Vendors like Blowin' Smoke Barbeque aren't feeling the bite of winter... yet.
In a place where walking down the street can become something of a winter sport during the final months of the year, Madison's recent bout of (relatively) warm weather has been a relief to many of us. It's also been a blessing for the city's food cart vendors, who have been able to keep warm and extend their business hours further into the month than the weather has allowed in previous years.
The two main problems faced by food vendors during the winter months are related to transportation and warmth. When an overnight blizzard blankets the roads in snow and hidden sheets of ice, driving itself becomes a risky endeavor, especially with a weighty food cart hitched to the back of a truck. And even if a vendor manages to safely inch his or her way through the streets, there's the added difficulty of then maneuvering a cart through inches of drifted or shoveled snow to a designated spot.
"It gets real hard sometimes," says Tuy Anongdeth of LuangPrabang Thai Food, one of the handful of carts still on Library Mall in early December. "You want to stay open, but because of the snow, you can't move your cart anywhere."
Even worse for vendors are the hours spent in front of an open window, allowing gusts of biting wind to spill into the confined space. While some carts have the luxury of insulated interiors, others make due with space heaters and the warmth emitted from their stoves.
But neither of these factors has yet been a problem this winter, as any vendor will tell you with a noticeable smile on their face.
"The weather has been so great recently that we're actually trying to cool ourselves off in here," says Robert Bishop of Blowin' Smoke BBQ, pointing to a small screen window on the side of the cart.
While some food carts will be closed during the holiday season, while their student customers leave town for winter break, some have plans to return later in January if the weather permits it.
"If the weather stays nice like this, we will definitely try and make it out here as much as possible," says Anongdeth, who along with other vendors on Library Mall will be looking to weekly forecasts to plan their schedules.
Other food carts such as Blowin' Smoke and FIB'S, located on the Capitol Square, have already thought of alternatives to bracing the cold, instituting a delivery service for their food in early December.
"Sometimes the weather gets bad enough that dragging a food cart around isn't the safest idea," says Bishop. "But that doesn't mean we won't get the food to you one way or another."