I’ve driven from Baltimore to San Francisco and up and down the length of the eastern seaboard, but the best smelling gas station I’ve ever stopped at stands in south-central High Point, North Carolina.
That is, at least if you pull into the northernmost side of this Sunoco’s parking lot.
There are plenty of great joints that I call “gas station food” in the Triad, most notably Uptown Pizza & Wings in Greensboro — where I grab a gyro by the Triad City Beat office almost every Tuesday — and Taco Riendo 3 in Winston-Salem. And while I swear by Greensboro’s Crazy Ribman and miss the scent of turkey barbecue from Dee’s Juke Joint, the aroma wafting into my car from Tasty Halal proved to be more powerfully enticing.
When I pulled into the lot near the intersection of South Main Street and Business 85 recently, I’d just eaten lunch. As in, I was driving directly from finishing a tostada, a taco, chips, rice and beans. But the smell of cooking meat and dancing spices took hold, and I navigated my car into a makeshift spot alongside the Tasty Halal food truck.
I couldn’t help it.
Staring at the menu that ranges from chicken biryani — a rice dish that my colleague recommends here — to a Philly cheesesteak, the lamb gyro stood out to me. When I asked the man inside to name their best dish, he stumbled, and after I mentioned considering the gyro, he seconded the idea. That made it hard to discern his true preference, but I stuck with my gut, asking for it spicy and grabbing a drink from the cooler that’s built into the front of the truck like a kangaroo pouch.
Two picnic tables flank the food truck, and yard signs stick out of the grass alongside the gas station’s lot advertising Tasty Halal’s offerings. This Sunoco has its own food mart, but that’s not where the alluring smells emanated from.
All of the food here is halal, a term referring to what’s permissible to eat in the Muslim faith not dissimilar to kosher for observant Jews. The owners trace their heritage to Pakistan — an overwhelmingly Muslim country wedged between Afghanistan and India — and actually run several halal food trucks including one in New York City. They aim to grow the business, opening a pushcart soon in Greensboro, a manager with the business later told me.
That helps explain the high quality and superb execution of my lamb gyro. Even though I’d already eaten, I had to keep reminding myself to slow down and savor each bite. Had it been warmer, I would’ve lounged on a picnic table for a while, maybe even being tempted to order more.
The spicy sauce may have been the best part, though it was still relatively mild. It dripped on my fingers, which I shamelessly licked clean despite holding napkins. I made a mental note that later I’d need to inquire about the sauce’s components.
Turns out it’s a secret. When I called Tasty Halal, after getting bounced from the main line with a 919 number to a manager with a New York area code, I learned that only the folks higher up in the business know its true contents. The manager I talked to said he had no idea, and that’s intentional. I can respect that.
The High Point food truck is the owners’ first in North Carolina, but the location makes sense — it’s just around the corner from the Islamic Center of High Point, and it couldn’t be closer to Business 85. It’s just a 20-minute drive from downtown Greensboro, and you can make it from downtown Winston-Salem in 30 flat. You’d be well advised to make the trip, or drum up enough interest to convince Tasty Halal to roll to you.
I’ve only tried the lamb gyro, but based on how satisfied I left that parking lot, I’m willing to vouch for the falafel, biryani and kabobs. The burger, cheesesteak and hot dog might be worthwhile too, but I’ll question your judgment if you pick one of these concessions to the local market.
Visit Tasty Halal food truck at 2010 S. Main St. (HP). Read more at tastyhalalnc.com or find it on Facebook.