Category Archives: Sandwiches

Toast – Gili’s Paninis

Perfect Panini
Location: Capitol Square at Mifflin and Wisconsin Avenue (near Chase Bank) for lunch, also at Farmer’s Market and with Lets Eat Out Madison. Best to check Twitter
By: Kailey

How lucky are we? Two new-for-2014 food carts in Madison are offering warm, grilled sandwiches. Previously, Madison was lacking many sandwich options from food carts and these two carts are filling a sub-sized hole in the market. Both Melted and Toast are great reasons to never set foot in a Subway again (sorry Subway, I do appreciate you, but sometimes that fake bread smell makes me sick…and avocado should not come out of a can). (Note: Slide and others also serve sandwiches but I’m referring to the grilled variety)

Toast-Gili's Paninis

Toast-Gili’s Paninis

At Toast’s bright yellow cart, you choose your bread, meats, veggies, cheese and sauces and they grill up your sandwich while you wait. I like that you can pick as many toppings as you want (more than two sauces recommended!) and every panini comes with a small cup of pickles or hot giardiniera. In addition to lunchtime flavors, they serve dessert or breakfast paninis featuring Nutella, strawberries, caramel, chocolate and bananas.

Menu at Toast. Build your own or ask for good combinations. (But better than Subway)

Menu at Toast. Build your own or ask for good combinations. (But better than Subway)

I ordered the panini that was featured as the free sample of the day: pastrami, chicken, pesto, garlic mayo, red pepper mayo, onions, tomato and provolone cheese. They were also pushing samples of homemade lemonade, yummy but not worth the extra cost. The panini with cup of pickles was $7.50 and they do take credit cards.

Perfect Panini

Perfect Panini

Side note for those interested: it’s worth noting the sandwich-extraordinaires are quite attractive. Pull up a chair at the outdoor “seating area” on the side of the cart for a good view of the makers in action.

Seating area at Toast

Seating area at Toast

The panini was perfectly grilled and very filling for lunch . The ingredients seemed fresh and I appreciated that the wait time was short even though this was a make-your-own process.  The only complaint is the lack of choices for veggies: there are only a grand total of four options (onions, black and green olives and tomatoes) and two are olives. Suggestions for extra vegetables suitable for panini-making: mushrooms, broccoli, green or red peppers or yum, avocado. Or can we get some falafel here for the vegetarians?!

The only thing confusing about this delicious cart is the name. Is it Toast? Is it Gili’s Paninis? Why are there no many vowels in panini? (just a general question, not a cart question) Turns out, the cart is Toast-Gili’s Paninis for right now but they will be gradually moving to just Toast.

Deliciousness: 5/5 plates
Price: 3/5 plates
Speed: 4/5 plates
Authenticity/Originality: 5/5 plates
OVERALL: 4.5/5 plates

Toast Twitter: https://twitter.com/gilispaninis
Toast Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gilispaninis

Other Toast Reviews:
What Isthmus had to say

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Blowin’ Smoke Barbeque

Perfect Pork
Location: Capitol Square at East Main Street and South Pinckney Street
By: Kailey

It is a travesty and a crime that Madison Street Eats has not reviewed the Blown’ Smoke BBQ cart. This Capitol Square staple has been around for a few years and they’re one of the hardcore ones that can be found serving fare from their Capitol Square cart all winter long. Every day you can smell their BBQ goodness wafting from the cart from blocks away. In fact, Blowin’ Smoke isn’t just a cart – they have a growing catering service and rumors of a storefront opening soon. (EDITOR’S NOTE APRIL 20, 2014: Rumors true, storefront is now open in Waunakee) They are a true sloppy and saucy legend in the Madison food cart community.

Blowin' Smoke...once you're this close to the cart it's too late. You've been sucked in my the sweet BBQ scent.

Blowin’ Smoke…once you’re this close to the cart it’s too late. You’ve been sucked in by the sweet BBQ scent.

Last Friday I decided to finally cross Blowin’ Smoke off the food cart list with the special: the Carolina consisting of pork, pepperjack cheese and slaw. I chose the spicy sauce to top my sandwich – the next step up in spice is “branding sauce” and that sounded like a step I wasn’t ready to take. The sandwich was $6.50 and sides are $1.50 extra. I know the size of the sandwiches first hand so I passed on the side option but I’ve heard they’re all very good (choices include baked beans, potato salad, coleslaw, 6 bean salad and broccoli raisin salad). The wait for my food was short and I was even given a 10 stamp loyalty card. I’m now nine sandwiches away from a free meal with side.

The Caroline was love at first bite. I found the spice level perfect, the pork was tasty and not extra smokey like I thought it might be and the cheese was a nice melty touch. There was even a cute frilly toothpick topped with a pickle holding the monster creation together. (pickle not pictured, I ate it too fast)

The Carolina special

The Carolina special

The sweet drippy icing on this meal experience was the extra I found in my nicely packed paper bag: napkins. As a messy eater I enjoy my napkins and appreciate when food carts offer them – in fact I seem to always mention napkins in my reviews: King of Falafel, Mad City Fry Guy, Good Food, Banzo. The sandwich was great and very filling. I think the price is a bargain compared to all the behind-the-scenes work that takes place. I’ve never taken the time to rub, smoke and prepare a BBQ pork roast and serve it with homemade sauces and buns. So I’ll continue to pay Blowin’ Smoke for their tasty services.

Blowin’ Smoke has that perfect local diner vibe going on without actually being a diner. In fact, one time a coworker of mine had placed an order and then realized he forget his wallet. And Blowin’ Smoke gave him a sandwich and said “pay us back next time.” Spotting someone a sandwich! They may claim to be Kansas City style but this handcrafted BBQ cart fits in perfectly here in Wisconsin.

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

Blowin’ Smoke Website: http://www.blowinsmokebbq.org
Blowin’ Smoke Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Blowin-Smoke-Barbeque-Madison

Other Blowin’ Smoke Reviews:
What Isthmus said
What A to Z said
What Wisconsin State Journal said

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FIB’s Fine Italian Beef and Sausage

A Sausage Serenade
Location: Capitol Square on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. (by Starbucks)
By: Anna

Let me start this by saying, I have no allegiances to Chicago. Actually, I hate the Cubs — but not as much as I hate the Bears (although pity might be a better word for both teams). That being said, I love a good dog.

Yeah, I said it. And yeah, FIBs array of cheap, delicious Chicago-style dogs and sandwiches truly deliver. (Okay, not literally.)

FIB's Food Cart

Serving up Chicago style lunch that is quick and delicious.

Two laundry list menus of various hot dogs and sandwiches flank the little cart. Each of the items has a cutesy Chicago name. The “Al Capone,” “The Bill Murray,” etc. The cart is decorated like a brick wall and  framed photos of old-time celebs dot the cart’s interior.  There’s even music playing so you can enjoy some tunes while you wait. And prices are low in terms of food cart fare. My lunch companion was jealous that I shelled out a mere five dollars for a chicken sausage piled high with sweet and hot peppers, marinara and a plump, golden bun. The owner was even sporting a Cubs hat when he handed over my lunch.

Chicken Sausage with hot and sweet peppers

My chicken dog in all of it’s Capitol lawn lunch break glory.

After finding a half sunny spot on the Capitol lawn, Kailey and I sprawled out in anticipation of our cart lunches. (She tried the Bayou, more on that later). Not that it was a competition, but I totally won. My chicken sausage was a great mix of spicy and sweet and the large bun assured my stomach that I was, in fact, not going to have to eat again until at least 3pm. (Groundbreaking.)

One downfall was the casing of the sausage was a little hard to break and because there were so many toppings, it was pretty messy. Luckily, Kailey and I are pretty close friends — she can tolerate my messy eating habits. But if you’re on a work lunch, or worse, a lunch date — probably don’t go for FIBs. Plus, the hot dog metaphor is probably a little much for those contexts.

Other than that, for speed, taste and PRICE, FIBs is on my lists of places to return.

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

Other FIB’s Reviews:
What Eating in Madison A to Z said
What Isthmus said

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Good Food

Cart Name Speaks The Truth
Location: Corner of East Main and South Pinckney Street (Capitol Square)
By: Kailey

A beautiful Madison day deserves a delicious meal. The sun was shining and Capitol Square was crowded so I went to the food cart with no line: the Good Food cart. They specialize in wraps and salads with fresh ingredients and have changing specials (the Blackberry Salad when I was there) as well as Sweet Thai Chili. I asked the chef what she suggested and she recommended the Gourmet Greek wrap-I was still recovering from my dismal gyro from Mediterranean Cuisine so I skipped that and got the Turkey Club wrap. You could choose your sauce and fillings. I’m bad at making decisions so I said “I’ll take everything.” Very smooth of me.

The Good Food cart

The lady asked me for my name so she could notify me when my order was ready. I was the only person there so this seemed a bit silly but it was a nice personal touch. I paid my $6.75 and waited about two minutes before being handed my lunch.
The tortilla was stuffed with fresh lettuce, tasty turkey, crunchy bacon, red onions, juicy tomatoes, sweet honey mustard sauce, cucumbers AND pickles. And it was delicious. Really incredible. All the ingredients meshed together really well making a simple meal satisfying. I announced how great my lunch was after every bite to annoy my champions who were chewing on their not-so-great food cart selections.

My Turkey Club wrap from Good Food. It's OK to be jealous.

The wrap wasn’t very big (bigger than Lisa’s mini one though) and it didn’t leave me full but that is a trend I’ve been noticing among our food cart explorations. Maybe those sides like cookies or chips are worth investing in. I also think it was a little pricey but I expect to pay a little more for fresh ingredients. I can’t wait to visit again and try a yummy looking salad.

I would like to give Good Food wraps extra props for portability-I could roll the foil off the tightly wrapped tortilla as I ate. This prevented the honey mustard sauce from dripping on my hands and clothes and, for me, using no napkins during a meal is an extraordinary feat. Usually only obtained when eating something like cereal. Or gum.

Deliciousness: 5/5 plates

Price: 3/5 plates

Speed: 3/5 plates

Authenticity/Originality: 4/5 plates

OVERALL: 4/5 plates

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My Name is Yon Yonson, I Come from Wisconsin

Don’t Be Swayed by Cuteness
Location: Library Mall
By: Lisa

Super cute stand: My Name is Yon Yonson: I'm From Wisconsin

It’s a beautiful, sunny day as I scramble to get to work on time. I need a food cart that has no line, is easy, quick and portable. Of course the cutest cart in Library Mall sticks out to me and I’m pleasantly surprised when a very jolly man greets me with a smile and comments on the spectacular weather Madison is finally seeing.

Even though Yon Yonson’s food cart meets all the above criteria for a girl running late and has plenty of pleasantries for someone like me, a sucker for cuteness and friendliness… be aware:
The wooden cart reminded me of an up north, small cabin and has “Wisconsin” in the cart’s name. What would you expect to find? Brats? Cheese curds? Cream puffs? Something greasy, right? Wrong.

By the looks of the cart, it isn’t easy to distinguish what type of food they serve until you walk up to the cart to look at the menu. (And once you’ve done that, if there is no line, the owner has already started a conversation and it becomes too awkward to turn around and leave the cart.) Thankfully, I was content with the food choices.

Menu!

They offer grilled cheese deli sandwiches with chips (a handful from the bag of ruffles chips sitting in the sink) and a pickle on the side. I choose the special of the day: a Chicken Caesar Wrap for $5.

The wrap was fine. There was nothing spectacular or out of the ordinary about it. It tasted just like any other Chicken Caesar Wrap with crisp lettuce and a lot of dressing. The problem was that it was just as cute as the cart. However, when a meal is cute, it implies that it is tiny. That is exactly what this was. A cute and tiny wrap.

Maybe I’m just a typical American wanting as much food for my money as possible. (So in retrospect, maybe Yon Yonson’s is a good and healthy change for my diet). But if I just around the corner to the union, I can get a wrap at least twice the size for only a dollar more.

Bite Size Wrap?

All in all, the cart has nothing wrong or bad, but the serving is small for the price and not necessarily a Wisconsin classic. I would potentially go back and try the grilled cheese if I was running late again and needed a quick, healthy bite (and then maybe the overall plate score will get bumped up). But when I go to a food cart I want something fun and unique that I can’t get any other time of the year, except during food cart season.

Just not a lot of food....

Deliciousness: 2/5 plates

Price: 2/5 plates

Speed: 4/5 plates

Authenticity/Originality: 2/5 plates

Overall: 2/5 plates

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