Soup Shack & Halal Guys [Porter Square, Cambridge MA]

Did a two-for-one here last night as we were all turkeyed out and wanted something quick and nearby. Still not dining in with the sprouts, who are halfway through their vaccines. Actually, as an aside, not sure that we will dine indoors anyways even once the whole family is fully vaccinated. The “masks on to walk to the table” then eat and talk and laugh unmasked indoors just seems so arbitrary.

Back to the point. These two new joints are both third or fourth locations of local small chains. At Halal guys, it’s counter ordering with an assembly line similar to Anna’s. I was going to order on GrubHub (mea culpa but coordinating orders from two different places made me want the streamlined route) but the prices are $2-3 higher than quoted on the menu. When I called, I was told no phone orders. Regardless, it was quick and easy to pick either a plate or wrap option, then protein and toppings. We did chicken plate and a chicken/falafel combo plate. A large portion of lettuce and yellow rice gets scooped into the container, then proteins on top, some wedges of pita, then a few free toppings and sauces to pick from, and an optional upcharge for tabouleh or hummus added at the end. I liked my plate and could not have eaten more. This is basically Anna’s with a Mediterranean twist and I’d eat it again. I did note the falafels were being dropped into oil frozen from a large food service bag, so they don’t make their own but they were shifty when I tried to ask about it. Regardless, they tasted good.

At Soup Shack, we got an assortment of noodles and sides. I was able to order on the phone for pickup. The sprouts got a veggie ramen which was nicely packed, although that does mean lots of plastic with containers separately placed into plastic bags. They also shared a Thai noodle dish- the only brothless thing on the menu- which was proclaimed the winner. An order of karage chicken was pretty tasty despite steaming in its box and being less crispy than if consumed on-site. I got some sort of shredded cabbage salad, but ended up saving it for lunch today so I’ll let you know if it’s remarkable in any way. Likewise, an order of chicken katsu curry is waiting for my husband in the fridge as he had illusions of needing two entrees last night, but was filled up by the chicken plate from Halal.

I’m happy to have these two places as neither exactly duplicates an existing option. I would not call either destination-worthy, but solid quick options nonetheless.


I like Halal guys and it checks the box for a quick weeknight dinner that isn’t terrible for you. However, it is not a small or local chain. Halal Guys started in NYC and now had hundreds of franchises and is expanding internationally. I believe the Porter location is there 2nd in Boston. Their hot sauce is damn hot, I can only use a few drops!


I am comfortable dining in occasionally at this point. However, the thing that makes me very uneasy is the fact that I’m sitting at the table or bar unmasked, while the servers are forced to wear masks at all times. It just doesn’t feel right to me and I probably won’t fully enjoy dining out (or do it often) until everyone is on equal footing again.

I agree with the farce of walking in with a mask and the taking it off. Everyone needs to find their comfort level, but people who take off and replace their mask for each bite of food is particularly vexing to me.


I’d argue that servers wear masks for their own protection since they have to interact at close quarters with many different people over the course of a work day, not because they are being treated as second class.

You’re quite right about Halal Guys. They started as a single truck over a decade ago on 53rd and 6th near MoMA, and quickly took off. The reasons for their great fame always baffled me. Even back then there was far better chicken-'n-rice to be had at several other independent food trucks in Manhattan.


cool, I’ve been meaning to try these places out. Thanks for the review!

Thank you both for the correction on number of locations for Halal Guys. I think I had them confused with The Chicken and Rice Guys. My edit option seems to have expired from the original post extremely quickly.

Any suggestions in the Camberville area?

Not to hijack the thread (although it’s mine, so maybe I’m allowed?) but I agree with @fooddabbler - it’s not uneasiness about equality between any particular groups of people; for me it’s just the sheer lack of logic in the decision making. If science and public health officials dictate that the current state of the pandemic is such that masks need to be worn indoors in public spaces, then how do we justify saying “except for eating” which is arguably the most risky indoor activity? I mean, our public library is super vigilant about making sure everyone’s nose and mouth is covered at all times and you’re not even allowed to talk in a library!!


I have servers in my life who fall into both categories. Some would definitely prefer to be unmasked at this point.

Either way, I feel like I am being disrespectful unmasked in front of those who must wear masks.

It’s a difficult situation. The restaurants and servers would prefer I am there, so it is really about my own hang ups.


Curious if you have had Chicken and Rice Guys too and whether they are comparable or if one is noticeably better than the other.

I prefer Halal of those 2, but probably just because I have my standard order and the downtown location is convenient to an office I used to frequent. They are quite similar though.

As for there being better options. I haven’t found any in Boston. However, yes, there are better options for everything in NYC. Halal had good branding and people who knew how to scale a business.


Unfortunately not. There are recipes (NYT, serious eats, epicurious, etc.), and it’s not too hard to make at home.

The NYT recipe is actually for chicken shawarma, but there’s a discussion of white sauce with it, and a great suggestion by Sam Sifton, commenting on his own recipe, to add fried eggplant. You’d occasionally find a cart in NY that offered it as an option and I always took it.

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Although I got the location right, their Wikipedia page says they are over 30 years old, and initially sold hot dogs. I never knew.