Inside Fordham’s Halal Cart

Owner explains how he finds success in an intensely competitive market



Mohammad Elprince owns his own halal cart and enjoys serving the Fordham community.


Mohammad Elprince has owned his halal cart for two years. This past semester, he started selling from the corner of 60th Street and Columbus Avenue, just outside the entrance of Fordham Lincoln Center. The cart sits on the sidewalk, and the men inside serve food from around 8:30 a.m. to 3 a.m. every day of the week.

The Halal business is a tough one to get into — it takes passion, hard work and long hours, but there is a pride that comes along with serving the beloved food. And it is beloved, by New Yorkers throughout the city.

I sat down with Elprince to discuss business, life and halal.

How did you end up working in the halal business?

I worked eight years ago in this field first working in the delis. Then I have a friend — he has experience with halal carts — and he offered more money for me and more opportunities. I followed him and he taught me everything. Then, I worked for myself. That is a difficult process. Because every day after we work we pull the cart to wash it and throw away the old stuff. You prepare for the second day — new and fresh stuff — everything, you know? You do the sauces, it’s hard. Not easy.

And it’s difficult to own a cart?

Of course. Nobody can do that, you don’t see that in New York. The other carts work with nothing. I file my taxes, I do everything. I work with everything legal because I love New York.

What time do you get up?

We start here in the spot from like 8:30 in the morning, but before 8:30 — from 6 a.m. — we have to be in the warehouse to prepare everything.

Where are you commuting from?

We live in Astoria and our warehouse is near our home in Astoria too. Jennifer, my wife, and I have two kids — two boys actually. I met her five and a half years ago.

Your day ends at 3 a.m.?

My partner, drives to the warehouse for the guys to wash the cart, of course, every day. If we have the old stuff we wait, we know the places for the homeless. We do some plates that are left over. Sometimes they come here to the cart at 2:30 or 3 a.m. We do not throw the food away. We give them food — we throw the food away if we do not see them.

Is that something a lot of the halal carts will do?

Some people, they don’t do that — most people they do not. But I live here, I know how it is hard to live in New York. That’s why that came in my head, me and my partner and my wife, too. She does not work with us but sometimes she gives us the ideas. Because we are friends — me and my partner and her — we were friends before we started the business.

But yes, sometimes, I talk to the homeless people if I’m here. They know me because I work in the street a lot so they will say, when I walk with the Starbucks — I get the coffee for the guys in the carts — “Oh, Mohammed how are you doing?” I tell him that is my location, if you are hungry. And I tell him follow me because sometimes the worker, he won’t know him. I say, “Take care of that guy when you see him. Don’t ask him about the money, just give him whatever he wants.”

Has it been hard for you to be able to stay in New York?

So-so. The business has helped. That’s not bad. Not bad because I do good food, thank God, and good recipes. And I am not expensive — I am not taking a lot of money, like some of the people outside. Because mostly my customers, they are students, you know, I try to help them.

So you have your own recipes? What are some of your favorites?

Actually that’s a good question, but mostly the chicken. It’s different, our chicken, very different. The recipe, the seasoning, how we do the marinating. From my family and from me too, and I know where I get the marinade — I know the places, it’s expensive but the quality — grade A, perfect. That’s why my spot is going up.

Your spot is getting more popular, then?

Of course. I know myself, I keep going. I take card or cash because I own my corporation — my own small business. When I work I know how I do it. How I do something tasty that’s why I have heavy competition — behind me here, on the other side too — but, thank God, I’m the top here.

This interview has been condensed and edited.