Tag Archives: Capitol Square

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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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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The Bayou

Ragin’ Cajun
Location: Capitol Square at West Main and South Carroll
By: Kailey

Craving some Cajun, I checked out The Bayou and it’s New Orleans style offerings. Much to my dismay, my lunch was not served with a side of Mardi Gras beads or jazz music. If you’re looking for that type of atmosphere, The Bayou has an actual restaurant located just a few blocks from their cart that is cutely decorated like a New Orleans street (I just went there for restaurant week – excellent Shrimp Po’ Boy sandwich).

Mini New Orleans – minus the beads

I stepped up the window of the quaint cart and was disappointed in my options – there were only three choices on the menu. One of them was soup and it was really hot out. (Did that sound whiny? Good. It was hot! Why would I want soup?) I ordered the chicken jambalaya for $6. For those of you whose only association with jambalaya is Newman saying the word on Seinfeld, let me fill you in.

Jambalaya, common in Louisiana, not so common in the Midwest, is rice, peppers, onions, celery and meat cooked with some spices. Mystery solved. I wasn’t sure what to expect in the spice department but the cooks in the cart assured me it wasn’t “too bad.”

Initially, I had lunch envy. Anna and I sat on the Capitol lawn and while she dug into her huge FIB’s sandwich, I had a plastic container of rice mixed with some stuff. I complained that I could have made it at home. I complained that it wasn’t that much food for $6. I complained that my butt was wet from sitting on the damp grass. Things were not going well.

Chicken jambalaya – more food packed in that container then I expected

Luckily, my meal redeemed itself. The jambalaya had perfect amount of spice and it was pretty tasty. I liked the green pepper chunks and the crunch of the celery. A few bites in, I realized I had misjudged the portions of my meal. There was A LOT of food there. I had enough for lunch and some leftover for lunch the next day. Not quite the little container I had sized up earlier.

It was a satisfying lunch if slightly boring. Maybe the cart can beef up the menu or start serving the incredible Beignets that they have at their restaurant.

Deliciousness: 3/5 plates
Price: 2/5 plates
Speed: 4/5 plates
Authenticity/Originality: 3/5 plates
OVERALL: 3/5 plates

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Santa Fe Trailer

Best Burrito on a Budget
Location: Martin Luther King Drive (Capitol Square)
By: Kailey

Ahh Madison. The city between the lakes. Home to the Badgers, the State Capitol and the naked bike ride. Also a home to thousands of students who are looking to satisfy their hungry with meager wads of cash. Look no further starving students, I have found the place for you: Santa Fe Trailer foodcart.

This New Mexico-style foodcart has been around since April 2008 and was a familiar sight – I’ve noticed it at several events like block parties and Concerts on the Square. I picked a sweltering Friday afternoon to finally pay a visit to the brightly colored cart.

Santa Fe Trailer

I ordered the chicken chile burrito which boasted a 12″ tortilla filled with meat, beans and cheese. My toppings included lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream and sauce (I went with the ‘Christmas’ which is half red chile sauce, half green chile sauce). I paid what I thought was an outrageous price of $9 for the burrito and large side of guacamole ($6 for the burrito, $3 for the guac).

After a momentary feeling of buyer’s remorse, I handed over my money and waited about three minutes for a hefty silver container containing my meal. My very heavy container. Suddenly, I knew what was in store. This was a far cry from the tiny lunches of food carts past. This was a lunch AND plenty of leftovers for dinner! The size of this monster burrito blew Anna’s El Burrito Loco mediocre burrito out of the water. (Editor’s note: sorry I’m not sorry Anna)

MONSTER burrito and tasty guac

I got over my shock and used a fork to dig into my lunch/dinner. Bursting with ingredients and drenched in sauce, every bite was delicious. I liked the green chile side more than the red chile side but all of it was really good, exactly what you would expect from well constructed, hearty burrito. The guacamole tasted great as well but wasn’t absolutely necessary.

Santa Fe Trailer will give you the most food for your money hands down – this gigantic burrito left me very full after two meals. I paid the exact same price for a portable wrap from Good Food that was much smaller. But it is unfair of me to compare the two on price because Good Food’s wrap contained fresh and organic ingredients that are more pricey. Quite simply, if you want to be healthy, go to Good Food, if you want to be uncomfortably full and a thrifty spender, go to Santa Fe Trailer.

Deliciousness: 4/5 plates

Price: 5/5 plates (I would give it six, but that’s cheating)

Speed: 3/5 plates

Authenticity/Originality: 4/5 plates

Overall: 4.5/5 Plates 

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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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