Long-awaited Halal Guys brings renowned white sauce to Berkeley

Nikhar Arora/Staff

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After virtually opening two weeks ago via the food delivery service Caviar, the Halal Guys in Berkeley will officially open its doors to the public Jan. 26.

The Berkeley location officially replaced the Vietnamese restaurant Le Regal in October 2015, but progress was delayed because of construction. Remodeling the location was the “biggest challenge,” said Rene Hjorth, director of operations of the Las Vegas and Northern California locations. After demolishing everything on the inside, Hjorth said he realized there were more structural issues to deal with in order to make the restaurant both “safe” and “comfortable.”

The Halal Guys in Berkeley is located between the Downtown Berkeley BART Station and UC Berkeley campus. The traffic from both students and locals makes for a “great mix” of customers, according to Hjorth.

“I’m excited to become more of a part in the community,” Hjorth said. “Whether that be (through) student clubs or football games. It’s our goal in every market.”

Hjorth added that the Berkeley location already has a “loyal following” in the community. The Halal Guys in Berkeley has more than 7,000 followers on Facebook as of press time.

The Halal Guys debuted as a hot dog cart in New York City in 1990. At the time, the only late-night food available was hot dogs from food carts, Hjorth said. He added that there were also no halal options, despite a strong presence of Muslim cab drivers in the city.

According to Hjorth, the Halal Guys was created to fill this void in the late-night food market. Although The Halal Guys is only one of many late-night options today, there is something in the combination of flavors and the famous Halal Guys white sauce that is both “authentic” and “warming,” Hjorth said.

“The combination of all the flavors — once you get that — within a week, I guarantee you’ll be saying ‘I can come here again,’ ” Hjorth said.

All Halal Guys locations, including in-store and cart versions, offer the same staple menu items featuring a combination of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean flavors. In-store locations, equipped with fryers and more space, offer additional items, including baklava and loaded fry platters.

Since its debut, the Halal Guys has opened or begun developing more than 200 new restaurants worldwide, according to the company website.

Hjorth said he wants to ensure that no customer receives a “halfway” product or service experience. The employees at the Berkeley location will have had multiple weeks of training by the time the store opens Jan. 26, Hjorth said. The two weeks in which the Halal Guys in Berkeley was offered exclusively on Caviar gave employees time to learn about the product and the service and discuss any challenges.

“The platter is simple,” Hjorth said. “We have to make sure we can execute it over and over — it’s all on us. I want to make sure everyone has a phenomenal experience.”

Alicia Kim is the lead businesses and economy reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @aliciackim.