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Is it real or is it fake? in the end, it’s just street meat

Is it real or is it fake? in the end, it’s just street meat

Aug 17, 2011

I love street meat. No matter how much of a bleeding-heart, granola-eating liberal I have become, if I am outside at 4am and Cloverfield isn’t charging up and down 7th avenue, you can find me enjoying a nice plate of lamb on rice at the famous ‘Halal Guys’ street cart at 53rd street and 6th avenue.

Yet, no matter the night, or the company I keep, my street food adventure always begins with some jackass asserting that they will only go to the “real” cart, and not any one of the 2 other carts on the same block which claim to be apart of the same street food empire as the original.

Never mind that the “real” cart could have a line stretching 3/4 of the way to 7th avenue, and take 30 minutes to clear while the other 2 carts on the same block sit idle. I’ve gone to this block in a torrential downpour and even then, without fail, there was a lineup of 15 die-hards, all of whom were patiently waiting at the “real” cart while battling the onset of pneumonia.

I am convinced that we will see a peaceful settlement of the Israel-Palestine dispute before New Yorker’s will ever agree on whether all 3 carts are truly the same ‘Halal Guys’ carts,or rather 1 Apple Store surrounded by 2 Chinese fakes.

Of all the asinine debates I hear during the course of my day,the street meat debate is most frustrating. This is not East Jerusalem, nor is it the LOC in Kashmir, this is pretty cut and dry: they are all the same!

But to clear the record, let us look at the situation with this amazing visual I created:


If you are one of those who proclaim that there is only one true street cart, I just have a few questions that I’d like you to help me out with:

Why hasn’t the original “Halal Guy” noticed?

Ok, so if there is only one real street food cart, that means that the 2 other carts are copying everything about the original one (save for the Arab dude with the 3 foot beard who works weekends). All the way down to the bags, forks and t-shirts that the crew wears, it all is the same!  And to boot, they are doing all of this just  20 meters away from the original!

If this were true, then let me posit this: wouldn’t there be a Worms like amount of tension along that block between the vendors?

Wouldn’t the “original” street car have a big sign attached to it saying “hey, those 2 other carts are a buffali-of-lies“?

Not to assume the ethnicity of the vendors, but it does cross my mind that people from those countries have thrown rocks for much less of a crime.

Forget the original “Halal Guy”, wouldn’t an investment banker notice?

Again if we assume that all 3 carts are independent, then we run into the next logical wall: microeconomics.  Microeconomic theory teaches us that a freely-competitive environment with multiple supplies will cause all suppliers’ economic profits to 0.

If they were all different, then wouldn’t each cart begin to undercut the other or offer distinguishing advantages if they were each run by separate owners? Given the volume of people coming to the block just to buy street meat, a profit-maximizing owner would attempt to steal from the long line by offering cheaper prices, wider menu selections, or maybe just a hot girl showing some ass.

Even worse, how could any of the countless bankers which walk out of the UBS building not see the pitch-book possibilities that a 3-cart merge provides?

Think about it, imagine if they were all owned by the same company: you could completely standardize the meat and utensil supply chain. You could save money by having the same packaging, bags, utensils and sauces. You could build brand awareness by printing custom t-shirts for all workers to wear….oh wait, they do that all of that already. damn!

Even the real Halal Guy says:  “yes, its the same!”

This could be the real smoking gun of this case. One night, after handing over my 6-bones to the long-beard at the “real” cart, I asked him, “so what’s the deal with those 2 fake carts?”. To which he responded, “not fake! they real!”  That sounds good enough for me.

But really, you are eating lamb/chicken-on-rice

At the end of the day, you are eating shaved lamb, laid across a giant wad of rice, with a cut up pita bread and about 3 blades of lettuce. This ain’t exactly foie gras, and the Arab dude aint Jeans Georges. Does it really matter if your shaved lamb comes from the fake cart or the real one? At 4am, with vodka dripping down your shirt, are you telling me that you are suddenly a Halal connoisseur?

“Fools, I wanted chicken on rice!” – Kim Jong Il

The prosecution rests.

There you have it. Even Marcia Clark and Nancy Pelosi working together couldn’t screw this case up. The evidence on the ground all point towards all of these carts being the same. Yet, I know this falls on deaf ears. I see myself in the same position as Galileo, or Copernicus. In the annals of intellectual persecution, the existence of multiple “real” street meat carts will most certainly bring down the same scorn that the Earth not being the center of the universe once did.

Only time will tell if my voice is heard, or if I am strung up by the NYC street meat Inquisition. In the end, it might just be that people enjoy queuing up, even if its for street-meat and its 4am.  In this case, I have to ask: what is the real attraction late-night at 53rd & 6th: the meat or the line?

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