Observant Muslims Find More Options for Dining Out

June 11, 2009

Author: Purva Patel

Source: The Houston Chronicle


Aleena Charania can choose from traditional shwarmas and kebabs when she visits Busy Boy Sandwiches, a 4-year-old cafe on Hillcroft.

But Charania, an observant Houston Muslim who eats only halal, the Islamic version of kosher, usually opts for the hamburger or Philly cheesesteak.

“Definitely, when there’s an option, I prefer that,” said Charania, adding she can get Pakistani meals at home.

In recent years, Charania’s options have multiplied as traditionally South Asian and Middle Eastern restaurants in the Houston area have added halal Western fare to their menus, and others have opened mainstream eateries with meat that’s zabiha, or from animals slaughtered according to Islamic rites, and thus halal.

Every time 32-year old Charania or her friends hear a new place is hawking halal eats, the e-mails and texts fly.

“When I was younger there was no mainstream halal food,” said Charania, who grew up in Houston and was previously limited to vegetarian or seafood options. “We get very, very excited about places that serve halal foods.”

Restaurant owners say they’re catering to observant Muslims who don’t always want traditional ethnic dishes when they dine out. They’re also tapping a growing market of second-generation Muslims like Charania, to whom tacos, buffalo wings and pizza are just as popular as curry and biryani.

“Anything you open Western or different and halal, it will do well,” said Ziad Salameh, who opened Halal Wok on Hillcroft five years ago.