I find the allure of purchasing and eating street meat, be it hot dogs, tacos al pastor, döner kebabs or what have you, is diminished somewhat when doors, windows, walls and a ceiling are introduced into the picture. The romance of the impromptu streetside nosh as you scoot back to the car on a chilly night, or as you trudge back home after swilling a few too many, is lost; the experiential aspect negatively altered even when offerings inside the brick-and-mortar operation are of a seemingly higher quality. I don't want to plop my arse in a chair to sip espresso any more than I want to devour shawarma at a table.
But trends say otherwise, and street food is getting its moment in the indoor sun. Over in Longwood, Oh My Gyro! has followed in the cart tracks of the Halal Guys (which recently opened on North Alafaya Trail) offering a straightforward menu of halal cart fare the likes of which you'd find on the not-so-mean-streets of Manhattan.
If you're unfamiliar, halal cart fare amounts to round tinfoil containers of rice, meat and cut-up pita drizzled in a mayo-based white sauce and served with a salad. NYC's Muslim cab drivers created a market for this quick-and-cheap on-the-go halal meal (halal referring to meats ritually slaughtered according to Islamic jurisprudence), which led to their subsequent popularity amongst the city's club kids and street-food cognoscenti.
Platters at OMG! can be had for $6.99 (small) or $8.49 (large) with your choice of chicken, gyro or falafel. We chose a combination of chicken and gyro meats, but the delicate, turmeric-tinged basmati rice damn well stole the show. I will say that without the white sauce (and an absolutely infernal red sauce served on the side), the chicken veers towards the humdrum – unlike the lamb gyro, which stands on its own.
A rice-less sandwich ($9.99) comes enveloped in doughy pita stuffed with fresh tomato, lettuce, onions and, yes, that lemony, slightly peppery white sauce. It comes with fries and a drink, but what's missing here is the aroma. I can smell a halal food cart a mile away, and when opening the doors to OMG!, I expected to be hit by a tongue-unfurling fragrance wall, but not so. Too good a ventilation system, perhaps? Whatever the reason, I'll just refer you back to the opening sentence of this review.
One thing OMG! has that its halal cart brethren don't, however, is a selection of below-the-fold Indian fare – like plush mushkaki ($12.99), grilled cubes of marinated beef served with a zippy tamarind sauce that's really more an Indo-African staple; shami kebab ($4.99), cakes of minced beef and yellow split pea; and samosas, of which the mushy veggie versions were largely forgettable. Also forgettable: a spicy Creekstone Farms Angus burger ($6.99) – it lacked depth in both flavor and stature. For a burger with an Indo-Pak twist, OMG! might want to use Charcoal Zyka's "chapli kebab burger" for inspiration.
There are plenty of Indian sweets, or "mithai," to be had here – five types of kulfi (frozen dairy dessert), assorted barfi (confections made from sweetened condensed milk) and three types of gulab jamun (fried milk balls in syrup). Oh, and mango lassi ($2.99) and freshly squeezed sugar cane juice ($4.99), delectably sweet indulgences in their own right. It all makes for an intriguing, diversified menu lineup, which is key for OMG! As many eateries (cart-to-table or otherwise) have come to learn, in this business things can change in a New York minute.