For those of us who eat halal, the struggle to find halal food outside of the kitchen is real.
Between drawing a blank when your friends ask you where you want to eat, having to thoroughly inspect the menus of every restaurant beforehand to see if they have any vegetarian or seafood options you are willing to tolerate and occasionally making the extra call to see if the restaurant has halal meat by some stroke of luck, finding halal food options can be both difficult and stressful.
Eating halal is a dietary guideline for those who practice Islam. “Halal food” is basically all foods that are free from certain ingredients, i.e. pork, alcohol, animal-based gelatine, etc.
But most imporantly, if the food contains meat, it only uses meat that has been sourced from a plant that implements Islamic guidelines when slaughtering.
Simply put, eating halal is just a dietary lifestyle choice, like “going vegan” or pescatarian and, while it has a few rules, is rather easy to manage once you integrate it into your lifestyle.
Nonetheless, as Muslims are a minority in the country, it can be hard to find restaurants that offer a variety of options that fit into these guidelines. While efforts have been made by restaurants and fast-food chains across the nation to include vegetarian and pork-free options, for Muslim foodies, eating salads or settling for the seafood option just doesn’t hit the spot.
But if you go to Rutgers—New Brunswick or live nearby, you’re in luck! There’s an abundance of dining options on campus that can satisfy your cravings while also staying #halal.
As a Muslim foodie that’s lived on campus, I’ve tried basically every halal restaurant in the area, and I was both surprised and pleased to find that there are a lot more options than I originally anticipated. The times are a-changing!
Here are my top 4 halal restaurants on campus:
Efes Medittaranean Grill
If you’re looking for delicious halal food served with an ambiance, Efes is the place for you. From lentil soup and stuffed grape leaves to lamb and chicken shish kebabs served with rice, this Turkish restaurant offers a wide range of options for halal foodies and pickier eaters alike — and if you love falafel just as much as me, Efes has some of the best!
With appetizers ranging between six dollars to 12 dollars per plate and entrees going up to 30 dollars, the restaurant is definitely on the pricier side. I will say though, in those extra few bucks, you’re paying for quality service and freshly made food that is sure to impress your friends or special someone!
Seeing as we are all broke college students, if you can’t afford a bougie dinner, fear not — Efes has got you covered with super affordable, tasty lunch options as well. Come in before 4 p.m., and treat yourself to a mouth-watering crispy chicken or gyro sandwich for only eight dollars.
Chai Chenak is just "chef's kiss." The restaurant offers a variety of street food specials, such as paratha rolls and bun kebabs, traditional Pakistani entrees, like biryani and chicken karahi, and tasty beverages, like fresh chai and mango mojitos, making it a perfect spot for lunch or dinner time.
Oh, and did I mention that Chai Chenak is probably the most Instagrammable restaurant on campus? Between the hand-painted plates and stunning murals, Chai Chenak is not only the perfect place to grab a bite with friends but also for having a #baddie Instashoot with immaculate vibes.
The. Best. Gyro. Platters. Need I say more? I’ve tried many platters in my day, and I can confirm that Halal Guys is indeed the best place for them.
Located right at the heart of Easton Avenue, I’ve visited this Halal Guys more times than I can count, and with a spacious seating area, it is the perfect place to take a study break.
Loved by both Muslims and non-Muslims alike, Halal Guys is my go-to spot for when I want to satisfy my cravings without breaking the bank. While the menu is a bit limited, namely offering gyro, chicken or combination platters served with pita or wraps of similar variation, Halal Guys has superior sauce game, and for the amount you get in their standard size platter, it’s definitely worth the visit.
If you’ve never ordered an RU Hungry fat sandwich after a night out with the girls, do you even go to Rutgers?
Known as the pioneer of the “fat sandwich,” RU Hungry is a hedon’s dream. If you’ve ever craved mozzarella sticks, meat and cheese all at the same time, look no further — the joint has more than 30 different “fat sandwiches” that’ll satisfy your wildest cravings.
Aside from subs, the restaurant also offers a wide variety of classics like chicken tenders, wings, quesadillas — the buffalo chicken one is my personal favorite — as well as milkshakes and burgers too.
If you’re cramming for midterms and have no time to make food or just want to treat yourself, this is the place to be — although, definitely not a study spot. This small joint is constantly packed, and with college kids constantly flowing in and out, you won’t get anything done.
If you’re looking to eat halal, though, make sure you request it beforehand — they don’t offer halal unless you request it. And for those of us who live off of Apple Pay, make sure to bring your wallet! The joint takes only card or cash — I had to learn the hard way.
Additional notes: Some restaurants might not mention that they’re halal, so always be sure to call beforehand if you’re not 100 percent sure.
Eating halal definitely requires some additional work and research, but if you look around a little, you’d be surprised at how many options there are or how many places are willing to accommodate. The struggle is still real, but we shall conquer it, one restaurant at a time.
Happy (Halal) Eating!