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Friday, August 1, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 78.0° F  Fair
The Paper

MAKING THE PAPER

Cartopia!


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We've been doing a lot with food lately, what with New York Times food guru Mark Bittman coming to town for Green Day and all. Well, we're tantalizing your appetite once again with a look at Madison's rolling culinary institute, the food-cart brigade. Features editor Linda Falkenstein, who also functions as the in-house dining-out expert, surveyed the proprietors and learned about the insides of the outside business.

It turns out that Madison has a pretty representative industry. Certainly not the biggest in the country, it is nonetheless booming. The city does its best to control the number of carts and assure the quality and safety of the food. A common complaint by businesses is that Madison hampers entrepreneurship with excessive regulation. You hear this from some who've tried to get food carts approved, too, but it is pointed out that bad food can do a lot of damage to an unsuspecting population.

Falkenstein does a good job of letting us peek inside the cart; it's good preparation for an upcoming Isthmus event. That would be Isthmus a la Carts, a first-ever convocation of food carts for your dining pleasure scheduled for May 11 at Olin Park. The event will feature around 20 food carts, all accessible for one ticket price ($15 in advance, $20 at the site). The fest is conveniently scheduled from 4 to 8 p.m. on a Friday evening.

There will be music - a customized playlist, I'm told - and the pavilion in case of rain. (But it's not gonna.) There will be plenty to drink, including craft beers from Leinenkugel served by the crew from Madison Magnet. You can buy your tickets at the reduced advance price at the Isthmus office or online at isthmus.com/alacarts and get a preview of the summer cart season. Or just nosh your way into the weekend.

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