Abu Omar: Houston's Only Halal Taco Truck

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I scanned the short menu on the side of Abu Omar, a silver-sided taco truck on Hillcroft at Pagewood. It wasn't very forthcoming about the kinds of meats it served, just listing items like tacos and tortas.

"Do you have chicharron?" I asked the smiling young man, Roberto, inside. "No," he replied. "We're...um..." He trailed off as the word seemed on the tip of his tongue. Finally: "Halal! We're halal. Only beef and chicken."

Abu Omar is, as far as I know, the only halal taco truck in Houston. And even more interestingly, it switches from Mexican specialties during the day to Middle Eastern cuisine at night: After 6 p.m., the truck offers shawarma, falafel, foul, Turkish coffee and much more. When you think about it, shawarma isn't all that different from al pastor-style meat (except with regard to the meat itself) -- so an Arab taco truck isn't that much of an aberration.

Nevertheless, it's an exciting and wondrously new thing here in Houston. So when my friend John, who works with refugees in the area, emailed me to tell me about the little truck -- which just opened two weeks ago -- I was incredibly excited to check it out.

Arriving on a sunny afternoon last week, John and I took in the hand-painted, bright yellow sign next to the truck, displaying its name in both English and Arabic. As I snapped a couple of pictures after ordering, a handsome young man got out of a car parked near the truck and walked over to me and John, curious about our intentions.

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The owner introduced himself as Alex, a young man originally from Amman, Jordan. Upon hearing this, John eagerly launched into a discussion about restaurants and food in Amman and the foods that Alex carries in his little truck.

"Do you have lebne?" he asked. Alex nodded yes. "What about hummus?" Another nod, as John continued listing off items.

"We also have hot tea everyday," Alex said. "For free."

"With mint?!" John seemed to be barely containing himself.

"Of course!" Alex responded.

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And just then, our orders were called up. My lengua taco came on two fresh, hot corn tortillas with plenty of cilantro, which I quickly doctored up with some creamy salsa verde that sat on the truck's ledge. It tasted like the wonderful ají amarillo sauce at Pollo Bravo, all spicy jalapeno and olive oil and a pinch of salt.

The sauteed tongue nearly melted in my mouth, a wonderful sensation that tasted almost like someone had made lengua butter and spread it on the hot tortillas. And although I'd been wary of ordering a chicken quesadilla (I'm pretty much a tacos and tortas kind of girl), it was equally good. But I noticed it had a distinct Middle Eastern quality about it.

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The chicken tasted like shawarma-style chicken, seasoned with plenty of garlic and hints of cinnamon and nutmeg playing at the edges. It made me even more excited to come back here on one of these cool Spring evenings and try Alex and Roberto's real specialties.

And as much as I enjoy the chef-driven, gourmet taco trucks that have sprung up around town, there's a lot to be said for this kind of adventurous, cuisine-spanning spirit in a simple little taco truck off Hillcroft.

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18 comments
sj
sj

this place is ridiculous..every time i go there is another story. only ONE time out of 5 did i have their food which was great. all the other times the open sign is there and no one is inside, or they say someone is buying meat supplies etc, only to close right after. today went there and it is an entirely different taco truck/stand present! i give up !

Dohatawaha
Dohatawaha

يسعدلي هالحطريتو ما يبلىاللللللللله يرزقك يا احلى ابو عمر

Hamza Abu El3assal
Hamza Abu El3assal

3ala Rasi ya kbeeeeer allah yuafgak wallah enak Nashmi :) God bless U

anaswedyan
anaswedyan

they have great food i try in my life,,,

eatTX
eatTX

Tacos al Pastor evolved in Mexico after Christian Lebanese emigrants brought Middle Eastern style shawarma to Mexico. In fact in some parts of Mexico they are known as Tacos Árabe (Arabian Tacos).

Cfroggie
Cfroggie

shawarma-style quesadilla's? I may just die and go to heaven! Can't wait to try this place.

Blake
Blake

How much for the man-child in the second picture? Is he available after 6 p.m. as well?

Greg Burland
Greg Burland

my advice is to keep a twitter column of your favorite food trucks in one of the freely available twitter apps, that way you can always know where your favorites are, but yeah a central website would be nice.

Matthew
Matthew

there needs to be some sort of houston food-truck website. one that lists menus, and ties into their current locations. if i new where the close ones were in relation to where i work, i'd hit them up. as it is, i have no idea.

Eric Henao
Eric Henao

Okay so out along hillcroft. Between what intersections? Thanks.

Blake
Blake

I would have also accepted, "I can see by the second photo that Abu Omar also offers tarts."

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

I know the Save Our Food Trucks (http://saveourfoodtrucks.com/) guys are working on compiling one right now. And a food truck book from Paul Galvani is set to come out in the next six months or so, listing the Top 100 food trucks in town.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

The intersection is in the first sentence up above: Hillcroft at Pagewood. ;)

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

WORD. Also, if you like foul, Abdallah's down the street serves it for breakfast. And you can also get the Ethiopian version (my favorite) for breakfast at Sheba Cafe.

Greg Burland
Greg Burland

yeah it's good for breakfast with some nice pillowy pita (particularly the fluffy pita from Phoenicia) and to all EOW writers/readers: the best place for hummus, baba ghanoush, falafel or shawarma is House Of Kabob on Westhiemer, just down from the Miyako's on Westhiemer. EOW needs a write-up on that place.

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