rolling into tampa
Prolific Houston street food truck steers east for sunny new location
One of Houston’s most popular food trucks is hitting the road for the Sunshine State. Abu Omar Halal will soon add Tampa, Florida to its roster of trucks and restaurants.
Founded by Mohammad Omar in 2015, Abu Omar Halal has grown from one truck to 15 locations in Houston, Austin, San Antonio, Dallas, and College Station. Its first outpost outside of Texas will open next month in Tampa.
Abu Omar puts a Texas twist on Jordanian-style street food. The restaurant serves chicken, beef, lamb, and felafel in a variety of wraps and plates.
Chicken shawarma Arabi, the restaurant’s signature dish, features spit-roasted chicken, pickles, and garlic sauce wrapped in a tortilla and toasted on a griddle. An Italian style version swaps the tortilla for a sesame seed-covered sandwich bread and adds a healthy dose of gooey, melted cheese.
“I used tortillas since I can’t find the exact bread,” Omar tells CultureMap. “I was the first one to bring this to Houston. My community, they were, like, ‘finally.’”
Why Tampa for his first outpost outside of Texas? Omar acknowledges it’s an unexpected choice but explains the decision stemmed from customer interest. After a Tampa-based produce vendor suggested Omar expand there, he visited the city.
“I liked the community. I don’t know how they know about me more than here,” Omar says. “[They said] we know Houston. We love the food. I said, okay, Tampa.”
Abu Omar continues to grow. It’s fourth Houston-area brick and mortar will open in late September or early October on Westheimer just east of Hillcroft. Another truck will be heading to Oklahoma soon, and Omar says he’s looking at opportunities in California, Tennessee, and Louisiana.
The model for Abu Omar’s future growth is straightforward. Omar says that if a city is friendly to food trucks, it gets a truck; if it’s not, he’ll build a brick a mortar. Needless to say, the success has exceeded his expectations.
“My wife posted a memory on Facebook from 2017 that the College Station truck is going to be the last truck,” he says with a laugh. “Now, I have six brick and mortars and seven more trucks. We’re going to stop, but I don’t know when.”