Far from its humble beginnings as Houston’s first and only halal food truck, Abu Omar Halal is now looking to expand its already prolific empire across the United States. With more than 20 locations in California, Florida, and their home state of Texas, Abu Omar Halal is set to bring Mediterranean street food to mainstream America.
Abu Omar Halal is the brainchild of founder and head chef, Mohammad Altawaha (aka, ‘Abu Omar’). Originally from a small village in Jordan, Altawaha moved to the United States in 2008 to pursue his master’s degree in Houston, Texas. While attending university, Altawaha worked in various restaurants across Houston, where he reconnected with his lifelong passion for cooking. After years spent refining his cooking skills and learning the business side of restaurant ownership, Altawaha decided to open his first food truck in 2011.
Originally named “Abu Omar Taco,” Altawaha’s food truck initially served a mixture of Mexican and Mediterranean dishes that adhered to halal food practices. By tapping into this previously untouched niche market, Abu Omar Taco became a quick success in the local community. In those early days, Altawaha’s truck served mostly halal tacos, but after realizing the overwhelming demand was for their specialty chicken shawarma, Altawaha shifted his menu focus to serve entirely Mediterranean classics. With their new focus and menu offerings, Altawaha changed his business name to Abu Omar Halal.
Now, 10 years later, Abu Omar Halal boasts over 15 locations in the state of Texas with recent additions in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Anaheim, California, and Tampa, Florida.
Abu Omar Halal offers a variety of traditional Mediterranean dishes; including kabobs, gyro, and falafel, but they are best known for their authentic shawarma. Their take on this popular Middle Eastern dish is served with halal chicken or beef, long-cut pickles, and a flavorful garlic sauce, then wrapped in a tortilla, panini pressed and served hot. Altawaha is quick to point out that his decision to use tortilla was deliberate. “The tortilla bread we use was the closest thing I could find to the bread we use back home.” Altawaha is referring to a traditional Mediterranean flatbread, known as ‘saj.’ Of course, for pita bread fans, Abu Omar Halal also has that as an option.
The Abu Omar Halal atmosphere is inviting, casual and family oriented, which has made it a staple in each of the communities in which they serve. Additionally, their pricing is reasonable, offering most meals for approximately $10+tax per person. Family meals are also available for 4+ people for $35-$60 per meal depending on the package.
Despite their continued upward trajectory, Abu Omar Halal has not been immune to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The restaurant and hospitality industry has arguably been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic, but Abu Omar Halal has adopted new methods to serve customers and cope with the economic hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Rigorous sanitation, call-ahead orders, and delivery service have become mainstays for Abu Omar Halal since early 2020. Houston trucks have also collaborated with local hospitals and charitable organizations, donating meals to healthcare and other frontline workers. Altawaha and Abu Omar Halal show no signs of slowing down as they carry this same care and quality of food across the United States with hopes for many more national locations to come in the future.