A nationwide chain of food trucks has landed in Raleigh

Courtesy of Abu Omar Halal

At the corner of the heart of Glenwood South, a national food truck chain will claim its first dealership in North Carolina.

Houston-based food truck fleet Abu Omar Halal will 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 June 5th.

Abu Omar specializes in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes, including shwarma, kebabs and falafels, and caters to a lunch and late-night crowd, owner Muhammad Altawaha said. The truck will be in use seven days a week from 11 a.m. to midnight at least.

“We associate best with all areas of nightlife,” said Altawaha. “Universities, the busiest areas of cities.”

Altawaha moved from Jordan to the Houston area in 2008 for his graduate studies and also started running restaurants. He said he pursued a master’s degree in five different majors, but never finished, gravitating towards cooking instead.

When he first launched a food truck, his name was “Abu Omar Taco” and served halal tacos.

“The first food truck started off as a joke,” Altawaha said. “I wanted to try something new, but Houston wasn’t really ready for food trucks back then.”

He returned to restaurants for years, then relaunched Abu Omar Halal in 2015. That’s when he took off, landing in the middle of a national love affair with food trucks.

Altawaha said its most popular sellers were its versions of beef and chicken shwarma, a grilled meat wrap, with pickles, garlic sauce and fries. At first, Omar said he couldn’t find satisfactory flatbread, so he used what was nearby in Houston – flour tortillas.

“A Mexican tortilla is 80% like the real thing,” Altawaha said.

There are seven brick and mortar locations in Abu Omar and over 60 food trucks, spread from Los Angeles to Oklahoma City, Baton Rouge and Tampa Bay. Most are located in larger cities in Texas including Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, and Austin.

Altawaha is considering franchising the company, but for now owns all the sites, recruiting management partners to manage specific trucks or restaurants. The manager of the Raleigh truck, Omar said, grew up in Charlotte and ran a location in Dallas. When venturing into North Carolina, the choice fell on Raleigh or Charlotte.

“He said Raleigh is nicer than Charlotte, so we went to Raleigh,” Altawaha said. “We’re going to start with the food truck and see if we can build from there.”

Abu Omar is the latest national channel to settle in the Triangle, continuing a growing pre-pandemic trend. Recently, Texas-based Torchy’s opened its first North Carolina location in Raleigh, joining fast-paced entertainment chains like Zambrero and upcoming Dave’s Hot Chicken.

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Drew Jackson writes about dining and dining for The News & Observer and The Herald-Sun, covering the Triangle and North Carolina food scene.

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