Halal Boys and The Halal Guys may sound similar, but the concepts are actually a world apart. Well, nearly 3,000 miles, to be more accurate. The Halal Guys is a breakout chain from Egyptian immigrants that started in New York City, and specializes in chicken and gyros slathered with white and red chile sauces.
Halal Boys is a tiny new Afghan restaurant in Reseda from Kabul-born owner Salim Jalal that specializes in dishes from his childhood that are hard to find in LA. It’s a bit too early to predict whether or not the Boys will match the 70+ locations from the Halal Guys, but considering Jalal just opened this past March, things are looking good.
Anybody who enjoys a good burger will probably like chapli kabob ($8.99). Two soft ground beef patties are blended with an Indian spice mix, eggs to bind and corn flour for crust’s sake, and griddled until crispy. Jalal said this dish is a favorite of Pashtun people who straddle the Afghanistan and Pakistan border. Each plate comes with crusty house-baked Afghan flatbread, grilled jalapeños, onions, and tomatoes. Dress with an herbaceous, judiciously spicy green sauce that Halal Boys source from Turkey.
All too often, chicken skewers involve dry, disappointing white meat chunks. Halal Boys do offer Indian tikka starring chicken breast, but Afghan tikka kabob ($9.99) is the better bet here. Chicken thighs (like all Halal meats) are butchered on the premises. Chunks marinate with saffron, garlic, and other spices, infusing and tenderizing the grilled bird. Juices beautifully seep into the Afghan bread.
Even a “regular” sized Afghan boulani ($8.99) spans nearly a yard across. It’s entirely possible that the larger version could double as a parachute or raft. This soft, floppy half-moon is stuffed with spiced mashed potato and leeks, sliced into 12 sections. Each gigantic flatbread comes with tangy yogurt and more of that beguiling green sauce.
Afghanistan is also known for well-sauced dumplings. Ashak comes filled with leeks and in Jalal’s mind, qualify as a “fat burner” since they’re lighter than other Afghan dishes. Mantoo are ($11.99) steamed spiced beef and onion dumplings with sturdy skins that he plates on cream, yogurt, dried mint, tomato, and yellow lentils. Yes, that’s more ground beef.
Clearly, a meal with this much meat and carbs calls for some levity. To drink, they make off-menu doogh ($2.99) a tart, refreshing yogurt drink with salt, dried mint, and cucumber.
Weekends bring lamb biryani and Jalal’s hearty hometown rice dish, qabali pulao. Halal Boys also serves pizza, juice, and boba, to appeal to nearby CSUN students and younger school kids who walk by the restaurant on their way home.
The small space holds just three two-top tables and seven black high chairs at a pair of marble counters, which means many customers will just grab-and-go their food. Jalal limits decor to red and green trim and framed paintings of Afghan bread and kebab vendors.
It took Jalal a number of fortunate and well-timed moves to serve Afghan food in Reseda. He initially managed a combo Taco Bell and KFC after relocating to LA from Kabul. He spent over 15 years in the gas station business before switching to a car service, which coincided with the rise of companies like Uber and Lyft. Those tech giants decimated his business, and Jalal reverted to what he knew: food. This time, he bypassed burgers and Mexican food for the masses in favor of far more personal cooking. Jalal’s brother David and trusted cooks Ali and Asim have joined his cause, and the local community has supported Halal Boys in kind. Halal Boys is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
Halal Boys. 7221 Tampa Ave., Reseda, 818-341-1946