Courtesy Abu Omar Halal
Around the corner from the heart of Glenwood South, a national food truck chain will make its first North Carolina claim.
Houston-based Abu Omar Halal food truck fleet is set to open in Raleigh next month, signing a lease at 709 W. Peace Street, half a block from Raleigh’s busiest nightlife district. The truck will open for the first time on Saturday 5th June.
Abu Omar specializes in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes, including shwarma, kebabs, and falafel. The truck will serve seven days a week from 11 a.m. until at least midnight.
“We go best with any nightlife district,” said Altawaha. “Universities, the busiest areas in cities.”
Altawaha moved to the Houston area from Jordan in 2008 to study and also started running restaurants. He said he did a Masters in five different majors but never finished and moved into the kitchen instead.
When he first launched a food truck, it was called “Abu Omar Taco” and served halal tacos.
“The first food truck started as a joke,” Altawaha said. “I wanted to try something new, but Houston wasn’t really ready for food trucks at this point.”
He went back to restaurants for years and relaunched Abu Omar Halal in 2015. Then he took off and landed in the middle of a national love affair with food trucks.
Altawaha said its favorite sellers are its versions of beef and chicken shwarma, a wrap made of grilled meat with pickles, garlic sauce and french fries. At the beginning, Omar said he couldn’t find a satisfying flatbread, so he used what was available in Houston – flour tortillas.
“A Mexican tortilla is 80 percent the same as the real thing,” said Altawaha.
There are seven stationary Abu Omar locations and more than 60 food trucks spread out from Los Angeles to Oklahoma City, Baton Rouge and Tampa Bay. Most are in the largest cities in Texas, including Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, and Austin.
Altawaha is considering franchising, but for now owns all of the locations and requires managing partners to operate certain trucks or restaurants. The manager of the Raleigh truck, Omar said, grew up in Charlotte and had a location in Dallas. When we ventured to North Carolina, the choice fell on Raleigh or Charlotte.
“He said Raleigh was nicer than Charlotte, so we went to Raleigh,” Altawaha said. “We’ll start with the food truck and see if we can build from there.”
Abu Omar is the newest national chain to move into the triangle, continuing a pre-pandemic trend that is gaining momentum. Texas-based Torchy’s recently opened its first North Carolina location in Raleigh, joining fast-casual chains like Zambrero and the upcoming Dave’s Hot Chicken.
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Drew Jackson writes on restaurants and dining for The News & Observer and The Herald-Sun and reports on the food scene in the Triangle and North Carolina.