Tag Archives: food cart

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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Dandelion

Sounds Gouda to me
Location: Library Mall
By: Anna

I’m tempted to make a Dande”lyin” pun because of my first experience with the Dandelion food cart. I’ll admit it, last summer when we began our food cart adventure I went to Dandelion with every intention of reviewing, but never did. I took Marie with me because who doesn’t love to share a good vegetarian meal? She ordered the baked tofu sandwich and I got the sweet potato wrap with spinach and smoked Gouda. It came with a side of tortilla chips and pico.

wrap

Sweet potato wrap with smoked gouda and a side of chips and pico.

As we sat next to Library Mall and took our first bites, I was in smoked Gouda bliss. But then Marie turned to me and made those eyes girlfriends make when they want you to switch food with them. Turns out her “baked” tofu was definitely fried*. She was not interested in ruining her obsessively healthy food habits with a fried tofu sandwich. Luckily, I can get down with fried tofu and so we made the trade. Lesson learned: menus aren’t always what they seem. Second lesson learned: just because it’s vegetarian, doesn’t mean it’s healthy. (Editors note: the tofu at Dandelion is never fried. Marie was mistaken!)

*On my return my visit, I saw someone order the tofu sandwich and it was baked. Not sure why we got a fried sandwich.  

So, last week, I made the trek (well, I live a block away, but you get the picture) back to Dandelion to break some baked tofu boundaries. I went with one of the daily specials: Indonesian tempeh tacos. Tempeh is an Indonesian soy product that’s comparable to tofu but higher in protein and denser in weight.

Meal of the day! Tempeh tacos with tasty coleslaw on the side. (Best when INSIDE the taco)

I have this weird love for high protein foods; so, while some people cringe at things like tofu or spoonfuls of garbanzo beans, I can’t get enough. My tacos were stuffed with tempeh in a savory, chipotle sauce and there was an Asian coleslaw on the side. Three corn tortillas hugged the tempeh, which wasn’t flavorful, but when you took a bite with the sauce it was BAM, delicious. I forgot a fork, so I ended up hand spooning the coleslaw on top of the tacos which was a cool, maverick way to eat my lunch.

Behold, the cart.

Everything on the Dandelion menu is either vegetarian or vegan and you can ask to have any of the dishes vegan. Everything is around or under $8 – pretty standard for food cart fare. Unfortunately, (or fortunately, depending on who you are) they only have “real sugar” sodas and all I wanted/needed was a Diet Coke. It seems my caffeine needs are a little too mainstream for Dandelion.

It was a later lunch so time wasn’t really an issue, but there was only one person manning the cart so it’s not the FAST FOOD cart that others can be. Depending on the day, more than worker helps out – so keep an eye out.

Deliciousness: 3.5/5 plates
Price: 5/5 plates
Speed: 3/5 plates
Authenticity/Originality: 4/5 plates
Overall: 4/5 Plates

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Luangprabang Thai Food

Attack of the Giant Spring Roll
Location: Library Mall
By: Megan Finley, Guest Streeteater

Editor’s Note: Megan is new to the Madison foodcart scene and offered to do some streeteating for us. Enjoy her post on the Thai Food Cart Luangprabang and check out her Twitter page or her witty blog for more about our amazing guest Streeteater! -Kailey

On a windy Wednesday in Madison the scents of delectable food cart goodness were wafting through the air drawing my nose and tummy toward the Library Mall.

Ok, that’s not really true. I was about a mile away and quite frankly I lack superhuman smelling abilities. But because I DO have superhuman cravings I was already daydreaming when my next meal would come and what it would be.  Though the 15-minute walk from work seemed a daunting task for my growing hunger, my ambition to find a great lunch prevailed and on this particular day I was in the mood for Pad Thai.  I found said Pad Thai at the Luangprabang food cart.

The beautifully painted Luangprabang Thai Food cart

The cart itself was intricately designed (appearing to be painted by hand) with quite the oriental look and feel and definitely gave me the authentic vibe. The menu only included a handful of entrees and a few sides, all of which were reasonably priced. A couple of the options included Squash Curry ($6.50) and Mango Salad with BBQ Chicken ($7.00), but as appetizing as they sounded, I was firm in my hunt for some great Pad Thai ($5.00).  For an additional $2.50 I had the cart owner throw in a spring roll.

I noticed upon paying that I only had a $50 bill, which thankfully wasn’t a problem and there was change for my $7.50 meal.  The line took about 5 minutes, and I waited an additional minute or so for my food after I ordered. Not too bad when you consider it was just past noon.

The spring roll surprised me a bit.  When I ordered, I pictured dainty finger food that would be a satisfying warm up to my Pad Thai. What I received could only be described as a spring roll/burrito mutant heavyweight monster. I exaggerate a lot, but I’m only being mildly sarcastic when I say I’m surprised the weight of that roll didn’t pop the wheels of the food cart. I was really hoping that mega poundage would correlate to mega tastiness. It did not. The spring roll was only fine, and I could barely make a dent in its enormity.

Giant spring roll and soggy Pad Thai

Similarly, the Pad Thai fell flat.

I have a recently formulated food cart theory about choosing foods that hold up well when stored for extended periods of time. It appears I can add rice noodles to the list of “avoid”. The noodles all mushed together in a giant heap in my Styrofoam box. Surprisingly, though the noodle mush was a let down, the flavor of the Pad Thai was unexpectedly good. I ordered it spicy per the server’s recommendation, and was even awarded a dollop of hot chili paste to satisfy my fiery palette.  And though I felt slightly deceived, I kept thinking over and over to myself, “this doesn’t taste like Pad Thai…but it is pretty good”.

Deliciousness: 2/5 plates

Price: 4/5 plates

Speed: 4/5 plates

Authenticity/Originality: 2/5 plates

Overall: 3/5 plates

Editor’s Note: We reviewed the Thai Riffic cart last year with a similar Pad Thai meal. It also received 3/5 plates as a score. Where’s the delicious foodcart Pad Thai in town?!

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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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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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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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