Metro, Food, Featured Story

Middle Eastern Flair Arrives in Allston

In early November, The Chicken and Rice Guys, a popular Boston-based chain of restaurants and food trucks, opened their third brick-and-mortar on Harvard Avenue in Allston. Best known for their their halal chicken and rice bowls, the fast growing eatery is now adding a little bit of Middle Eastern flair to Allston’s vibrant restaurant scene.

The Chicken and Rice Guys began as an idea between three friends—Ian So, Jaemin Lee, and Kevin Lau—who noticed that Boston’s food scene lacked the halal street-cart food made famous in New York City. Five food trucks and three restaurants later, they have established themselves as a Boston favorite.

The chain’s newest location already attracts the young and trendy Allston crowd, many of whom are looking to get their fix of chicken and rice. The Allston area is home to many college students who serve as the core group of customers the company primarily caters to.

Formerly a sneaker store, the Chicken and Rice Guys’ new space has been transformed into a fully-operating restaurant where customers can dine-in or have their food delivered. The eatery’s spacious area features counter-style tables lining the walls, complimented by tall stools in their signature bright yellow color.

This minimalistic design creates a hole-in-the-wall feel that truly allows the food to serve as the restaurant’s focal point.

Steven Collicelli, marketing manager of The Chicken and Rice Guys, doesn’t see the space as a typical sit-down restaurant. Instead, his vision for the eatery is something more casual.

“My hope is for something reminiscent of that sliced pizza place you go to after a concert,” Collicelli said.

The company’s name reflects their flagship dish. The halal-certified chicken is sourced and prepared in compliance with Islamic traditions which require a strict method of raising and butchering animals. Their famed chicken is then grilled and seasoned with a secret blend of Middle Eastern spices.

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Their simple menu highlights one distinct dish—an aromatic rice plate with crisp shredded lettuce and toasted pita–which can be personalized in a variety of different ways. The three main options on offer are the classic halal chicken, grilled tofu, and gyro—a shredded beef and lamb mixture Avoiding carbs? Ask for the salad option which comes sans the rice.

Collicelli expressed that the company always had their eye on opening an establishment in Allston. All of the company’s marketing is done through social media, in order to reach a younger demographic of customers. Many of them are college students looking for a quick and inexpensive meal that’s delicious yet satisfying.

For the ultimate chicken and rice experience, Collicelli recommends ordering the combo. It’s a delectable mix of chicken and gyro served with all the accompaniments. Take your bowl up a notch by getting the side of veggies—a sweet and tangy tomato and cucumber salad—to complete the dish.

End your meal on a sweet note by ordering the baklava, a flaky and sticky Turkish dessert that will become an instant favorite. At $1 apiece, you will find yourself going back for seconds and thirds.

Collicelli attributes some of The Chicken and Rice Guys’ success to their signature house-made sauces. The sauces allow for each dish to be personalized in a plethora of different ways, making every bowl unique. With the creamy garlic sauce being the outright favorite, others include BBQ, mint cilantro, hot sauce, or if you are feeling daring, extra hot sauce.

But the best way to devour a bowl of chicken and rice is by mixing everything together. So throw in all your sauces, close the lid, and give it a shake. The result: your own customized chicken and rice bowl that you can enjoy by scooping everything up with a slice of pita bread.

But the resturant was founded not just to create a business, but also to also serve the Boston community.

This idea of helping better the world was integral to the formation of the Chicken and Rice Guys Foundation—something that the founders had aimed to start when they first opened their business.

With multiple food trucks and restaurants, the company sees a lot of food go to waste. Instead of throwing it away, they donate this excess food to various causes.

In January, the foundation is looking toward handing out 5,000 chicken and rice plates to an abused women’s shelter in Back Bay. Ultimately, the company’s goal is to aid in the effort to solve the food and hunger problem in the city of Boston.

“Their aim was to not only bring food to people but to help better the world,” Collicelli said. “It’s important for us to pair our entrepreneurial spirit with those who want to do good.”

Featured Image by William Batchelor / Heights Staff

December 8, 2016