Category Archives: Asian

Special Report: Isthmus a la Carts 2014

By: Kailey

Isthmus held it’s third ever food cart festival called “Isthmus a la Carts” on May 9, 2014 at Olin Park. It was a streeteaters paradise: almost all of Madison’s food carts in one spot during a pleasant but windy May afternoon. The event sold-out to 500 ticket holders and it’s easy to see why. Who would pass up the chance to sample dishes from Madison’s food carts all in one spot for $20? (Note: the 2013 fest experienced rain and this year was much nicer. Ticket prices in 2012 were $15)

Isthmus a la Carts Here were my favorite food cart items from Isthmus a la Carts in 2014:

Gili's Paninis

Choices at Gili’s Paninis

1. Gili’s Paninis is a new cart this year and I was honored to be the first “customer” at their cart during the fest. The format is kinda like Subway: choose your bread, sauces, meats and cheeses and they’ll prepare you a custom sandwich. But here the ingredients are fresh and the choices are unique. I had pastrami and smoked turkey with red pepper mayo and pepper jack plus all the veggies. Later on at the fest Gili’s served sweet paninis made with Nutella. Warm, gooey Nutella.

Starting the fest off right with a whole panini from Gili's

Starting the fest off right with a whole panini from Gili’s

2. Sticking with the sandwich theme, I loved Slide‘s Mr. Sweet Potato Head slider. The curry sauce is a nice touch.

Slide's Sweet Potato Head

Slide’s Mr. Sweet Potato Head

3. Fried and Fabulous did not disappoint. I think they had the longest line at all times but it’s understandable considering they were serving deep fried Oreos, jalapeno poppers and popcorn chicken. The cart owner Steve even had his whole family pitching in to help keep the line moving. Thanks for the extra dipping sauces Steve’s dad!

Deep fried Oreo from Fried and Fabulous

Deep fried Oreo from Fried and Fabulous

4. Bubbles’ Doubles was a welcome addition to this year’s fest. It was great to see cart owner Bubbles-who is perhaps the friendliest food cart owner in all of Madison-and enjoy his spicy doubles (doubles are a common Trinidad and Tobago street food. And they’re delicious.) A run to one of the drink carts was necessary after this stop.

Isthmus a la Carts

The fest was not without some disappointments. Some of the advertised vendors (Melted, Caracas Empanadas) never showed up at the fest. The gates opened at 4PM but only one or two carts were serving food at that time, cart owners clearly needed more time to set up the event and some were still pulling in after the fest opened. The lines were long but moving quick in most places.

What Isthmus said about a la Carts

 

 

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Filed under American, Asian, Cajun, Ethiopian, French

SoHo Gourmet Cuisine

Delicious Dumplings
Location: Capitol Square at West Main and South Carroll
By: Kailey

I’m going to skip all the apologizing about not updating the blog for ELEVEN MONTHS and get you quickly caught up on the Madison food cart scene:

  • Ingrid’s Lunchbox retired
  • FIB’s won best food cart of 2012 as named by the city review
  • There are no excuses for not being able to visit food carts for lunch. Madison Meet and Eat program sends carts all over town in the evenings
  • Unofficial observation: even with the brutal winter, lots of carts toughed it out this year

Whew. Now to the food. I talked two friends into trying a new cart with me last Friday and we chose to visit SoHo Gourmet Cuisine, a new last year cart I hadn’t tried yet.

SoHo, so great

SoHo, so great

The menu was intimidating because there were a lot of choices but we quickly decided to get a variety of dumplings and share them all. We each got the correctly named “So Hungry” box option containing six dumplings and a side salad for $7.50. Just as we were celebrating our ordering and decision making success, the food cart owner informed us that there were only a few “So Hot Chick” dumplings left so we couldn’t order a lot of them. We cried out in anguish. (Hot Chick is spicy chicken, jalapeno, carrots, celery and blue cheese in a dumpling. Served with a side of spicy cucumber ranch sauce. See why we were disappointed?)

The man taking our orders was super friendly and I think slightly scared of the three hungry women bemoaning the loss of a menu item. He did some quick counting and comforting. He then calmed us down by saying we could have six Hot Chicks total. I think he must be part food cart owner, part therapist. The food came up pretty fast considering it was three orders with three fresh salads that had to be prepared. We spent our waiting time saying the phrase Hot Chick as much as we could in a variety of different uses and laughing at how clever we are (“I wanted all the Hot Chicks,” “You stole the Hot Chicks,” “I wish they had more Hot Chicks”). So you know, mature adult stuff.

Big boxes of delicious - dumplings and salads

Big boxes of delicious – dumplings and salads

I could discuss the perfect sauces served with the dumplings or the great tasting combinations of ingredients in every bite. Or how every person eating it said they would definitely be back. I could also just say Hot Chick. (Actually, my favorite dumpling was the Veggie So Fiesta – pinto beans, black beans, sweet corn, cabbage, cilantro, bell peppers, and carrots. Topped with melted cheddar cheese. Served with a side of Pico De Gallo.)

The correctly named So Hungry meal

The correctly named So Hungry meal

Go to SoHo, you won’t be disappointed. Plus, $7.50 isn’t too shabby for a unique, delicious and filling meal. Hot Chick.

Deliciousness: 4.5/5 plates
Price: 4/5 plates
Speed: 4/5 plates
Authenticity/Originality: 5/5 plates
OVERALL: 4/5 plates

SoHo Website: http://www.uwsoho.com/
SoHo Twitter: https://twitter.com/UWSoHo
SoHo Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SoHoGourmetCuisines

Other SoHo Gourmet Cuisine Reviews:
What Isthmus said
What Yelp said

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Hibachi Hut

I’ve finally caved to that delicious smell
Location: Library Mall
By: Stephanie

If you only had 24 hours to spend in Madison, what would you do? After making a recent move to Chicago, I was faced with exactly that question. I made a quick 24 hour stop in Madison before the holiday weekend and I had two items on my must-do list: beers at the terrace and lunch at a food cart. I also had a 5 month golden retriever pup to look after in the morning, so juggling the equivalent of a toddler in dog form was going to make my must-do list a little harder to complete, especially considering said pup seriously tried to eat EVERYTHING she found on the ground. Wrappers, grass, old Kleenex, leaves, sticks, cigarette butts, mulch, ROCKS (who tries to eat rocks?)…she saw it, she ate it. I digress.

Trixie, my lunch companion

Trixie, my lunch companion

As lunch approached, I headed to Library Mall. I was a little disappointed at the lack of carts—perhaps it was due to the approaching holiday weekend, but the pickings were slim. I saw the Banzo cart and immediately wanted to try it due to Kailey’s rave review, but I also want to stay active on our blog so I chose a new spot that we hadn’t covered: Hibachi Hut.

Hibachi Hut cart

Hibachi Hut cart: the pimpest of all Madison food carts

After maintaining this blog for two summers, how had we not reviewed Hibachi Hut? Better yet, how had I never eaten there? Every time I walk through Library Mall, the smells of Hibachi Hut overwhelm me and their bright orange metal covered cart screams EAT HERE. The combination of soy sauce, garlic, and other magic ingredients seem to mask any other scents coming from carts, yet that always kept me away because I somehow rationed with myself that I already knew what to expect from a hibachi cart. I guess I wanted to give the other guys a chance…until today.

Steak hibachi

Steak hibachi with two egg rolls

I stepped up to the cart and knew I had to go with the steak hibachi. There were probably 8 or 10 options on the menu, and for an extra $1.25 you could make your order a “meal” by adding 2 eggrolls and a drink (which I chose to do). In total, I paid $8.50 and got a healthy size portion for lunch. The steak was juicy, not dry, and the veggies weren’t soggy either. They prepare the hibachi while you wait, so it was comforting to know that the food hadn’t been sitting around all morning waiting to be served. The eggrolls were delicious too—the perfect size to accompany my meal. All in all, this lunch was very satisfying. I even had leftovers! Hibachi Hut is one of a kind in the Madison food cart scene–there is plenty of Asian fare, but none prepared on a hibachi grill while you wait. If anything, this cart is definitely one I’ll consider an “old faithful” if I’m in a pinch and can’t decide which food cart to go to.

Deliciousness: 4/5 plates
Price: 4/5 plates
Speed: 3/5 plates
Authenticity/Originality: 4/5 plates
OVERALL: 4/5 plates

Other Hibachi Hut reviews:
What Eating in Madison A to Z said
What Isthmus said

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Teriyaki Samurai

Teriyaki Temptation
Location: Martin Luther King Drive (Capitol Square)
By: Anna and Stephanie
Wandering aimlessly among food carts when you’re hungry isn’t always the best of ideas. It’s like the rule my mom makes about going to the grocery store hungry. The rule is, DON’T DO IT, because you’ll end up buying bulk size bags of sour cream and onion chips, a bucket of hot wings and those little pretzel stick & cheese cup combo packs.
The Teriyaki Samurai food cart

The Teriyaki Samurai food cart

This time though, as Stephanie and I roamed through the street food carts on MLK Drive, our noses didn’t mislead us. We were considering the Sante Fe cart for some tex-mex, but as we hovered over the menu a scent hit our noses. The smell was an irresistible, my-mouth-is-watering-just-thinking-about-it, tangy barbecue smell coming from Teriyaki Samurai. We saw no reason not to give into temptation, so we stepped up to order. And, unlike other confusing carts, there’s only one window at the Samurai where you both order and pick up. The Samurai himself takes your order and quickly works to prepare it–there is no lack of hustle in this food cart!

I went with the hibachi chicken and Steph stuck with the cart’s signature, teriyaki chicken. The difference between the two is the sauce–the hibachi chicken had been marinated in some delicious sounding soy-sauce mixture, and the teriyaki chicken has more of a sauce on top. Both smelled (and looked) equally delicious.

Teriyaki Chicken (front) and Hibachi Chicken (back)

Teriyaki Chicken (front) and Hibachi Chicken (back)

Having spent too long in Nepal where chicken is served on the bone, I was overjoyed at seeing a heaping pile of saucy chicken with no bones. The taste absolutely matched the delicious smell we’d so astutely followed, and neither of us were disappointed. The veggies were probably previously frozen — they were no highlight. My months spent in a rice loving country hasn’t left me too keen on rice, but there was enough of it (ah, isn’t there always?) and it was sticky enough to eat with my chopsticks. There was a spicy sauce available to put on your dish, which we both chose. The spice added a nice kick and a little bit of a post-bite zing in the mouth, which showcased the flavors of the chicken quite well.Although they don’t have many items on the menu (which I can appreciate because they definitely stick to what they’re good at), the prices are pretty decent. We each paid $5.75 for our chicken dishes, and could’ve paid $1 more to upgrade to steak. Besides the hibachi and teriyaki options, they had a curry chicken dish and vegetarian combo plate as well, both of which seemed quite underwhelming compared to the main star dishes we decided on.

If you go: get the Teriyaki, I was jealous of Steph’s chicken. And don’t be afraid to add the spicy sauce, it’s good for your health.

Deliciousness: 4/5 plates
Price: 5/5 plates
Speed: 4/5 plates
Authenticity/Originality: 4/5 plates

Overall: 4/5 plates

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