Tag Archives: library mall

Food cart versus food cart as a hungry city holds its breath

One of many small ways in which Madison is a well-run city:  every year, the Vending Oversight Committee holds a juried competition for food carts, the prize being a permit for a plum spot on Library Mall or by the Capitol.  Indonesian cart Kakilima, already holding down a prime location in front of the campus bookstore, won this year’s contest.  And indeed, it’s the best cart on campus, serving aggressively and intelligently seasoned meat-n-veg combos that totally slay the greasy sort-of-Chinese offerings from the other Asian carts on the Mall.  Newcomer Athens Gyro took second place.  Hopefully we’ll see them on campus soon!  For a college town, Madison’s gyro options are pretty poor.  (Maybe Mediterranean Cafe makes a good one; I’m too attached to the Akin’s Plate to find out.)

Other worthwhile carts:

  • Sabores Latinos, a mobile outpost of well-reviewed East Side restaurant Antojitos el Toril, serves big, satisfying burritos at a fair price.  The steak is much better than the other two meat fillings.
  • FIB’s offers a solid meatball sandwich and Italian sausage.
  • The new Thai’s Cusine cart (the former I’m Here Vietnamese cart with a cardboard “Thai’s Cuisine” sign on it) makes a surprisingly good $1.50 egg roll.  It tastes like pork, crab, and fish sauce, not soggy cabbage, noodles, and soy sauce as does the standard cart egg roll.
  • For an outdoor breakfast at the Farmer’s Market, you can’t beat the fab horseradish egg biscuit at Ingrid’s Lunch Box, named the best street cart in America by Bon Appetit last year.  It has its own blog!  (The cart, not the biscuit.)  The blog says it’s on Library Mall on weekdays at lunchtime, but I don’t think that’s true.

Good general rundown of the Library Mall carts over at Food Snob on a Tuesday Night.

Question for your inner libertarian:  would the city be better-served if the prime cart spots were auctioned to the highest bidder, instead of the current system where some combination of seniority and food ratings determines the choice of locations?

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Terrace season, cart season

Spring, finally — so I can sit outside and do math on the Terrace, one of the great perks of working at UW. (Photo snapped by my laptop cam in mid-blog!) Warm weather also means the return of the food carts to Library Mall. There are two newcomers this year — FIB (Italian beef) and Santa Fe Trailer (New Mex-Mex.) I tried the Italian beef today: tasty, though the “dipped” version, submerged in the au jus before serving, was a little too soggy to eat as a sandwich per se. I’m looking forward to trying Santa Fe Trailer; Mexican food from the carts is otherwise limited to Senor Pepper’s, which you can tell by the name — right? — is a bit disappointing. If you’re a newcomer to the carts, the best one is Kakilima, the Indonesian cart. Buraka (East African) and Taste of Jamaica are also very good. Many people like Zen Sushi, which serves some interesting non-standard Japanese lunch stuff (like curry noodles) but isn’t my bag. The Chinese and Vietnamese carts are, well, OK. The Vietnamese cart is called “I’m Here,” which is on the one hand charming but on the other hand honestly articulates the only reason to eat there. The Sukho Thai cart, alas, is gone. Well, not exactly — I just learned from the linked article that Santa Fe Trailer is in fact the same physical cart as Sukho Thai, sold, renovated, and festooned with green chilis. Now if I can just convince them to keep selling crazy noodles!

Did you ever hear of a McDonald’s directly adjoining a college campus that couldn’t stay in business? It happened to ours. The wide variety of appealing, superfast lunch choices on the Mall must be one of the reasons.

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