Tag Archives: Banzo

Madison Food Carts NOT Downtown

Special Report by Kailey
The Madison food cart scene is delicious and exciting. Everyone loves those tasty carts. But the number one complaint I hear about the bustling food carts in Madison is location. Example complaint: “Every cart is downtown. I work on the west/east/far away/ side. I can never eat at them.”

Madison Meet and Eat 2012

Madison Meet and Eat 2012, photo courtesy of City of Madison

Well non-downtown working citizen, the food carts have an answer for you. In fact, lots of really convenient answers. Here are all the times and places you can enjoy Madison food carts outside of the downtown lunch hours:

1. Dane County Farmers’ Market
What: Nation’s largest farmers’ market. You’re probably going there anyways.
Where: Around the Capitol Square
When: Every Saturday morning, 6AM-2PM, April-November (carts may arrive at different times)
Who: Johnson Brothers Coffee, Fried and Fabulous, Banzo, Carnacas Empanadas, SoHo Gourmet Cusines, Umami and more!
More Information: http://dcfm.org/

2. Madison Meet and Eat
What: City sanctioned gathering of carts. Encourages meeting your neighbors for a night out and dinner.
Where: Three neighborhoods throughout Madison: Westside at Meadowood Shopping Center, the Southside at the Villager Mall and on the Northside at St. Paul Lutheran Church.
When: Tuesdays and Thursdays throughout June, July and August
Who: Umami for sure in 2013. This year’s Meet and Eat started on June 20th and all the carts haven’t been announced. But here is who was there last year: Banzo, Caracas Empanadas, Electric Earth, Ernie’s Kettle Corn, FIBs, Hibachi Hut, Luangprabang, Natural Juice, Tea Garden, Teriyaki Samurai and Wei’s Food to Go
More Information/Schedule: http://www.cityofmadison.com/parks/celebrate/madisonmeetandeat.cfm
Bonus: Vendors are asked to offer at least one menu item that is $3 or less.

3. Let’s Eat Out Madison
What: Groups of food carts offering dinner in neighborhoods. Organized by food cart owners.
Where: Mondays on Trailsway at North Sherman, Tuesdays on Midvale behind Midvale Elementary and Wednesdays on Miller at Atwood
Who: SoHo Gourmet Cuisines, Slide, In N Out Empanadas, BJ Kolaches, Fried and Fabulous 
More Information: https://www.facebook.com/LetsEatOutMadison

4. Carts in the Park 
What: Carts serving lunch in Research Park on Wednesdays.
Where: Research Park. On the West side of Whitney Way on Charmany Drive, and on the East side of Whitney Way across from 535 Science Drive
When: May 1 through Labor Day, Wednesdays 11AM-1:30PM
Who: BJs KolachesFIB’s 2, Fortune Cafe, In N Out Empanada, Natural Juice, SlideSoHo Gourmet Cuisines and Thai-riffic
More Information: http://www.universityresearchpark.org/food_carts/

5. Late night downtown
What: Carts providing after-bar food and satisfying late night cravings.
Where: State and Broom Street by Riley’s Wines of the World
When: Usually Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights starting around 12AM and ending around 3AM
Who: SoHo Gourmet Cuisines, In N Out Empanada, Fried and Fabulous
More Information: Check the individual carts’ Twitter feeds and Facebook pages.

Be sure to check out the links on “More Information” for any changes in schedules or weather. In addition to these regularly scheduled food cart eating opportunities the carts can be found at fests, block parties, fairs and just about anywhere a group of people gathers in the Madison area. Plus, a few of them like Good Food Cart and Banzo deliver. Whew. Now there are no valid excuses for skipping out on the wonderful food cart scene in Madison. Happy Streeteating!

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Special Report: Isthmus a la Carts

By: Anna and Kailey

Isthmus held it’s first ever food cart festival called “Isthmus a la Carts” on May 11, 2012 at Olin Park. It was a streeteaters paradise: carts in one spot during a gorgeous 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 $15?

food cart fest

Streeteaters Anna and Kailey hit every single cart, sampled nearly every dish and generally talked about how great food carts are. We loved seeing our favorites and  introduced ourselves to some new kids on the block like Slide who serve mini-sliders on Dayton Street near Memorial Union South.

Slide’s mini sliders

Here’s our top three sampled goods:

1. Caracas Empanadas. The sweet plantain and roasted garlic empanada was incredible and the homemade Guasacaca sauce was icing on the already delicious cake. Anna would have preferred to drink the sauce. It was just that good.
2. Fried and Fabulous. There’s really no way to go wrong with deep fried Oreos and balls of cookie dough. Their full menu also features healthy snacks (not like we tried them…) and parks late night by the Madhatter bar.
3. Banzo. The falafel tasted great (as always) when tucked inside its petite pita. In a shocking twist, Anna (med cafe’s number one fan) declared Banzo’s falafel BETTER than med cafe’s. The falafel was absolutely the best she’s ever tasted.

Also, shout-out to Monty’s Blue Plate Diner. They only had coffee and doughnuts but that maple iced coffee quenched our thirst in a big way.

Despite the wonderful atmosphere at the fest there were a few let downs: Igo Vego’s veggie burgers were dry and odd tasting, the Surco cart was there but strangely not serving anything, three carts were offering the exact same spring rolls and we failed to realize that beverages were not included with our ticket price (luckily we hit the smoothie carts to calm the heat of some Thai food).

Igo Vego

The fest reenforced everything we love about streeteating: nice business owners who are proud of their mobile businesses and delicious food. Throw in some great weather and friendship and you have yourself an outing at the first ever Isthmus a la Carts.

Streeteaters

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Banzo

Perfect Pita
Location: Two carts, one on Library Mall and one on Capitol Square on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd
By: Kailey

Another quest for a food cart new to the scene this year lead me to Banzo, a cute green cart staffed by cute workers. I heard about this cart long before I saw it person. Banzo has received some favorable media coverage with both the Isthmus and Badger Herald singing its praises. (It helps that Banzo has a nice website that provides all this information for you.) I had even heard through the street eating grapevine that Banzo is better than Med Cafe, a State Street staple restaurant with incredible Mediterranean food. Me and my fellow Street Eaters laughed this off. Better than Med Cafe? Yeah right. Not possible.
 

Can’t miss it cart

 
I stepped up to the already famous lime green cart, mulled my many options and ended up with the classic “The Banzo” pita sandwich for $6. You can order it as a platter with rice, hummus, chopped salad and pita bread for an extra $2 but I wanted to take part in the pita sandwich box phenomenon. They serve the pita sandwiches in these boxes that are portable AND the top rips off the box so you can eat your pita in peace…not pieces. Yes it’s geeky to get excited over a box, but seriously, the boxes are genius.
 
All the good press wasn’t wrong – my lunch was delicious. It was amazing. I would even go as far as mind-blowing. I took a bite and I made noises. I moaned. In front of people. This is not entirely unusual, I often profess my love for my meals, but this was right up there with the out of this world breakfast sandwiches at Marigold. The falafel was perfectly cooked, crunchy on the outside and exploding with incredible flavor on the inside. Don’t take my word for it – I allowed my self-professed falafel know-it-all pal take a bite of one of the falafel balls: she confirmed, this was damn good. The best she’s tasted since Israel (I told you, she’s the falafel pro). Also tucked into my adorable whole wheat pita were crispy chips, hummus, a handful of salad, pickles and a hearty mix of three sauces (tahini, yogurt and hot sauce). Something very unusual for me – thanks to the fancy box I didn’t use any napkins.
 

Heavenly falafel pita sandwich

 
I was satisfied with the amount of food I ordered, it wasn’t too much, it wasn’t too little. Like Goldilocks, I found the just right pita sandwich and I didn’t feel like garbage after eating it because the ingredients were light and fresh. Banzo clearly knows what they’re doing and will fare well in the food cart scene. They even have gluten free and vegan options meaning everyone can partake in a Banzo meal. While I’m not ready to banish the Med Cafe chicken akins plate from my lunchtime options, I’m jumping on the Banzo bandwagon along with the rest of Madison.
Deliciousness: 5/5 plates
Price: 5/5 plates
Speed: 5/5 plates
Authenticity/Originality: 5/5 plates
OVERALL: 5/5 plates

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