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Friday, November 28, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 27.0° F  Overcast
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Santa Fe Trailer joins new Madison food carts on the Library Mall
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Santa Fe Trailer is a welcome addition to the carts, and a nice variation on the Mexican food that's available.
Credit:Linda Falkenstein

After several seasons of stasis, there's been somewhat of a shakeup in the food cart roster -- not just on the Capitol Square, but also on the Library Mall. SukhoThai is no longer. The Greek stand is not around, as those behind it will be opening a full-fledged restaurant at the site of Cleveland's Lunch. But there are at least three new mall carts on hand -- FIB's Fine Italian Beef and Sausage, the Hibachi Hut, and Santa Fe Trailer.

From the beginning of Madison's love affair with the food cart, slick has never been the thing -- all the better if the cart looks as if it's been made in somebody's garage and lovingly hand painted. The new Hibachi Hut, on the other hand, has that sleek aluminum mass-produced look often found on midways at county fairs. Santa Fe Trailer looks like it might well be the former SukhoThai cart.

Santa Fe Trailer lured me in with its homespun look and clever name. Strings of dried red peppers are festooned around the exterior. And the promise of real New Mexican food was irresistible.

Two blue corn enchiladas ($5) were made with red chile cheese, fine blue corn tortillas, and topped with a lively green chile salsa. If your perception of a green chile sauce is hot-hot-hot, this will change your mind. The enchiladas were mellow and comforting. I liked them, but would have enjoyed them more had there been some additional taste or texture (chicken, pork?) to play off of the cheese; they're maybe a little too cheesy.

A cup of the green chili stew ($4) is likewise comfort food. It's not a chili; it follows the New Mexican penchant for potatoes instead of beans (and also with its use of the green chile). With diced cubes of potato and carrot, corn kernels, shredded pork, and green chiles, the taste was similar to a white chicken chili. The peppers provided a mild heat, but the flavor of the pork didn't stand out. A larger bowl-sized serving is available for $6. Comes with a small warm flour tortilla on the side. A vegetarian black bean chili is also on the menu.

Santa Fe Trailer also dishes up red chile tacos (chicken, beef or veggie; $3 or two for $5.50), a chicken burrito ($5), fun Wrangler Wraps with black bean/corn relish and chipotle mayo ($6), guacamole and chips ($2) and, currently, a salad special. It's a welcome addition to the carts, and a nice variation on the Mexican food that's available.

Bonus points: Like newcomer Spice Yatra on the Square, Santa Fe Trailer serves its food on biodegradable cardboard containers instead of Styrofoam and even goes a step further with biodegradable utensils ("made from plants") sometimes known as "compostible cutlery" or "SpudWare."

Santa Fe parks at the Humanities/fountain end of the Library Mall vendors.

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