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Restaurants / Openings

Boston’s Beloved Middle Eastern Street Food Haven Moves Into The Heights — For Now

The Chicken & Rice Guys are Trying Out Houston, Harboring Texas Dreams

BY // 07.22.19

When it comes to delicious halal eats, there’s one simple question: what came first, the chicken or the rice? At Houston’s newest Middle Eastern street food haven, they came simultaneously — and they’re now here for your snacking pleasure.

The Chicken & Rice Guys, initially a food-truck-fleet operation out of Boston, just celebrated its Houston grand opening, or “grand hatching” this past Saturday. The Chicken & Rice Guys are posted up in The Heights NextSeed Space with a temporary pop-up.

They are set for six-month Houston reign as a paradise for savory combo platters and myriad special sauces. This after their original food truck spun off into four trucks, plus five brick-and-mortar restaurants across the Boston area.

“It goes way back to four friends up here in Boston. Two were old high school friends, one woman and three guys. They all decided they didn’t like their jobs and wanted something different,” The Chicken & Rice Guys’ marketing director Steve Collicelli tells PaperCity. “They all got bit by the entrepreneurial bug.”

Two of them, Ian So and Kevin Nigro, were hit with inspiration — bring the halal cart scene  they fell in love with in New York to their beloved Boston. The pair found a food truck on Craigslist way down in Miami and bought it, sight-unseen.

“They checked it out, kicked the tires, and drove it straight back from Florida to Massachusetts,” Collicelli laughs.

And with that, The Chicken & Rice Guys was born. “The very first shift, their engine broke. They had a tow truck bring them to their first location, and there was a line of 25 people when they arrived. They ended up selling 200 plates that first day,” Collicelli says.

One food truck spawned another in just a few months. By the end of the year, they’d all decided to quit their jobs and commit to The Chicken & Rice Guys as a full-time gig — and a lifestyle.

“The cuisine’s very simple, approachable and customizable. A plate of chicken and rice that’s not too spicy, got a lot of good umami flavors with cumin and garlic. But it’s really how people choose to make it their own,” Collicelli notes.

the chicken and rice guys random
It all started with a single food truck.

Diners start off with a rice plate or a salad plate, or seasoned and grilled halal chicken, beef gyros, or even baked tofu, or a combo mix.

“You won’t find any other halal cart selling tofu. All of our owners are Asian-American, and it’s just something they grew up eating. That’s the kind of spirit we’re going into Houston with, a lot of fusion of cuisines that differ wildly,” Collicelli says.

You can slather your eats with one of their many house-made sauces — creamy garlic, barbecue, hot, extra hot or their mint, cilantro and jalapeno combo, or a generous mix of any of the above.

Drizzling is totally DIY.

“Everyone gets to sauce their own plate. I like to go around and find out what everyone’s secret way of saucing it is. Everyone has their own way — two parts garlic, one part barbecue sauce, a dash or spicy little mint cilantro. You take that simple menu and make it your own,” Collicelli says.

Texas Specials

The Chicken & Rice Guys also will be bringing some Lone Star State specifics. That looks like brand new paratha tacos and crunchy Fritos as a topping.

“That’s why Houston,” Collicelli laughs. “We love it. Texas is a very exciting place. Just to be in Houston — it’s a fast-growing city. It’s so dynamic in terms of mixing cultures and cuisines.”

While The Chicken & Rice Guys are only scheduled to stay for a hot second, those plans could change in future.

“Hopefully this is just a toehold to the Texas market. We’ll see how the reaction is down there. We have the option for a long-term lease if we choose to do so,” Collicelli says.

It’s time to count your chickens. They’ve definitely hatched.

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