Isthmus Food Cart Fest

Where are you eating and what do you think? What's opening, closing, succeeding, failing?
msnflyer
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Re: Isthmus Food Cart Fest

Postby msnflyer » Sat May 26, 2012 7:42 pm

Right Bower wrote:Yeah, the Big Eddy IIPA was a hit. And gone quickly. I got one.


Back in the old days it was rumored that Big Eddy was a palomino. Just sayin'.

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Re: Isthmus Food Cart Fest

Postby kimm » Thu May 02, 2013 3:52 pm

Anyone know how many tickets were sold this year? Trying to figure out how to compare to last year's reports on the crowd.

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Re: Isthmus Food Cart Fest

Postby jjoyce » Thu May 02, 2013 5:39 pm

750

More people, more carts.

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Re: Isthmus Food Cart Fest

Postby fennel » Thu May 02, 2013 8:25 pm

jjoyce wrote:750
More people, more carts.
Does that imply a more reasonable cost of admittance? As I remember, it was previously way north of $12, which would be a pricey lunch for most people.

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Re: Isthmus Food Cart Fest

Postby thebookpolice » Thu May 02, 2013 10:49 pm

fennel wrote:
jjoyce wrote:750
More people, more carts.

Does that imply a more reasonable cost of admittance? As I remember, it was previously way north of $12, which would be a pricey lunch for most people.

The price last year was, in my opinion and the opinions of friends who were also in attendance, extraordinarily reasonable considering the volume of food to which attendees had access. Also, this isn't lunch.

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Re: Isthmus Food Cart Fest

Postby jjoyce » Fri May 03, 2013 2:02 pm

Tickets were $17. Some think that's a little pricey, but lots of others don't. The event has sold out.

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Re: Isthmus Food Cart Fest

Postby Prof. Wagstaff » Fri May 03, 2013 2:17 pm

You can put me down in the "extremely reasonably priced" column.
I went out of my way to try as many different things as possible and ran out of time and belly space before getting to everything. I call that a bargain. Looking forward to this year's.

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Re: Isthmus Food Cart Fest

Postby kimm » Fri May 03, 2013 4:09 pm

I was worried tickets sales might have doubled, so happy with the 750, and more carts.

I think the price is really reasonable and have no complaints about that. There's a difference between affordable and reasonable. Something can be reasonably priced (which I seriously think this is, for the amount of food available, event production, and convenience), but not be affordable for everyone. Trying to make an event affordable for everyone has put many events out of business.

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Re: Isthmus Food Cart Fest

Postby kimm » Mon May 13, 2013 9:38 am

Had a good time, despite the cold, dreary weather.

We only skipped two carts...unfortunately one was BJ's Kolaches. They had the longest lines and it wasn't moving fast, and by then, we weren't so hungry.

Standouts for me:

Caracas Empanadas: Both offerings were superb. So craving another plaintain empanada. Sorry I never got around to voting Best of Fest, because they had my vote.

Taquitos Miramar: Really flavorful, though a friend's tamale was visibly a little soft. My filling was nicely pillowy. Great spice level.

Soho (which apparently won Best of Fest): Great dumplings and really nice people. The traditional pork one was a little boring, but others were great, especially the chicken.

Other notes:
-Blowin' Smoke's servings were a little small to feel like I could adequately judge.

-Slide's meatball slider was really good, but didn't love my hubby's buffalo chicken. I'd go back to keep trying their stuff. The chips were perfection.

-Surco was closed by the time I got around to that section...or were they ever open? I frequent their cart and LOVE it, so it was fine to miss them at the fest.

-The vegan BLT at Ladonia was pretty good. I'm not a vegetarian, so always prefer real bacon, but I could see it having massive appeal to someone skipping the meat. Bread was really good.

-Fried and Fabulous was fun. Probably not something I'd seek out, but fun to try.

-I was sad that THAI-riffic didn't have pad thai by the time I got there. I was looking forward to that.

ETA: I can't imagine selling more tickets and still being able to enjoy the event/have it worth the money. We arrived at 4:30 and by 5:00 lines were 15-25 people deep at 75% of the carts (the exceptions being some of the juice carts and the vegan cart). Didn't sit down once.

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Re: Isthmus Food Cart Fest

Postby Prof. Wagstaff » Mon May 13, 2013 9:57 am

I had a fantastic time as well.
And I second the plantain empanada as Best of Fest.

Yes, there were some long, slow-moving lines, but there was plenty of time to sample everything. I only skipped a handful of carts (didn't want a shot of smoothie and have no interest in deep-fried sweets) and I never went back to one I'd already visited. By 7:00 I was totally full and it was time to go. (OK, I was totally full by 6:00, but wasn't about to give up that early.)

The smoked sausage at Blowin' Smoke was amazing.
The turkey dumpling at Soho was fantastic.
Everything is always wonderful at Banzo.
I've already forgotten which Thai place was which, but all but one of them was giving huge portions, which was nice, and everything I had was pretty great. One of them was too hot for me to finish, but my Fest-buddy was more than happy to clean my bowl.
Really, really loved Home Grown. Their pickled veggies were a nice change of pace from most of the other options, and the beer jelly was out of this world.
Was definitely disappointed that Surco seemed to be MIA the whole Fest. What was the deal, I wonder?

All in all the whole event was a smashing success. I had a few tried-and-true faves, sampled a bunch of stuff I'd never had before, found all the vendors to be extremely friendly and accomodating (I didn't go back to any carts twice, but there were a few places I asked to try two things and everyone was always happy to oblige), and stuffed myself into a near-coma.

Extra props: The on-tap water was very nice, and definitely preferable to all the bottled water I purchased last year.

Only downside: Terrible music played way too loud. I'm assuming the radio station is a sponsor? Really unpleasant and completely inescapable. I would strongly urge Isthmus to reconsider next year. Honestly, there's no reason to have any music there -- it's an outdoor event in a beautiful location -- but if there must be, how about taking the volume down a few notches and playing something other than total drek?

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Re: Isthmus Food Cart Fest

Postby Prof. Wagstaff » Mon May 23, 2016 3:24 pm

Anyone else attend this year's event?

I think this was the last year for me for a few reasons:
1) Larger crowd (or so it seemed -- could just be that it was less spread out in then new location?) which means success for Isthmus, of course, but too much for me. That's just a personal thing, not a knock on the event at all -- I simply don't like being in such large crowds for very long. That said . . .
2) A good chunk of the carts this year were offering a lot of fully-priced menu options. I totally get why they'd want to do this but it meant that in many cases, the long lines moved extremely slowly. This kinda stinks for those of us who paid for the opportunity to enjoy small samples but were stuck waiting for the carts to prepare actual menu items. Only one cart I saw was smart enough to set up a sample table on the side and use the cart proper for full menu service only.
3) Isthmus remains intent on drowning this event in way too loud music. I complained about this last year too. The switch from a radio station to a DJ just made this worse. The bass was so loud my girlfriend and I couldn't stand it after only a little more than an hour and had to leave. Nobody was paying any attention to the music that I saw so I again question why it's there at all. It was a beautiful day, why not just let people enjoy being outdoors without bombarding them with (mostly crappy) music? At the very least, either choose less obnoxious music or hire a band or two to at least give people a reason to take a break from waiting in line for food and check out some live music.

Here are my girlfriend's thoughts:
Mother Nature's contribution to Cart Fest was an extremely hot sunny day. It was nice to have a big tent with tables and chairs so one could get out of the sun for a bit, take a load off, and eat in the shade. As the day went on and the fest got more and more crowded, ducking into the tent to eat in the shade before heading back out proved impossible. Folks were staking out entire tables with table cloths, jackets, mats. A friend and I just got a very soupy portion of curry and while I had eaten almost all of my food standing in the sun, we both didn't want to attempt doing so with the curry. But, despite many empty chairs, I was told that the seats were taken.

Bottled water was sold for $2 at the beer stations. While it was nice that some of the proceeds from all beverage sales went to (the veterans?), the Madison Water Utility truck was missed. Free ice-cold water, friendly utility staff, sometimes a free water bottle. If the Cart Fest is going to be held later in the month of May from now on, the utility truck could also set up its tent with sprinklers so folks could cool down. They do that at the Dane County Fair.

The Zero Waste program was a huge success this year. A big thank you to all of the Zero Waste volunteers.

The worst part of the Fest was the choice of music which was a DJ playing "dance music" ? "club music"? with the bass cranked up to an insanely loud level. This was not background music. I am not sure what vibe Isthmus was going for hiring a DJ. A dance party didn't break out--at least I think it didn't as my companions and I left after only an hour and 15 minutes. If dancing was the goal, why not hire Madison faves VO5?

It was hot, the lines were extra long, but I could have dealt with those things much longer if there wasn't horrific loud bass constantly pounding. After and hour and 15 minutes my temples were pounding and I could not stand it any more. And I was still hungry.


Couldn't agree more about the Zero Waste stations this year, btw. Last year this didn't really work as the stations were not conveniently located but this year there were drop-off stations everywhere. Nice job, Isthmus.

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Re: Isthmus Food Cart Fest

Postby Ned Flanders » Mon May 23, 2016 3:31 pm

Man, I never complain about a "hot day" in this part of the country.

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Re: Isthmus Food Cart Fest

Postby rabble » Mon May 23, 2016 3:49 pm

Prof. Wagstaff wrote:Here are my girlfriend's thoughts:
The worst part of the Fest was the choice of music which was a DJ playing "dance music" ? "club music"? with the bass cranked up to an insanely loud level. This was not background music. I am not sure what vibe Isthmus was going for hiring a DJ. A dance party didn't break out--at least I think it didn't as my companions and I left after only an hour and 15 minutes. If dancing was the goal, why not hire Madison faves VO5?

I had considered going and got sidetracked by friends doing something else, and have been wondering if I should have ditched em and gone to the fest.

Thank you very much for setting my mind to rest. I'm really glad I missed this one.

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Re: Isthmus Food Cart Fest

Postby snoqueen » Mon May 23, 2016 4:21 pm

Does anyone actually LIKE that super-loud music with the pounding bass? It hits me right in the head some weird way and I can't get out of there too soon. Nobody can talk with their friends without screaming at them, you can't order food or drink, you're just walking around in pain looking for the exits. Later on you can't hear right for an hour or so and you talk twice as loud as normal.

I like listening to music as much as the next person but there's a point where it turns negative. Bringing ear plugs is one solution, or padded headphones. But why is this necessary at all?

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Re: Isthmus Food Cart Fest

Postby fennel » Tue May 24, 2016 8:51 pm

snoqueen wrote:Bringing ear plugs is one solution, or padded headphones. But why is this necessary at all?
What was that short story — Bradbury, maybe? — where the citizenry were required to wear thought-interrupting headphones that delivered periodic mind-shattering blasts of noise?

Maybe it's something along those lines.

And since this is supposed to be a promotional event, why isn't it just free?


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