Crazy for Food Carts

By Candice Wagener | Photography By Sunny Frantz

Do we even need to say it?! COVID-19 has affected every aspect of life, and food trucks are no exception. Cancelled events and a large percentage of desk jobs transitioning to WFH status indefinitely means downtown is considerably quiet. There are still a dedicated few out there, ready to feed you lunch — which sounds like the perfect kind of self-care after months of making your own.

BANZO

Beloved Banzo has been Madison’s go-to Mediterranean cart for years, and their cheerful, bright green cart is easy to spot. Want a hearty, healthy vegetarian lunch? Order the Banzo pita, filled with some of the best hummus and falafel in town. Or opt for the F-bomb platter, with tasty, marinated chicken; chopped salad; hummus; and majadra, a rice and lentil combo. banzomadison.com

BRAISIN’ HUSSIES

Having ranked No. 1 in Madison’s annual food cart review last year, you know you’re in for a special experience. Owner Michael Sollinger is bringing healthy, unique dishes packed with flavor in the form of tacos or grain bowls. The Moroccan- inspired bowl with sous vide chicken, a carrot-pepper stew, Moroccan oil-cured olives and preserved tangerine over jumbo couscous has our vote. Although Sollinger says he isn’t operating as of press time because of ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, he shares, “we’re coming back for sure, we’re just not sure when.” We’ll wait. facebook.com/braisinhussies

CARACAS EMPANADAS

Empanadas are deep-fried, Venezuelan pocket pies that contain either savory or sweet fillings. Owner and chef Luis de Dompablo has been cooking up empanadas in Madison for a decade using many of his mother’s original recipes, but also putting his own spin on things. Get the pabellon, filled with slow-cooked, shredded beef, black beans, rice and sweet plantain for that incomparable, sweet-salty bite. Then, treat yourself to an apple and cinnamon, strawberry and chocolate, or banana and chocolate dessert empanada, dusted with powdered sugar. facebook.com/caracasempanadas

CARACAS AREPAS

Luis de Dompablo’s second cart brings another fantastic Venezuelan specialty to Madison. Arepas are corn pockets with a crispy outside and soft inside and are open at the top so the fillings are bursting out. The dough is also a bit thicker and grilled instead of deep-fried, accentuating the masa flavor. Plus, arepas have the best sidekick around: guasacaca sauce, an avocado sauce that is outstanding. Want to go Wisco with your arepas? Order the Queso, simply stuffed with cheddar cheese and butter. facebook.com/caracasempanadas

EL BURRITO LOCO

This charming food truck is hard to miss with its giant picante pepper on top. The owners are creating fresh, flavorful dishes — inspired by their hometown of Mazatlán, Sinaloa — which they prepare and cook every morning before heading out to the Square. Their House Special burrito (shown on P. 74) is chock-full of rice, beans, cheese and a protein of your choice (shredded chicken, ground beef or beans), with the whole outside basted in rich, red enchilada sauce. Enjoy the accompaniments of homemade pico de gallo, guacamole, sour cream and hot or mild salsa. eblfoodcart.com

TOAST

A notable presence for the past few years on Library Mall, Toast advises everyone to “Keep calm and eat a panini.” While they haven’t established a new spot to park yet, hungry customers can order their favorite sandwiches and have them delivered. The turkey panini is a favorite, slathered with pesto and garlic mayo and topped with provolone cheese, red onions, tomatoes, black olives and spinach. toastmadison.com

We’re all too familiar that things change daily, so please consult with specific carts ahead of time in regards to the ordering process, menu and hours.

RIGHT TO YOUR DOOR

With so much uncertainty around COVID-19, many food carts remain shuttered this season. Christine Ameigh, owner of Christine’s Kitchens, the Slide Food Cart and potato chip brand, used her ingenuity to adapt.

Faced with a huge inventory of chips when the quarantine started, Ameigh sold them all online in one day, which was the impetus for creating the Market Ready Program. In collaboration with FEED Kitchens, the program offers products for weekly delivery from more than 40 local small businesses, including carts like Ugly Apple, Good Food, Caracas Empanadas, Little Tibet and the Aloha Wagon.

For more information, visit christines-kitchens.com.

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