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Ingrid's Lunchbox tops cart review
New entries and an old favorite will vend in 2011

The final rankings for the city's Mall/Concourse food vendors are out for the 2010 season. Ingrid's Lunchbox takes the number-one spot, up from sixth place in 2009. Ingrid's has racked up seven years of seniority points (the max any cart can have) and received no deductions for any rule violations, both of which helped boost it to the top. The higher a cart scores, the better site selection it gains in the next year.

Johnson Brothers Coffee took second place, up one from last year, followed by the Fruit Stand, a longtime Library Mall vendor.

The list contains a number of new carts that will not begin fully plying their trade until next season. These include some familiar names - Dandelion Vegetarian Foods, for instance, which was sited on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in 2008 and 2009, and Monty's Blue Plate Diner. Dandelion scored an impressive ninth place; Monty's came in at 11.

This year's highest food evaluation score, a 91, went to a new entrant, Good Food, but it placed eighth overall due to lack of seniority points.

All Mall/Concourse food carts go through the food cart review process every year, and newcomers who want to vend the following year also have to be reviewed, says Warren Hansen, the city's street vending coordinator. After completing the review, newcomers could start vending as early as Nov. 1 if there's space, Hansen notes. However, many carts wait until the weather warms up in spring.

Braulio Maximiliano, of the Dandelion, confirms that he and wife Tara took last year off to have a baby. In prior years, the Dandelion has appeared part time; next year, Maximiliano would love to do it full time. Although the cart is vegan and vegetarian, most of the customers are not, though they have found much to love in the sweet potato wrap and a roasted poblano pepper dish. Maximiliano had changed his menu completely from 2008 to 2009; for 2011, he hopes to draw favorite items from both menus and to add breakfast entrees, more vegetables and salads. "We like people to try new things," he says.

Joey Connaughty, general manager of Monty's Blue Plate, is enthused about being able to bring "a mini version of the diner" to the Library Mall, for students who may find the Atwood Avenue location "a trek."

The food will be a reflection of Monty's current menu, with any changes made to enhance transportability: "The Mediterranean platter is now a wrap, for instance, and for the meatloaf sandwich, the sauce will be on the side," says Connaughty. Malts, shakes, doughnuts and coffee will also be served. In addition to serving local Just Coffee, Monty's will offer milk and ice cream from Sassy Cow and farmers' market ingredients. Monty's cart itself will be local, built by a neighbor of Connaughty's in Rio, Wis.

Other new carts besides Monty's to look for next year include Blowin' Smoke BBQ, Yon Yonson, Surco Peruvian Grill, Teriyaki Samurai, Thai-riffic, Almonds Plus and the Bayou New Orleans Style. Good Food, Mama Aurora's Cucina, Mad Dogs Express and La Bamba are all current Southeast vendors who may be making a move.

The complete cart rankings for 2010 are available here (PDF).

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