Five years ago, Jack Rasuli traveled to the East Coast to visit family. During the trip he ate at halal joints across New York and New Jersey, including a cousin’s restaurant, and had one question: “Why can’t we have this in California?”

Upon his return, Rasuli, 32, worked up a menu with his cousin, and an unassuming red food truck parked next to the Tech Shop in the heart of downtown San Jose was born. Agha’s Gyro Express has been in business since 2014, serving Mediterranean and Middle Eastern fast food Monday through Saturday from 11am to 6pm. The brief but delicious menu has only four items: chicken gyro, lamb gyro, chicken over rice, and lamb over rice. Simplicity, Rasuli believes, is the key to a successful food truck.

“I like to say I took McDonald’s out of business,” he teases, nodding to the shuttered chain bordering the lot where he parks the food truck.

Rasuli believes people are gravitating away from fast food and toward options like his truck, as good food is no longer about bang for the buck (although his portions are generous and priced quite low; gyros are $7 and meat and rice plates are $8). Dishes are made to order, making the food fresher and the process more transparent.

Many Yelpers compare Agha’s Gyro Express to the renowned Halal Guys, which recently set up shop at The Plant. Their brick-and-mortar NYC shops were some of my favorite spots for last-call dinners the past two years. But this isn’t an exaggeration: Agha’s blows Halal Guys out of the water.

Agha’s lamb comes in insanely tender and well-seasoned bites, sprinkled over a bed of long-grain rice. The rice is perhaps a tad greasy, but that helps prevent it from turning into a gooey starch ball. The plate comes with a side salad, dressed in a creamy dill sauce. The whole ensemble is topped with the white sauce characteristic of gyro joints, and red chili sauce is available at shaded tables under a blue pop-up tent. A cooler of bottled water and sodas sits at the ready, and they do offer baklava ($2) for dessert.

People rave about the Halal Guy’s white sauce, but I found it a little too creamy and heavy, its flavor dominating the food. Agha’s is light, almost tart and refreshing. It enhances the spices in the meat and rice rather than overpowering them, and mixes well with the hot sauce.

Agha’s Gyro Express
300 S Second St, San Jose.