Tag Archives: caracas empanadas

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.


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Caracas Empanadas

Empanada Mmmpanada
Location: Library Mall
By: Megan

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of sitting down with Brett from Food Carts Portland (yes, in Oregon) and enjoying, what else but, some great cart food and even better conversation. We got in touch with Brett when he tweeted that he was looking for a good cart to try in Madison – we provided a recommendation, and asked if he’d like company! Isn’t social media just plain wonderful? He also agreed to do a guest post for us, so I’ll only give you his couple-sentence story before I get to the emmmmpanadas we ate.

Brett was in Madison for a city planning conference, as I understand it. Portland is set up similar to Madison (from what I can tell) in terms of city planning goals, ideas, and what not; so he had a great deal to contribute to conversation regarding how to build “effective” working cities. Portland, however, has OVER 600 food carts. Woah. He told me that the city will use closed-down parking lots and have only food carts set up there, which creates a sense of “community” when everyone gathers to meet there – so you can imagine the great perspective he had to bring to the conference. I’ll let him talk more about that though!

Caracas cart

Caracas' Cart

Though I was maybe more hungry for “blog talk” than lunch, I ended up picking one of the better food carts for smaller entree options. I’d heard great things about the empanadas here, so I was anxious to try one! They had one for $2.75 or 2 for $5 – I placed my order for one Veggie Empanada (made with potatoes and roasted red peppers). There was a bit of a wait to not only order, but also to get your food – which was probably a combination of him preparing them in the back and the line of about five people waiting for theirs. I didn’t mind this time around, though – I had Brett to chat with!

Once we received our brown bagged lunch, we found a shady spot and dug in. There was a green sauce included, and though I’m not totally sure what it was, I was glad to have it. Don’t get me wrong, the empanada was extremely tasty (I definitely said “mmmpanada”!) – the ingredients didn’t spill all over, the bread was delicious, and it was nice and warm! But, as should be expected I suppose, the empanada was extremely greasy – and I found the sauce helped cut that for whatever reason. I was also a bit surprised to see that the filling more looked like a mush than veggies.

Veggie empanada

Veggie Empanada with "green sauce"

For those with smaller appetites, one empanada was perfect – I certainly walked away full. But as a person who also does not normally eat a lot of greasy food, I also walked away with a bit of a stomachache for the rest of the day. I blame this on not being used to the amount of grease in the food – but definitely may deter me from heading back to Caracas Empanadas.

Deliciousness: 3/5

Price: 4/5

Speed: 1/5

Authenticity/Originality: 3/5

Overall: 2.75/5


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