Bubbles' Doubles - Trinidad and Tobago on West Johnson Street.
Bubbles' Doubles is one of Madison's latest entries into the food cart scene. And despite its brief menu, it's an exciting one, one that brings us snack food from Trinidad and Tobago. It feels like real street food, edibles meant for strolling -- not just food that happens to be sold in containers from a cart. And its a unique entry among Madison eateries.
I first spotted the cart while stuck in car traffic on West Johnson, but circled back later to 1025 West Johnson (in front of Educational Sciences) with my bicycle.
The proprietor -- nicknamed Bubbles -- greeted me and said, "You want to try a Double."
Trinidad and Tobago), an island off the coast of Venezuela, has more diverse culinary influences than you'd expect even for a culinarily diverse area.
Doubles are the premier street food and show most clearly the culinary influence of India. A Double is basically curried chickpeas topped with a vinegary, spicy cucumber relish, held taco-style in a "barra" or fried East Indian flatbread. They're small and snackable (although, remember to grab napkins) at $3. (The name "doubles" comes from the not one but two barra that hold the filling.)
The cart's other offering is dhalpuri roti, another dish with distinct influences from India. The whole offering is rolled up like a big burrito. The roti, however, is more complex than a flour tortilla and yet unlike the Indian bread called roti -- this is a large, slender flatbread stuffed with a thin layer of ground yellow split peas, cumin, garlic and pepper. It's all rolled out so that while eating it, diners won't necessarily notice the layers or the stuffing -- save for the softest areas, where the filling and juices are absorbed into the bread, making its layers flake apart. (This is one of the best parts of the dish.)
The filling is a spicy stew of curried potatoes and either curried chickpeas or tender chicken ($7/$9) that's terrific -- with a flavor that's reminiscent of, but subtly different from, Indian fare. Ask for the hot sauce and catch sight of small specks of tomato and red pepper and a flavor more similar to other Caribbean cuisines.
The result is not real spicy at first; it's more of a slow burn.
Bubbles -- real name Morris Reid -- started the cart in July and is refining operations in preparation for the city of Madison food cart review in September, where he hopes to qualify for a Mall Concourse license and head for a spot on either the Capitol Square or Library Mall.
Reid, who's originally from Trinidad and Tobago, learned cooking from his mom. When he first moved to the U.S., he started in cable TV in Brooklyn, New York; he's been in Madison for 19 years.
Trinidadian foods are "a big deal" on the Eastern seaboard and in Chicago, says Reid. Many stands and shops buy their roti from other shops that specialize in making roti. Reid makes his roti from scratch by himself, which he admits is "labor intensive."
"I grind the peas, knead the flour, leave it rest on the baking stone," he explains. Although the bread is stuffed, it's not like a turnover or like a stuffed naan or paratha. "That's not the way we do it." Reid notes that Trinidad and Tobago is about 40% Indian or Pakistani but that much of the local food has an Indian influence.
Right now, the menu is Doubles and the two varieties of roti; Reid says he's focusing on his process right now and may expand to include more meat offerings in the future and perhaps a rice dish. Currently, he's trying to vend Monday, Wednesday and Fridays in front of Ed Sciences over the noon hour and Saturday nights late night on Broom Street off State. Updates are most frequently found on the Bubbles' Doubles Facebook page.