Tag Archives: madison food carts

Curd Girl

Wisconsin Fried Delight
Location: Farmer’s Market Saturdays, Concerts on the Square and other events. Best to check Twitter.
By: Kailey

Ahh Wisconsin. If there’s one thing we’ve done right – other than inventing kindergarten, building the world’s largest penny and having more bars than grocery stores – it’s cheese. No matter which way you slice, grate, crumble or melt it, we’re pros at cheese. But until recently, one thing had been missing in the cheese empire of Wisconsin’s capital city – a mobile unit focusing solely on the one food item that is better than cheese: deep-fried cheese. While Madison and the surrounding area is the lucky home of plenty of cheese curd options, in Curd Girl we finally have the traveling cheese curd that is necessary for enjoying any event.

Curd Girl food cart. Home of happiness.

Curd Girl food cart. Home of happiness.

The menu is simple. Cheese curds and a sauce for $6. Plus t-shirts if you want to show your curd pride (note: the t-shirts are not made out of cheese curds. But how cool would it be if they were?) The sauce options were hard to choose from: strawberry rhubarb, sriracha aioli and good old ranch. We went with the sriracha but I can’t wait to try the others. The curds were lightly battered and the perfect amount of gooey and greasy. Pretty amazing curds. While not an entree, they pair well with everything – pairs best with beer and a beautiful Madison night.

Take your curd consumption to the next level with beer

Take your curd consumption to the next level with beer

 

 

Deliciousness: 5/5 plates
Price: 4/5 plates
Speed: 4/5 plates
Authenticity/Originality: 5/5 plates
OVERALL: 4.5/5 plates

Curd Girl Website: http://www.curdgirl.com
Curd Girl Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/curdgirlcart
Curd Girl Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/CurdGirl

Other Curd Girl Reviews:
What Isthmus had to say
What 77 Square had to say

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Melted. An Urban Grilled Cheese Shop

Grilled Cheesus
Location: Capitol Square on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd (across from Dlux)
By: Kailey

Every year and every season, there’s a food trend. From cupcakes to cronuts and pumpkin-flavored everything, there seems to be an “it” food that appeals to everyone all at once and then mystifyingly, it disappears or it becomes so ingrained we can’t imagine life without it. Sometimes the trends are odd-I just recently heard about artisanal toast being all the rage-but a trend I fully understand and support is fancy grilled cheese. Once associated with Wonderbread and children’s menus, grilled cheese has been enjoying its moment in the spotlight (there’s even a grilled cheese competition) for a few years. Rightly so. It’s bread and cheese!

Due to the delightfulness that is grilled cheese, I’ve been anxiously awaiting Madison’s very own grilled cheese food cart: Melted. The cart is very mysterious – I tweeted their arrival to the Madison food cart scene in September 2012 when they were at Taste of Madison. Then they appeared at Taste of Madison 2013, but still no regular schedule or even internet presence. But finally, a few tweets and some local press later, it’s not a mirage. Melted food cart finally officially showed up on the Capitol Square on April 21, 2014.

Melted, the new grilled cheese cart

Melted, the new grilled cheese cart

The menu, as you might have guessed, contains an array of grilled cheese sandwiches with various themes and toppings. There were rumors of fries being offered as a side but those were not offered. Oh the choices! A big work group and I ordered almost every sandwich on the menu. We paid ($8/sandwich) and then we waited. And waited. Over 30 minutes later, we began receiving the first of our meals.

Menu at Melted. Miles of cheese.

Menu at Melted. Miles of cheese.

The whole look of the cart is great: I love the modern colors and no-nonsense logo. But the wait for our food was a bit much. A lot much. If there is going to be a 15+ minutes wait outside a cart some kind of heads up would be appreciated. A simple declaration of “thanks for ordering, just so you know it’s going to be about (insert time here) minutes” would solve this problem. Because after standing and waiting for over 30 minutes with no advance warning, our $8 sandwiches had a STILL DELICIOUS but slightly cranky taste to them.

Buy 10, get one free punch card

Buy 10, get one free punch card

A wide variety of grilled cheese

A wide variety of grilled cheese

I ordered the American Caprese which was good but pretty standard. Our favorite among the grilled cheeses was the special of the day: a Southwest Chicken grilled cheese. I wish there would have been a grilled cheese with goat cheese because…yum. All our boxes contained an adorable and tasty tomato soup to use as a side and dipping sauce. This was unexpected and a nice touch.

The American Caprese sandwich

The American Caprese sandwich

Everyone loved their meals and I’ll definitely be making trips back to work my way around the menu (plus, I’m a sucker for punch cards). Melted is a great addition to the food cart scene and once the process/wait time are remedied the fancy grilled cheese sandwiches will be even more enjoyable.

 

Deliciousness: 5/5 plates
Price: 1/5 plates
Speed: 0/5 plates (negative plates if I could)
Authenticity/Originality: 5/5 plates
OVERALL: 2.5/5 plates

Melted Twitter: https://twitter.com/meltedmadison
Melted Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Melted/693259757355739

Other Melted Reviews:
What Isthmus said
What Cap Times said

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Fried and Fabulous

Good Fry-day
Location: Capitol Square at East Main Street and King Street
By: Kailey

On Good Friday, I decided to be particularly punny and visit Fried and Fabulous. Fried. On a Friday. Good Fry. Day.

Fried and Fabulous is a food cart mainstay. They’re out all the time – late night, lunch, Farmers’ Market Saturdays. You really have no excuse not to visit. Their new 2014 lunchtime spot is on the corner of Main and King near Walgreens on the Capitol Square, in beloved Blowin’ Smoke Barbeque’s old spot.

Fried and Fabulous on Capitol Square for lunch

Fried and Fabulous on Capitol Square for lunch

I asked many a coworker to go to lunch at Fried and Fabulous with me and was shot down. Will I be eating Twinkees for lunch? Are you kidding, why would I want a mound of fried stuff for lunch? The only one brave enough (and smart enough) to attend was Megan. I think it’s the name of the cart that turns the office dwellers off (not the college kids though, college kids would never mind that name). They’re missing out because the lunch menu is delicious, creative and yes, not extremely healthy, but it’s also not roll-around-in-gravy-then-deep-fry-a-Snickers levels of gluttony.

I believe lunch can be an indulgence once in a while and Fried and Fabulous is just the place to partake in such a meal. Want a Caesar salad with cheese curds on top? Go nuts. A nice Mandarin Sesame sandwich with deep-fried mushrooms? I won’t judge. Megan and I settled on the Sweet Chili Lime salad with popcorn shrimp and the Bacon Ranch salad with popcorn chicken. And because the shrimp and chicken just wasn’t fried enough, I added an order of small cheese curds. You can get all the lunch options as a salad or a sandwich.

Sweet Chili Lime salad with popcorn shrimp and Bacon Ranch salad with popcorn chicken

Sweet Chili Lime salad with popcorn shrimp and Bacon Ranch salad with popcorn chicken

The wait was short, about three minutes total for both of us as our items were prepared and freshly fried. Although, there seemed to be some kind of mix-up with my salad and the shredded cheese and bacon were added at the last second after the container was already closed up. But my meal ultimately was not lacking in cheese or bacon so no harm there.

The salads were $7.50 each and the small order of curds (plenty for two people) was $4.50. Not overly priced for a lunch. The salads were really really great. Both delicious. Both filling. Both covered in delightful sauces.The curds were a nice side and the perfect amount of cheesy.

Piping hot curds and a free chocolate chip cookie

Piping hot curds and a free chocolate chip cookie

Our only compliant with the whole meal: The lettuce was unruly. The chunks of romaine were big and sloppy and hard to eat and could have been given a chop or two before serving. That critique is perhaps the pickiest sentence I have ever written and clearly is the comment of two lunch-goers who order a lot of salads. Sorry. It was unruly lettuce! (EDITOR’S NOTE 4.23.14 Steve has assured me since they hand-cut the lettuce they’ll give it an extra chop or two to make the lettuce bite size. Cheers to the end of unruly lettuce!) The cart owner Steve even gave us tasty (FREE) chocolate chip cookies with our meals. A dessert perfect for fried food salads with a side of cheese curds.

A Good Fry-Day indeed.

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

Fried and Fabulous Twitter: https://twitter.com/friedandfab
Fried and Fabulous Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FriedandFabulous

Other Fried and Fabulous Reviews:
What Isthmus said
What Yelp says

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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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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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Mad City Fry Guy

Fry Fantastic
Location: Corner of South Carroll, South Hamilton and East Main Street (Capitol Square)
By: Anna and Kailey
Time to dust off the old streeteating blog and get back to what we’ve been waiting the whole mild winter for: eating at food carts. Anna and Kailey picked a blustery and chilly April day to venture out to the Capitol Square carts and discovered Mad City Fry Guy.
Lucky us, the day we visited was Mad City Fry Guy’s opening day. We were able to give the fry guy a hearty welcome from the Streeteats crew. They may be newcomers to the Madison food cart scene, but their decked out cart and friendly manner made them seem like pros.

Mad City Fry Guy cart - the rookies look like pros!

The extensive-looking menu isn’t really that extensive. Hot dog, brat, fries and a boat-load of toppings are your choices (Kailey’s official count: 34 different toppings).

Holy choices of toppings Fry Guy

Kailey got the brat with 3 toppings ($4.50) and Anna got the hot dog with 3 toppings ($3.50). We panicked over the topping choices and asked the self-proclaimed fry guy what he likes the best. We ended up with grated cheddar, onions and Madcity sauce. (Madcity sauce=a mix of mayo, ketchup and cayenne that’s sorta takes like Gritty sauce.) The one choice that wasn’t difficult to make: to poutine or not to poutine? Always poutine ($6).
Wait, what the heck is poutine? If you’re a poutine-rookie like Anna was, let us break it down: fresh cheese curds + fries + brown gravy = the most ridiculously delicious (and gluttonous) Canadian dish ever. (Ey?). Fry Guy’s curds were squeaky, the fries were hot and the gravy, well that was the gravy icing on the cake.
We waited about five minutes — understanding, considering 1) it was their first official day of opening 2) all of our items had to be carefully constructed and wrapped up for transporting. Consider yourself warned: the poutine is a two to three napkin job and can/should be shared. Don’t attempt to eat this while lounging on the Capitol lawn. Eat this in privacy. (Or as a guest in Kailey’s work cafeteria…?) The brats and dogs tasted great, especially drowning in toppings, and while it would be difficult to mess up something as tasty as poutine, the fry guy delivered a paper boat of greasy, cheesy goodness.The portion sizes were generous and toppings were heaped on our entrees – we weren’t even able to completely conquer the gravy cheese fries.

Brat, hot dog and poutine. Look at all those toppings! Ahh, a delicious pairing of America and Canada.

This newcomer gets major points for their flashy signs and cart (truth: from a block away Kailey wasn’t sure if it was a cart or some kind of mobile advertising parked on the square) and sheer enthusiasm. The two workers were just so stoked to be dishing up dogs and fries on a freezing April day, it almost made the stomachache and sleepiness that results in eating poutine tolerable.

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

Overall: 4/5 plates

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