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Muhammad Adnan Arif was born in Faisalabad, Pakistan. He moved to the United States in 1995. After initially driving a taxi for a few years, he has been working at a Halal Cart in Manhattan. He comes in every morning at 7 am and leaves at around 5 pm. He stays in the 5' by 10' cart all day, only stepping out to pray and use the restroom. The cart he works at is a Sammy's Halal Food cart, which is one of the many halal food carts that have taken over New York City. — Fahad Naveed

Pakistani food vendor serves 'halal' to New Yorkers

Halal food business is booming in Manhattan, but many people don't even know what the word means.

Updated 18 Dec, 2018 09:43pm

The days when Muslim immigrants had to worry about Halal food in New York are long gone.

Today, the Halal food business in the city is booming; Halal carts have become so popular that many people getting food there don’t even know what the word means.

“I want to do Halal for lunch today,” an American friend tells me.

To him Halal is just another kind of cuisine.


A Sikh man waits for his dinner order.
A Sikh man waits for his dinner order.

If you’re buying a hot dog in the Big Apple, chances are you're buying it from a Halal cart.

On any given day, parked amongst a handful of other options is ‘Sammy’s Halal Cart’.

Adnan prepares chicken for the lunch rush hour.
Adnan prepares chicken for the lunch rush hour.

Halal food vendors have a variety of sauces including hot sauce, white sauce and green sauce.
Halal food vendors have a variety of sauces including hot sauce, white sauce and green sauce.

The change hasn’t happened overnight. In 2007, a New York Times article observed that New Yorkers were ditching hot dogs for more filling Halal food options popping up around the city.

A little over a decade later, the hot dog stands the article talked about are practically dead. And Halal is now considered a staple food in the city.

Chicken over rice has quickly become a go-to quick bite for many New Yorkers.
Chicken over rice has quickly become a go-to quick bite for many New Yorkers.

“What would you like?” asks Muhammad Adnan Arif, with a smile.

Adnan spends about 11 to 12 hours a day inside the cart, only leaving to pray and use the restroom.
Adnan spends about 11 to 12 hours a day inside the cart, only leaving to pray and use the restroom.

Adnan, an immigrant from Pakistan is in his early thirties, and one of two men who work at the cart during the day. He moved to the United States in 1995.

In his time here he has seen New York change, and yet stay the same.

Adnan says because the cart is metallic, it becomes cold during the winter and warm during the summer.
Adnan says because the cart is metallic, it becomes cold during the winter and warm during the summer.

He stays in his cart all day, only stepping out to use the restroom and say his prayers.

At sunset, he can be seen praying Maghrib right outside his cart, using a flat cardboard box as a prayer mat.

Adnan says Maghrib prayers outside his cart.
Adnan says Maghrib prayers outside his cart.

Adnan's line of work allows him to have a unique view of the city.

He interacts with all sorts of people; from devout Muslims who come to the cart because they are particular about how the meat is slaughtered, to drunk college students who just need a quick, affordable bite to eat after a long night of partying.

Adnan counts money at the end of the day.
Adnan counts money at the end of the day.

During Adnan's shift he is usually joined by a worker who is also an immigrant from Morocco.
During Adnan's shift he is usually joined by a worker who is also an immigrant from Morocco.

Like Adnan, the owners of Sammy’s Halal Cart are also Pakistani.

Adnan says that he likes working for people who understand his cultural and religious background and needs.

At the end of each shift the workers divide the tips that have been collected.
At the end of each shift the workers divide the tips that have been collected.

When Adnan isn’t grilling chicken or managing the books, he is making calls to Pakistan, catching up with his wife and children.

Customers line up outside the cart on the busy 6th Avenue and West 4th Street intersection.
Customers line up outside the cart on the busy 6th Avenue and West 4th Street intersection.


These photos were originally photographed for a group show called ‘Photographing New York,’ currently on display at the New York University Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute.