturday at 11 a.m.
The Halal Guys, 49 W. Division St., (773) 877-5575, Open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, open 11 a.m. to 4 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.