Article by Kayla Smith
Corner of Pugh Street and Beaver Avenue (right outside of that store with the big golden elephant head.)
“Being downtown in a college environment… I see a lot of funny stuff.”— Shaker
About the owner:
Shaker Abdulwahab, originally from Palestine, moved to America about nine years ago, living in Georgia for a year before moving to State College. Both he and his wife are enrolled as online students of Penn State. As a Muslim man, he noticed the State College area didn’t have many halal food options— a requirement in the diet of one practicing Islam— so in 2013 he opened up an Arabic/Mediterranean food truck serving halal meat.
“Sometimes we get a long line, and the wait is 20 or 25 minutes for food, so I apologize to the customers. The best thing I hear is when people say ‘Your food is worth it.’ That’s amazing.”— Shaker
What halal means, as explained by Shaker and Youssef:
Youssef: “It’s the way you slaughter the animal. It’s done by a Muslim man and he drains the animal of all the blood to make it clean.”
Shaker: “That’s why our meat tastes so good, because it’s clean. Chicken, beef, lamb… no pork; Muslims can’t eat pork, you know.”
Youssef: “Yeah so the man will cut the throat of the animal with a very sharp knife, and very quickly, so the animal doesn’t feel much pain. Then the animal is hung upside down so the blood drains out completely. Oh, and the man is supposed to say a prayer when he’s cutting the animal.”
Shaker: “Yes, he prays in the name of God… Allah.”
Youssef: “Oh, and when the man cuts the animal, it’s supposed to be towards the direction of Mecca.”
Most commonly ordered meal:
Chicken and rice, with sides of hummus and a small salad.
“People like coming here because they can see the food is fresh because it’s made right in front of you. It’s fresh and good quality.” —Shaker
SAUCES—what the meat and rice should never have to live without:
Tahini sauce— sesame base, lemon, cumin, and salt; more acidic tasting.
Tzatziki sauce (most commonly ordered)— yogurt and cucumber blend; sometimes mixed with various seasonings.
*Hot sauce and garlic sauce are also offered as options.
**I like to order the chicken and rice meal with both tahini and tzatziki sauce (pictured above) because I’m crazy and wild and bold and mysterious, and being young is all about taking risks. Also, mainly, Shaker just recommended that to me the first time I ordered from him a couple years ago and I just listened to him because not listening to him seemed too crazy and bold and mysterious and overall just like too much of a risk for me.
What makes Shaker’s Grill unique among food trucks:
They often provide meals for the local mosques, and they cater to anyone— all you have to do is call 814-441-3979. They’re also available for pickup.
What Shaker wants you to know:
“We’re for everybody, not just Muslims, and we’re happy to answer any questions to explain our food. Customer service is important to us. We like getting to know our customers.”
Advice from Shaker:
“Always come here!”
Feature Image: Shaker’s Grill located at the corner of Pugh Street and Beaver Avenue in downtown State College, Pa. Feature Image Credit: Kayla Smith