When it comes to food these days, you might be hard pressed to turn on a cooking show, read a magazine, or head out to your nearest Whole Foods Market without seeing the words “quinoa”, “kale” “gluten-free”, or “superfoods” being bounced around. As much as it should be a virtue to eat healthy, you might be lying to yourself if you didn’t admit that once in a while you really do crave some really fast food that doesn’t have a reputation for being ‘healthy’. Though it may not be super satisfying to the figure, a nice meaty burger, some hot wings, or a good old fashioned milkshake can do wonders to warm the soul from the inside out—especially in our super cold Chicago winters where that ‘good fat’ is quite useful in the cold months. To that end, I recently had a chance to visit The Huddle out in DeKalb, Illinois for some great halal All-American comfort food. And much to my surprise, it wasn’t your typical ‘fast food’ at all- in fact, it’s quite good for you. Let me explain.
First of all, you might be wondering why I would make the close to 45 minute trip out to DeKalb just for some burgers but you have to remember, these are halal burgers. That’s like striking food gold!
But, how did I find out about this place?
Well a few weeks prior, I unexpectedly got my first taste of The Huddle’s gourmet burgers when I visited my friend, Sue Labadi, who is the aunt of restaurateur, Mohammad Labadi. He made the trek to her house to drop off a few burgers for us to try. All the meat is sourced from a local dhabiha halal butcher, which is not only commendable but I know it’s not easy to procure.
While the burgers whet my appetite for more at that time, I felt that if I was to get them fresh out of the oven without a 45 minute commute between grill and plate, then my tastebuds would be rewarded for such a journey- plus, I couldn’t stop thinking about how they perfectly satisfied my craving for that all-American halal burger. I decided to reciprocate Mohammad’s drive by heading out to The Huddle myself.
As The Huddle is located smack dab next to Northern Illinois University, walking into the joint makes you feel like you’re back in college- what a sight: underclassman sporting Husky sweatshirts and conversations darting back and forth about midterms and recommendations for next courses with specific professors. How fun that was for me- and to not have to worry about classes and exams myself- I just love college campuses!
Back to the food…
With a large appetite, Mohammed asked me what I would like to try. In my head, I was thinking about how much my stomach could fit- I wanted to try absolutely everything on the menu. But, to be polite I knew I should only pick a choice few and then maybe one night in the near future when this burger craving comes back, I’ll head out again for a midnight run?
Ha! Wishful thinking…I was seriously daydreaming at this place. The smells were amazing.
Mohammed recommended the Hi-5 Burger, the Mediterranean Wrap, and a basket of fries, so that’s what I agreed to try. The food doesn’t come out McDonald’s-style fast- and that’s a relief- but it’s not slow, either. Good food takes time, but I think they’ve also got a great process down because the wait time wasn’t long at all.
The Huddle’s unique burger patty is mixed in with a veritable blend of spices that help keep the burger juicy and flavorful without the need to be overly greasy. Topped with some of their special sauce and spicy Swiss cheese, you would be hard pressed to find yourself a burger with that much flavor for only $6.99. A nice touch to the burger is that the bun itself is given a little time on the grill to stiffen up as well so not only do you get a nice and firm bun that can handle all of its contents, but you have some cool char marks that make for a great Instagram photo.
Along with my burger, Mohammed course insisted I had to have The Huddle’s fries (twist my arm) which are homemade and handcut that ensures that the potato to comes out thick and almost like a wedge as opposed to a smaller uniform fry.
Owing to the fact that Mohammed offered me to try one of the “lighter” options on the menu, even though I was stuffed, I was able to get a couple bites in to the Mediterranean wrap. If you want to get a double dose of protein in some lighter fare, then this option is definitely for you. With veggies, sauce, and both white meat chicken and beef, this option makes you feel better about yourself in going for a wrap put still packs the meaty punch that you sometimes miss when you trade a bun for a tortilla.
To go along with all items, I was able to try all of The Huddle secret sauces- and these are unique. While I think I might need a few more trips there to find the perfect mix and match combination between sauce and food item, all of his sauces, Tahini, BBQ, Sriracha, and Huskie (for an extra .65 cents) had nice balance and didn’t come off as too sweet, as BBQ sometimes does, or too spicy, as in the case of Sriracha. I do think they make the sandwiches- and the fries- extra special.
I’m already craving those burgers again- midnight run? I wish they delivered but I’m just a little too far away…
If you happen to just out in DeKalb or looking for a restaurant that brings you All American comfort food-and it’s halal- be sure to stop by The Huddle the next time you’re in Huskie country.
The Huddle is located at:
817 W Lincoln Highway
Dekalb, Illinois 60115.
Be sure to follow them on Facebook and give Mohammed a shout out if you happen to see him working hard and taking good care of his customers.