The Lincoln Center Halal Cart: Fighting Corporate Takeover One Gyro at a Time

The halal cart proves not only to be the pillar Fordham stands on, but also a way for students to further support local businesses in the city



Every time you indulge in a lamb over rice, you’re also supporting a small business.


Among all college rites of passage in America, none is as beautifully fragranced and neon-adorned as the halal cart next to Fordham Lincoln Center. She stands gracefully on the corner of 60th and Columbus Avenue, a beacon of hope along the gray, mysteriously stained slabs of sidewalk we walk every day. 

I haven’t spoken to a single Fordham student who has not dragged their tired form down to the beckoning lights of the cart, humbly asking for a platter pillowed by impossibly soft pita or cradled by the trademark foil box we’ve all devoured from. 

College is draining enough by itself. Add the constant wear and tear of New York, with its never-ending soundtrack of free yelling and air so grimy you can physically feel it when you walk around street corners too fast, and I think it’s safe to say we’ve all emotionally or physically relied on the halal cart at least once. 

I think we can all agree that in these challenging times, we need a hero.

Local tired student Julia Curtin, Fordham College at Lincoln Center ’23, stated, “When I moved into the McMahon dorms, I had dreams of cooking every night and using the kitchen to my advantage. Now I’m at the halal cart three nights a week.” 

Considering how many people I’ve talked to who have formed the same dependent relationship with the cart, I know Curtin is not alone in her sentiment. I think we can all agree that in these challenging times, we need a hero. And if you’re one of the lost pilgrims who’s still looking, just follow the smell down the street. 

I could write a 60-page manifesto documenting how crucial the halal cart is, not only to my life — I would literally drink white sauce by the bottle for free — but also as the backbone of the Fordham community. Instead, I am here to present the halal cart not only as an option that is fantastic in itself but also one that fights the creeping hands of mass corporations becoming embedded in the city. 

Not to fall into hyperbole, but while walking the span of 10 blocks in New York, I can see at least seven Starbucks locations. And while their cold brew is often the only thing that can make my limbs move, I do get scared by the way they’ve seemingly been closing in on every street in Manhattan. So many avenues these days resemble a commercial break: Chipotle, Wendy’s, Shake Shack. This is meant in no way as a judgment to people who frequent these places, as I’m one of them. They’re cheap and delicious, and one is almost always nearby. 

However, constantly viewing them as the only option for a quick meal opens the door for corporations to keep playing an increasingly scary game of Monopoly with New York City. The halal cart is just one example of an option that is just as affordable and delicious as chains but also maintains small business in the city, leaving fewer grizzled old people to say the essence of New York is disappearing. 

This piece could also be a manifesto on massive corporations slowly taking over small businesses and placing the blame on customers who take advantage of the convenience and economic benefits of chain restaurants instead of acknowledging the insane wealth and power of the corporations who own them, but that can wait for another time. However, we do have the power to support companies not owned by CEOs who have never done their own grocery shopping. 

Leave Lowenstein and make the minute-long trek to the halal cart, the loyal, dependable lifeline that has been there for me more than some family members.

I completely understand the plight of wanting a quick, easy meal and having two equally damning options: a chain restaurant whose owner probably could buy shoes that cost $10,000 and are yet the ugliest things you’ve ever seen, or a New York restaurant where an appetizer costs a criminal $17.50. But if you, like me, are a broke college student looking for the sweet spot of supporting a local New York business with affordable options, just leave Lowenstein and make the minute-long trek to the halal cart, the loyal, dependable lifeline that has been there for me more than some family members. 

Or, if you’re craving another cuisine, maybe consider options that are similar to fast-food favorites but are locally run. For example, swapping Chipotle for Burrito Box is something I’ve tried lately, with soul-healing results. Attending Fordham for three years and never having visited Burrito Box is a crime on the federal level; yet I was an unknowing offender, as I thought Chipotle was the quickest and easiest option. 

The Bazaar on 79th Street and Columbus Avenue every Sunday also offers local, quick options such as Maze-Maze, Anthi’s Greek Specialties, and, my personal favorite, Pickles Olives Etc. The food I’ve had there is much better than meals I’ve had at restaurants where a $30 plate consisted of a pitiful swipe of hummus on some pita and a falafel the size of a pebble. 

Every time I visit the halal cart, it’s like being handed just a bit of comfort at the exact right temperature.

If you’re like me and have both the fear of the Empire State Building being renovated into a Pinkberry and the need for a quick, easy meal, there are options. And while a student praising the halal cart is a tale as old as time (currently trying to pass “Fordham Is My School, The Halal Cart Is My World” as the new tagline for school merch), I feel as if it’s becoming easier and easier to overlook local sources of affordable and fantastic food. 

Sure, Sweetgreen has great salads, but $18 for arugula is offensive and I’ve been stared at there by a lot of judgmental 14-year-olds. But every time I visit the halal cart, it’s like being handed just a bit of comfort at the exact right temperature. 

So for those who have possibly never tried the halal cart; for those who have lost touch with it but think of it often like someone you met on a cruise when you were a kid; or for those like me who think heaven must be sitting on the concrete wall outside Lowenstein with a giant foil container of rice: The next time you brave the textured air of the city, consider stopping by the cart and get perfection for a few dollars.