Halal? You There?

Manhattan's favorite cheap lunch comes to downtown San Francisco

Silvery carts smelling of meat and spice are ubiquitous in Midtown Manhattan. Now they have a San Francisco imitator.

The bright red Halal Cart showed up quietly on Market Street three weeks back. It's definitely a local operation: "The idea's from New York, but the cart is made here," Asad Amimi, the guy taking orders, reassures us.

Amini and his cousin-co-owner have reproduced the original closely, including the round aluminum plates the signature dish–gyro with rice ($7)–is served in. (We suppose you can get a gyro sandwich or kabob burger, too, but the cart's owners aren't the only nostalgic ones.)

Flip off the lid of the tin and you'll find a massive portion of long-grained rice, a simple salad and a mound of beef, chicken or both.

Halal Cart's menu, short and sweet

We prefer the long-marinated chicken, browned and shredded on the griddle, to the prepackaged beef gyro meat. But really, who are we kidding? On occasion we like that, too.

Tangy yogurt sauce criss-crosses the top, and if you've requested it spicy, dots of red chile sauce, too. It's not haute cuisine. It is hot, cheap, fast and redolent with cumin and coriander.

And now we don't have to brave Times Square foot traffic to eat it.