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Isthmus Food Cart Fest

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Isthmus Food Cart Fest

Postby kimm » Tue May 15, 2012 10:46 am

Am I dense that I missed a thread on this? I'm curious to see some reviews on last weekend's food cart fest. Best of show? How was it formatted since it was a ticketed event? Was it worth the money?
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Re: Isthmus Food Cart Fest

Postby Right Bower » Tue May 15, 2012 11:15 am

Well worth the money. All-you-could sample for $15 ticket. Beer extra.

Perfect weather.

It was a great event overall; low key, not crowded, good setting.
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Re: Isthmus Food Cart Fest

Postby Prof. Wagstaff » Tue May 15, 2012 11:15 am

Most definitely worth the money. I easily ate $15 worth of food in the first hour and then spent the next 3 stuffing myself to the limit. It was a hassle-free event. It was relatively small -- just under 20 carts if memory serves -- so everything was easily accessible, and attendance was fairly low, so there were never long waits. I'm curious if the small numbers were intentional, so as not to overwhelm the carts' capacity, or if a lot of ticket holders either didn't show up or didn't stay for the majority of the event. Either way, it worked out very well. My group staked out some prime picnic table real estate right off the bat, so we were comfortable and content for the duration.

My companions both declared Thai-riffic to be Best In Show -- both the pad thai and the fried rice were delicious hits with us, and the extremely friendly service was also appreciated.
Personally, I enjoyed everything. The only really sour note was some BBQ brisket, which might have been good, had it not been as cold as a well-digger's ass. (I had some BBQ chicken from the same joint at the start of the event, and it was both warm and delicious.) And the only snotty service I got was from one of the dudes at Slide, who was noticeably irked that I came back multiple times to try one of everything they were offering. (Forgive me, I kinda thought trying your stuff was the whole point.) Cilantro kept me from enjoying a handful of dishes, but that's hardly the fault of the chefs (and I managed to eat around it at El Burrito Loco.) Highlight of the event for me: Watching my girlfriend do cilantro-sauce shots from Caracas Empanadas. Other highlights: hummus from Banzo, Italian sausage from FIB's, chicken dish from Surco, cucumber salad from Igo Vego.
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Re: Isthmus Food Cart Fest

Postby kimm » Tue May 15, 2012 11:32 am

Sorry I passed up Thai-riffic on Friday @ library mall, then. They are at an awkward end spot facing Bascom. But the chicken and rice from Surco that I had instead was well worth it. Probably the same thing you had at the fest. It was great.

Glad to hear the fest was good. A little sad I waited too long to get tickets.
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Re: Isthmus Food Cart Fest

Postby kimm » Tue May 15, 2012 11:40 am

Prof. Wagstaff wrote:And the only snotty service I got was from one of the dudes at Slide, who was noticeably irked that I came back multiple times to try one of everything they were offering. (Forgive me, I kinda thought trying your stuff was the whole point.)


I never quite know the correct etiquette here. I think it's wise to make smaller sample portions (e.g., half an egg roll, half a slider) to encourage people to try it all. Because that's what people want-not to feel limited.

As an alternative, I think Burgers & Brews goes well because of the "ticket" plan. Your entrance gets you X# of tickets, so it forces you to be more selective and allows the vendors to make sure there's enough food. A good way to do it, but of course there's a side of me that wishes I could try them all.
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Re: Isthmus Food Cart Fest

Postby jjoyce » Tue May 15, 2012 11:58 am

We capped tickets at 500, which sold out a week before the event, much to our surprise. Some believed we could/should have sold more, but I think that for that price, people want relatively unhindered access to the food. The longest line was six people or so and usually dissipated within five or ten minutes. Our goal was 20 carts and I think we ended up with 18, so that seemed about right in terms of ratio.

I went as a patron, not a staffer, and definitely ate all I could handle. My favorite was Caracas Empanadas, but Thai-riffic and Banzo were also impressive. My mantra for the day was to opt for spicey and that served me well, as long as I had a Leinie's on hand.

The weather couldn't have been better and people seemed to be enjoying themselves, which I think had a lot to do with the size of the crowd (more funky picnic, less Taste of Madison).
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Re: Isthmus Food Cart Fest

Postby green union terrace chair » Tue May 15, 2012 12:12 pm

jjoyce wrote:The weather couldn't have been better and people seemed to be enjoying themselves, which I think had a lot to do with the size of the crowd (more funky picnic, less Taste of Madison).

You mean you won't be adding a WJJO stage next time?
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Re: Isthmus Food Cart Fest

Postby LargeMarge » Tue May 15, 2012 12:43 pm

I really liked that it wasn't too crowded. No line was too unbearable; there were plenty of places to sit. I also like that I didn't have to scream over some band to communicate with my friends. Taste of Madison is a bit of a sensory overload for me.

I never get to the carts on the square so I was happy to try some of their food. The weather was perfect. The location was convenient.

The only thing I would change is the drinks. I am more of microbrew and Diet Coke girl. However, not liking the beer selection helped me save money and allowed be to be sober enough to drive later that night.
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Re: Isthmus Food Cart Fest

Postby TheBookPolice » Tue May 15, 2012 1:17 pm

I'll post my blow-by-blow accounting on my own little patch of internet in the next day or so, but in short: Thai-Riffic's chicken pad thai was great (first visit for me), Banzo's hummus is as spectacular as the rest of the food there (though it was HARD to not get the falafel), and the only real bummers for me were the veggie burgers at Igo Vego.

Happy surprise: I don't think any ticket-buyers were told in advance that Leinenkugel would be more or less debuting the reborn (and delicious) Big Eddy Imperial IPA at A La Carts. The rest of the beers were missable; at $7 for 2 12oz pours, the IIPA was a show-stealer.

edited for grammar
Last edited by TheBookPolice on Tue May 15, 2012 2:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Isthmus Food Cart Fest

Postby LaughingGirl » Tue May 15, 2012 2:15 pm

the only real bummer for me were the veggie burgers at Igo Vego.


I certainly agree with that. I am a very veggie leaning omnivore and was looking forward to trying something new. Husband and I shared a dish that had 4-5 little "burgers" with toppings. Spit out every one. All I could taste was vinegar (a flavor I usually like). It's not that hard to make tasty vegan food. Also have to say that the doughnuts at Monty's were practically raw, and leaden. Spit that out too. Better beer would help, but I liked that there was a water fountain so I didn't fill up on beer. I was pretty full by the time we left. It didn't look like 500 people to me.

Enjoyed everything else that I tried (I was already a rabid Banzo fan) and I liked the laid-back vibe too. Weather was amazing. Rode our bikes as had been stressed by organizers, but found actual bike parking to be somewhat limited.

Overall, lots of fun and lots of tasty treats at a good price. Hope it was worthwhile for the vendors and that it will become a regular event.
Last edited by LaughingGirl on Tue May 15, 2012 3:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Isthmus Food Cart Fest

Postby Right Bower » Tue May 15, 2012 2:16 pm

Yeah, the Big Eddy IIPA was a hit. And gone quickly. I got one.
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Re: Isthmus Food Cart Fest

Postby Prof. Wagstaff » Tue May 15, 2012 2:37 pm

LaughingGirl wrote:...the doughnuts at Monty's were practically raw, and leaden.
I didn't even try one. We were sitting right in front of their cart, and since virtually nobody was going there, I decided the crowd probably knew best and just avoided them. Wasn't really there for sweets anyway.

I also never tried the veggie burgers -- they were just never around when I was ready for a new plate. Sounds like I didn't miss anything. But that cuke salad was yummy! (And my gf was positively overjoyed at the tiny wooden spoon it initially came with.)
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Re: Isthmus Food Cart Fest

Postby Stebben84 » Wed May 16, 2012 1:17 pm

TheBookPolice wrote: Thai-Riffic's chicken pad thai was great (first visit for me)


After reading some of the recs I checked it out today. Great pad thai. Quite flavorful and a nice bit of heat. 6.50 and you get a ton of food. I'll definitely go back and recommend to co-workers.
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Re: Isthmus Food Cart Fest

Postby Hobo » Sat May 26, 2012 10:23 am

I wanted to go but waited too long to buy tickets.
The site said that it was sold out.
Now I read here that it wasn't very crowded.
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Re: Isthmus Food Cart Fest

Postby TheBookPolice » Sat May 26, 2012 2:07 pm

Hobo, see Jason's post above:

jjoyce wrote:We capped tickets at 500, which sold out a week before the event, much to our surprise. Some believed we could/should have sold more, but I think that for that price, people want relatively unhindered access to the food. The longest line was six people or so and usually dissipated within five or ten minutes. Our goal was 20 carts and I think we ended up with 18, so that seemed about right in terms of ratio.
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