Tag Archives: Madison food cart

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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Filed under Sandwiches

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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Filed under American, Sandwiches

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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Filed under Asian

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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Filed under Asian