This halal hotspot is a little different from the west.
That’s because the menu at Pak’s Halal in Patchogue draws inspiration from the Middle East — as well as from Europe.
Pak’s Halal, which opened at 416 Sunrise Highway (formerly the site of a Subway in the King Kullen shopping plaza), offers halal dishes Long Islanders have come to expect. From chicken over rice to lamb gyros and salads with falafel, it has all the standards.
But its signature dish, the halal burritos, offers some variation for halal fans, thanks to owner Shah Nawaz’s experiences across the Atlantic.
“I was born and raised in Italy, and my father owns a couple of restaurants like this over there,” Nawaz said. “I grew up on this, and when I saw they were opening halal places around here, I noticed it was different from the European style, so I thought of doing something like that.”
Nawaz first tried this European style of halal food in Germany, where he studied automotive technology. He said halal platters to which Long Islanders are accustomed are foreign to Europe, where crispy tortillas are the norm at halal joints.
“On the tortilla with the panini press made nice and crispy is halal food in Europe,” he said. “In the panini press, when you make it a little crispy, that makes a very good taste combined with the halal meat. Also, we have a secret sauce called salsa rosa — in Italian it’s pink sauce — and that makes a really good taste in the tortilla bread.”
Love on Long Island
The 28-year-old Nawaz first came to Long Island from Italy seven years ago — to visit friends and family. After taking a liking to the area, he opened Best Deals Auto Repair in West Islip.
Long Island is where he met his wife Zainab Nawaz, whose family is from Pakistan, hence the restaurant’s name. The couple, married four years, have two children: 2-year-old Ali and 1-month-old Sultan.
“Long Island is beautiful. I can tell you that after my experience of travelling around the world,” Shah Nawaz said of his decision to settle down on the island. “I lived in Italy. I’ve been to Germany. I’ve been to Spain, Amsterdam, England, and Long Island is a beautiful place to live. It’s peaceful, it’s a place to raise your family.”
During a trip to Europe, Shah Nawaz introduced his wife to European-style halal food. In Germany, where he first tasted it, it is referred to as döner kebab.
“It tastes really different,” Zainab Nawaz said. “You have to try it to really see.”
After the trip, she was hooked, but finding an American equivalent was a challenge. Thus, the couple cook and serve it themselves.
In addition to the halal burritos and other options, Pak’s Halal offers fried chicken, burgers, chicken sandwiches, Philly cheesesteaks, wings and chicken nuggets. It also sells some local beer options.