Isthmus a la Carts Celebrates Food on the Go

Isthmus a la Carts Celebrates Food on the Go
The 2012 Isthmus a la Carts festival. Photo courtesy of getnmahbelly.com.

Between pop-up meals and mobile kitchens, Madisonians love their food on the move. And hordes of hungry people eager to feast on falafel, fried cinnamon buns and frosted cupcakes will get their fix as they descend on Olin Park May 10 for the second annual Isthmus a la Carts.

At this year’s food cart fest, expect new vendors and old favorites (if has ascended to that category already), taps of craft beer and soda, and more green space for bite-sized picnics between visiting carts. But don’t expect to get in if you haven’t already purchased your tickets; the event is sold out.

Twenty-some food carts, including Fortune Café, Taquitos Marimar, El Burrito Loco, SoHo Gourmet Cuisine, Blowin’ Smoke BBQ and Thai-riffic, will be on hand Friday evening to dole out samples to fest-goers. While beverages cost extra, ticket holders can nosh away with impunity—all food is included in the price of the ticket.

The impetus for the inaugural fest was to show off the unique business model of mobile dining and introduce people to the food cart scene. For those who can’t make it to campus or Capitol Square, where carts regularly set up, it’s a way to bring the food to the people.

And bring it they will. We’re talking freshly fried falafel and homemade hummus with pita bread from Banzo, and deep-fried cinnamon buns and deep-fried Oreos from Fried and Fabulous. And Luis Dompablo at Caracas Empanadas, a favorite from last year’s event, serving two of his most popular empanadas: shredded beef and cheese and sweet plantain and roasted garlic.

Food cart fest newcomer Ariel Pesce from In N Out Empanada will also cook up variations of the stuffed pastry: Spinach and cheese, corn, mozzarella, beef or chicken will all be choices. And Pesce will pass out samples of “sweet treat”—fried dough with caramel or dulce de leche on top.

For a fermented snack, head over to the Wormfarm Institute’s artist-designed trailer where co-founder Jay Salinas will be serving samples from Chef K. Clark Pickles and Preserves, an artisanal food start-up. This is first time Wormfarm, a nonprofit organization working to build connections between agriculture and art, will participate at the event.

When ready to satiate a sweet tooth, head over to new vendor Giovanna Couey of custom-order online bakery Frosted for mini cupcakes—choose from lemon, red velvet and chocolate.

The beer will be flowing (it is , after all) but the beverage stars of the show just might be new soda pop darlings Austin and Hallie Ashley, owners of Wisco Pop! Those thirsty to wash down empanadas, pickles, tacos and barbecue can try two flavors of the honey-sweetened soda: GingerBrew and CherryBomb.

The weather is looking mighty fine for Friday afternoon, so cut out of work early and head to Olin Park for the mobile feast. Vendors will pass out samples while supplies last, and if last year’s event is any indication, that means you should get there on time.

Isthmus a la Carts takes place May 10, 4–8 p.m., at Olin Park. For more information, visit isthmusalacarts.com.