22 great places to eat halal in Southern California
I’m on the hunt for halal food in and around Los Angeles. I miss my mother’s beef shami kebabs. My heart aches for a footlong paratha roll delivered to my door, and on the coldest nights in a Los Angeles winter, I crave hot chicken soup in a plastic cup, the kind I could get only from street vendors in Islamabad, Pakistan.
One day, my friend Lucia Ruan takes me to a place in Koreatown with the promise of Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Indian food. There is a neon green halal logo on the door. We order some biryani to share. I can’t say it is the best biryani I’ve had, but it is the first time I feel at home in a way only food can make you feel at home in a new city.
Like other Muslims around the world, I make sure what I consume is halal. The Arabic word means permissible. In regards to food, this refers to the type of meat and the way it is slaughtered. Pork and pork byproducts are prohibited as well as meat from animals that died before slaughter. The other thing is to make sure that the slaughter is humane, that their pain is minimized and that no other animals witness it. An adult Muslim of sane mind invokes the name of God, slits the throat in a swift motion, then allows the animal to bleed out completely before its meat is processed for consumption. This method of slaughter is known as zabiha.
Food is the Asian love language, if not a universal one, and I made it my mission to find halal food that touches the heart. These restaurants not only represent the diversity that exists within the halal food community but also reflect how immigrants take it upon themselves to fill a gap wherever a halal option does not exist within a certain cuisine. (One thing that’s still missing: an Italian restaurant with halal options.)
Here I’ve shortlisted 22 must-visit places for halal food, from Sun Valley to Irvine.
From Times editors Laurie Ochoa and Daniel Hernandez: There’s no better place or moment for eating and cooking than in Los Angeles right now.
Often craving South Asian street food and living in Los Angeles, Asim Bharwani and Zara Ahsan — a couple with roots in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh — started Paratta in 2018 as a passion project. “We wanted to show that there’s more to Muslim or halal than what you may have heard about — there’s more to us brown people — to kind of get rid of those stereotypes and make a connection,” Bharwani says.
Their rolls are wrapped in a house-made 9-inch pastry-like flaky lachha paratha, which is a staple South Asian flatbread. The menu has halal chicken and beef as well as vegetarian options. Although the couple has plans for a dine-in location in the future, Paratta currently operates primarily as a takeout and delivery spot, with a food truck that makes appearances at food festivals like Smorgasburg and other special events. Decorated with Zara’s detailed illustrations (same as for all their packaging), it stands out so you definitely won’t miss it.
Coming from a biryani elitist like me, this endorsement is the highest honor, for biryani is sacred. And if you are someone who disrespects this fan-favorite king among South Asian cuisine by calling New York cart-style chicken and rice “biryani,” you certainly can’t sit with us.
The Abhiruchi menu has 10 biryani options for all tastes and preferences. Some rave about its goat biryani, while others can’t get enough of the egg biryani; there’s even a boneless option if that’s what you like.
The restaurant offers a full halal menu with authentic South Asian food and both vegetarian and nonvegetarian options, including chicken, goat and lamb dishes. The biggest thing this place has going for it is word-of-mouth; there is not a single South Asian student at USC who has not had food here (as an alum, I was made aware of this recently).
Even though the restaurant doesn’t deliver within the free Lyft zone on campus, I have known many to go out of their way to order from here. The chicken-to-rice ratio is great, and the serving size is good enough that the leftovers can provide up to two additional full meals.
Khan Saab Desi Craft Kitchen
Khan Saab has been lauded for serving unique desi food to a diverse millennial crowd. The smoked beef or salmon kebabs make for an exhilarating show as they arrive on a wooden board covered with a smoke-filled glass dome.
Originally from Karachi, Pakistan, co-owner Imran Mookhi moved to the United States in 2000 as a 17-year-old. He got a job as a dishwasher at a restaurant to pay the bills while studying computer science. Eventually, he trained under numerous Michelin-starred chefs. His previous ventures include Tantra on Sunset, Tamarind of London in Newport Beach, Dosa in San Francisco and Tumbi in Santa Monica. Mookhi recalls the lack of halal options when he first moved here. “To get halal food, you [would] have to drive an hour away just to buy meat, and there were not too many halal restaurants out there either.”
Try Khan Saab’s pani puri, puff pastry stuffed with garbanzo, potato and onion and served with spiced mint and tamarind water in a shot-glass array set atop a miniature food cart, or stop by for a drink at the eatery’s nonalcoholic bar for signature crafted mocktails and zero-proof brews.
As I walk into the open-kitchen restaurant, I hear the sizzle of skewers on the grill, I smell meat cooking above a bed of hot coals and I see the rolls and kebabs being prepped. It all takes me back to family barbecue nights.
The restaurant offers chicken, beef, lamb and even fish options, along with family deals and catering options ranging from 12 to 130 kebabs per tray. The only drawback is that if you do not eat meat, there isn’t much for you on this menu.
H&H Brazilian Steakhouse
It’s an upscale all-you-can-eat, with a salad bar and an additional a la carte menu. The seasonal cut of Japanese Wagyu on the menu is not halal, and the steakhouse does serve pork. However, the staff has been trained on the concept of halal meat and uses separate utensils and grills as well.
Owner Henrique Huyer says, “I’m a gaucho, a southern Brazilian cowboy. This is in my DNA.”
He adds that he was raised on a farm in Brazil and that his dad had a butchery business so he “grew up dealing with meat.”
Huyer says that the restaurant received numerous calls from potential customers asking if the meat was halal and, after looking into it, he switched in September. He says he is happy to be serving this new customer base.
While there are several dining settings to choose from, each with its own vibe, step into H&H’s autumn-themed open-kitchen space to see the cooks preparing the meat across the room.
Multiple locations include 518 W. 7th St., Los Angeles, (213) 266-8103, hhsteakhouse.com
Farhat’s family is from Lebanon, but his father grew up in Colombia before moving to the United States. Farhat was born and raised in South L.A. around Arab and Latin communities, where he picked up on Mexican food culture.
Working with a Latino family at the meat market as a kid, he learned how to marinate, chop and cook meat in traditional Mexican ways and hoped to combine it with Lebanese tradition to bridge the two communities.
“It amazes me when people drive very far to try halal Mexican food,” Farhat says. “I’ve had a customer all the way from the U.K. that saw me on TikTok and came to try my food.”
Cedar’s now offers a full-service Mexican menu with your choice of meat, and Farhat has plans to open a dine-in restaurant.
Papi Tacos and Churros
The face of the family-run business, Omar Ghanim made several extended visits to Mexico, where he perfected his recipes before starting the business.
Full disclosure: Papi’s was not always a halal option. One of Ghanim’s friends was dying to try his food but ate only halal, so Ghanim cooked a special halal birria and chicken tacos for his friend to try.
Falling in love with the flavor, the friend inspired Ghanim to switch to an all-halal menu in February to accommodate more people. Although Papi’s primary location on Jefferson was damaged in a fire in 2021, it is set to reopen within a few months. Ghanim also just opened a new location in Santa Ana.
After experimenting at home, Haider built a mobile oven to take to farmers markets and events. Eventually, with his wife and co-owner, Sayyeda Ali, he opened his first pizza place in Sun Valley in 2016, with a wood-fired oven built and shipped by Haider’s friends in Italy — friends he made when he first trained there in the art of Naples-style pizza.
They now have another location in Pasadena and 35 options on the menu, serving Neapolitan pizzas inspired by American, Mexican, Korean, Middle Eastern and South Asian cuisines, along with several vegan and vegetarian options.
Regulars get access to a secret menu once they’ve tried the entire menu.
The Iraqi Indian pizza chef grew up in a household with hummus, curry and pasta served on the same table — so the blending of cuisines and flavors is not new to him. He tests all his new pizzas at home, and if the kids approve, then the pizzas get a chance.
Haider has professionally competed in pizza contests and most recently won a contest on Hulu’s “Best in Dough” pizza champions episode. Pizzas to try: the Bulgogi Gangnam style, the Habibi lamb and the Istanbul.
Multiple locations: Also located at 1709 E. Washington Blvd., Pasadena, (626) 460-2786, 786degrees.com
Big Al's Pizzeria
The pizzas are baked in a conveyor oven, then garnished, boxed and ready to be handed over. Big Al’s has been serving halal meat on its menu since it opened almost a decade ago.
Chahine especially wanted to make provisions for the Muslim community, as he says no one was catering to them at the time. The place even serves halal “bacon” — prepared by curing, drying, smoking and thinly slicing beef belly.
Since 2013, when Chahine started the place, his brother and cousin handled day-to-day operations and his wife helped, especially with the wing sauce recipes. Today, his niece and daughter regularly work at the location in Maywood, and his sister’s handmade confections line the shelves — Cinamom’s Goodies, after the family’s nickname for her. Seriously, the best part about stopping by is that you can grab some of that sweet goodness on the way out.
Dolan's Uyghur Cuisine
Owner Bugra Arkin says Uyghur food is an amalgam of cultures, as historically the Central Asian people absorbed and adapted food from surrounding countries. So you find lamb kebabs, laghman hand-pulled noodle dishes, samsa — perhaps a sister dish to samosa — and five kinds of teas all on the same menu.
Arkin is an international public policy and management graduate from USC. Having previously been accosted and arrested in China without cause, he knew he could not return there, so he started Dolan’s with the hope of bringing attention to the Uyghur plight and introducing their food and culture to Angelenos. Dolan’s also caters and has regularly provided its services to mosques in the area.
With a hookah bar in the back room in Westwood, this cafe has long been a go-to Persian spot in the city. There are two different vibes you find yourself immersed in depending on what time of day you visit. In the mornings, the lounge is lighted up as sunlight trickles through the rafters of the semi-outdoor setting, and vegetables and kebabs are vivid screaming colors. Things start to shift as the sun goes down, the music starts playing and the coconut hookah starts flowing.
The restaurant also offers custom catering for up to 300 people serving Mediterranean and Persian entrées, small plates and desserts.
The restaurant also offers burritos, quesadillas, wraps, tacos, tortas, kebab platters and even burgers.
Owner Ali K. Elreda named Fatima’s Grill after his daughter, who is now 17. Born in Detroit and raised by Lebanese parents in Bell, Elreda grew up in diverse neighborhoods and became invested in fusion food.
The Downey location has the full menu, while the other franchise locations offer 10 to 15 items based on demand in the area. Although expansion has been relatively slow because of the commitment to halal meat, Elreda plans to open a new location in downtown Los Angeles in early 2023.
Multiple locations; also at 1944 E. 4th St., Unit 6, Long Beach, orderfatimasgrill.com
This Indonesian restaurant, with locations in Palms and Venice, started out as an Indonesian specialty market in 2002, grew into a cafe and had become a full-service restaurant by 2010.
The Palms location also has an outdoor patio set up with string lights and colorful chairs that match the indoor leafy green and white oak decor.
The restaurant shifted to a halal menu in July 2018. Owner Leni Kumalasari says the restaurant would get frequent queries and requests about halal options.
“I grew up in Indonesia, so I grew up with a lot of [Muslim] friends,” Kumalasari says. “I like to listen to what my customers need, so usually my menu also goes from there.”
She adds that despite it being more expensive and challenging to consistently provide halal food, she is committed to serving it and has seen a lot of growth this year.
Simpang Asia does have two items marked on the menu as containing nonhalal ingredients — the nasi goreng jagger and the char kway teow have chicken sausage in them that is not halal-certified — but the kitchen staff is trained to avoid cross-contamination.
Multiple locations, simpangasia.com
The burger joint’s short and sweet menu sticks to the classics with beef and vegan burgers and a fried chicken sandwich; there are also options to add pastrami or make it spicy.
The beef, sourced from First Light Farms, is halal but the restaurant does not have halal cheese, meaning it includes nonhalal byproducts. (Although HiHo is protective of its cheeseburger and never posts photos without the cheese, you can request it be removed if you eat only halal.)
The burgers are complemented with ketchup, onion jam, lettuce, pickles and mustard, and there is a double and even triple patty add-on option for the HiHo burger.
The restaurant also serves from-scratch shakes and house-made desserts. Initially, the restaurant didn’t realize that its meat was halal and didn’t advertise it as such. But after an influx of new Muslim customers, word got out. One of the owners, Sheeroy Desai, calls it a “fortunate accident.” Now, there are four locations in L.A. County, and HiHo has a sister restaurant called Matu, a Beverly Hills steakhouse also serving halal Wagyu beef.
Multiple locations, hiho.la
Azeem says that their current menu was designed by Sarah and that they are committed to hand-slaughtered zabiha halal meat. “Halal eating is a whole lifestyle,” he says. He points out that there are places where some options are halal but the halal concept is not fully embraced, so the word “halal” is being used as a marketing term by people who don’t understand it. He says that Urban Skillet “gives an opportunity for people to actually understand that there are places that serve 100% halal.”
The couple wants to make sure that everybody can eat at the restaurant, no matter their dietary or religious restrictions. With locations in North Hollywood, Santa Monica and Minnesota, they are actively expanding, with Houston and Irvine locations coming soon.
Multiple locations, urbanskilletla.com
Stark's Hot Chicken
Owner Lion Choi moved to California from Korea in 2004 and, while attending school in Riverside, became interested in the food business. Three years ago, Choi went to Nashville, tried the hot chicken that originated there and fell in love.
He immediately knew he wanted to re-create it in SoCal.
Stark’s Hot Chicken has four combos on the menu, but Choi says Combo 3 is the most popular; it features a chicken tender, waffle fries and a sando (with jumbo tenders, coleslaw, pickles and sauce ranging from mild to Stark hot). There are options to order wings and sides including a creamy macaroni salad. Additionally, Choi added a touch of Korea to his menu with sweet Korean popcorn chicken.
Dave's Hot Chicken
The restaurant was founded by best friends Dave Kopushyan, Arman Oganesyan and Tommy and Gary Rubenyan. They started with a stand in an East Hollywood parking lot with the goal to deliver “the juiciest and most tender chicken imaginable.”
With Dave’s origin story painted on the walls, there is often an instant connection. The best part for any Muslim customer is that its halal certificates are displayed at every location and are a welcome gesture for those new in town. Try the slider and fries combo served with kale slaw, sliced bread, pickles and Dave’s signature sauce.
Multiple locations: daveshotchicken.com
I Can Barbecue Korean Grill
I’d never tried cooking meat on grills built into the dining table because I hadn’t found any halal KBBQ spots. So I was excited as I walked up to the location in Santa Ana just as lunch hour was about to end. As a first-timer, I got all the help I needed to figure out how I preferred to cook for myself.
Along with beef, chicken, seafood and even tofu options, you can order a variety of sides — steamed eggs, rice and pita. The table is always set up with complimentary banchan, including pickled cucumbers, rice cakes and kimchi. The bulgogi, beef belly and Cajun marinated chicken do not disappoint. People who eat only halal have hailed the restaurant as a way to experience Korean food, and some even visit from San Francisco and Las Vegas. Just remember, no takeaway.
Also located at 5781 Alton Parkway, Irvine, icanbbq.net
The Port of Peri Peri
Founder Syed Pasha opened in Villa Park, Ill., in 2017 (with 21 other franchise locations now operating across the country and several under construction). Pasha left his IT job for the food business with the goal to take peri-peri nationwide.
The current menu has eight spice levels, ranging from plain to extra hot. Having experienced supply chain issues during the pandemic, Pasha set up a pipeline from a hatchery to a farm (where the chickens are free-roaming and given vegetarian feed). The chickens are individually hand-slaughtered in a USDA-approved processing facility as per halal standards set by the Halal Food Standards Alliance of America.
Tribos Peri Peri
For the peri-peri chicken, sauce options are lemon and herb, mild, medium, hot or extra hot. Peri-peri chicken is essentially chicken marinated in and served with peri-peri sauce, a hot sauce based on the African bird’s-eye chile pepper.
Ismail says she tasted peri-peri chicken from Nando’s — an international peri-peri restaurant chain that started in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1987 — for the first time at a cousin’s wedding in London and was inspired to start her own thing.
She opened her first restaurant in Saddle Brook, N.J., in 2018. Tribos now has nine franchise locations and more coming soon. Sauces went through much experimentation in a test kitchen, but the testing really started at backyard barbecues with family and friends.
Having grown up in an Indian Muslim community, Ismail said halal hand-slaughtered meat was a no-brainer, and she is committed to making sure each new branch maintains this standard.
James Bui and his wife, Quiyen Tonnu, bought this pho restaurant and relaunched the spruced-up space with a new menu in early 2022, using halal meat.
“Basically I was asking myself, ‘How can I get the best meat?’” Bui says. The pho with rare steak and the pho with well-done brisket are both fan favorites, prepared with halal Australian Wagyu. The meat is highly marbled and nutty and tastes wonderful, but the protagonist is definitely the broth.
Bui says the broth was the most challenging thing to find a halal source for. It needed halal bones. After much investigation, they were able to work with distributors and producers who helped source the bones.
They’ve since trained the staff to process halal and nonhalal dishes separately.
Don’t let any of this distract you from the food. The extensive menu can be overwhelming — especially if making food decisions is not your strong suit — but allow yourself to try something you’ve never had before.
I feel like having dim sum and end up trying the pan-fried beef dumplings, packed with flavor. Plus, it’s a treat to see 11 different soup options. The soup arrives in a family-sized bowl and comes to you hot, hot, hot.
This Chinese restaurant has been serving certified halal food for “almost half a century,” according to its website. There are now three locations, in Anaheim, Laguna Hills and San Diego.
It's a date
Get our L.A. Goes Out newsletter, with the week's best events, to help you explore and experience our city.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.