Tag Archives: Madison

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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FIB’s Fine Italian Beef and Sausage

A Sausage Serenade
Location: Capitol Square on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. (by Starbucks)
By: Anna

Let me start this by saying, I have no allegiances to Chicago. Actually, I hate the Cubs — but not as much as I hate the Bears (although pity might be a better word for both teams). That being said, I love a good dog.

Yeah, I said it. And yeah, FIBs array of cheap, delicious Chicago-style dogs and sandwiches truly deliver. (Okay, not literally.)

FIB's Food Cart

Serving up Chicago style lunch that is quick and delicious.

Two laundry list menus of various hot dogs and sandwiches flank the little cart. Each of the items has a cutesy Chicago name. The “Al Capone,” “The Bill Murray,” etc. The cart is decorated like a brick wall and  framed photos of old-time celebs dot the cart’s interior.  There’s even music playing so you can enjoy some tunes while you wait. And prices are low in terms of food cart fare. My lunch companion was jealous that I shelled out a mere five dollars for a chicken sausage piled high with sweet and hot peppers, marinara and a plump, golden bun. The owner was even sporting a Cubs hat when he handed over my lunch.

Chicken Sausage with hot and sweet peppers

My chicken dog in all of it’s Capitol lawn lunch break glory.

After finding a half sunny spot on the Capitol lawn, Kailey and I sprawled out in anticipation of our cart lunches. (She tried the Bayou, more on that later). Not that it was a competition, but I totally won. My chicken sausage was a great mix of spicy and sweet and the large bun assured my stomach that I was, in fact, not going to have to eat again until at least 3pm. (Groundbreaking.)

One downfall was the casing of the sausage was a little hard to break and because there were so many toppings, it was pretty messy. Luckily, Kailey and I are pretty close friends — she can tolerate my messy eating habits. But if you’re on a work lunch, or worse, a lunch date — probably don’t go for FIBs. Plus, the hot dog metaphor is probably a little much for those contexts.

Other than that, for speed, taste and PRICE, FIBs is on my lists of places to return.

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

Other FIB’s 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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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.

Streeteaters

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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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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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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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