The start of Madison's 2013 food cart season at least had two sunny (if chilly and windy) days before the rains set in once again. I was glad for the respite -- I like to see the new carts get off on the right foot. There's a celebratory feel.
Habitual cart diners are always excited to see who's new, hoping to find a temptation that'll shake up their routine, someone serving what may become a new favorite. Maybe even a life changer.
There are, I suppose, as many reasons that people like to get their food from food carts as there are people, but two at the top of the list are a) proximity of cart and b) novelty of cuisine.
Of the few new carts out so far these first two weeks, I found myself most interested in those parked in front of the UW Geoscience building in what I've been calling the West Dayton mini-pod. Since my office is on the Capitol Square, heading halfway across campus doesn't fulfill "proximity," but in weather good enough for bike riding, it's only about an eight-minute pedal.
I was most taken with a new cart called the Fortune Cafe run by Maggie Jingga and her sister. Jingga is Indonesian, as is most of the menu, but told me she added some Italian entrees to the offerings because she noticed that no one nearby was serving Italian food. I must admit I've been thinking far too much about heading back to try the entree described as deep fried mashed potato balls, apparently a common Indonesian street food (as was the balado egg dish I tried).
Jingga also offered me a sample of the dessert cendol -- a sweet, soupy pudding that reminded me of a cross between bubble tea and butterscotch pudding, or at least that's the best comparison I can come up with. It'll be a good summer refresher. Mainly, there was just something friendly and direct about buying food at the Fortune Cafe that I liked. And I think that sense of connection is probably the third major attraction of food carts.
Here are some snaps from opening week.
Locations and more details about Madison's food carts are listed here.