The Tastemakers

Stellar Street Eats Melanie Nelson

By Kailey Bender | Photographed by Kaia Calhoun

After a decade of working in various restaurant-industry roles, Melanie Nelson was overcome with an idea she couldn’t shake. “I envisioned myself in a [food] cart with a screen door, serving my customers healthy food,” says Nelson.

Luckily for hungry Madisonians, Nelson acted on her dream and in 2010 opened the Good Food cart that serves seasonal salads, fresh wraps and homemade soups.

Nelson’s cart is by far the most popular for the weekday lunch rush on the Capitol Square; she also parks another on Library Mall. But, turning her blissful vision into a thriving business hasn’t always been romantic. From gallons of spilled soup to sailing down a sidewalk in a gust of wind, Nelson is now a nimble problem-solver in a small space.

She credits her carts’ overwhelming success to her beloved staff of nine (whom she has dubbed “food cart Olympians”) and her knack for creating irresistible menu specials with produce odds and ends. “If I were a superhero my superpower would be repurposing ingredients,” Nelson says, laughing.

See more Madison Tastemakers in BRAVA’s July edition or online at

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