Madison’s ranking as one of the “Ten Best Cities for Food Trucks” is no surprise to locals, who can find street eats on the UW-Madison campus, the Capitol Square and in local neighborhoods on a regular basis.
The area’s food carts take the region’s fresh ingredients and create dishes that often reflect the owner’s own heritage. If you’re new to the experience, pick a cart like Melted, an urban grilled cheese shop and home to variety of inventive sandwiches. With fun add-on’s like a “shot” of tomato soup for dipping and garlic-cilantro fries, this is a sure bet.
FIB’s Fine Italian Beef and Sausage is another local favorite. This food cart serves up "da taste of Chicago" but also pays homage to the classic Laverne and Shirley television show—a Milwaukee dog smothered with kraut, onions and mustard. For a healthy wrap or salad, venture to the Good Food cart, focusing on fresh ingredients, vegetarian and vegan options.
Adventurous souls should start with SoHo Gourmet, a delicious spin on traditional Asian. Their Veggie So Fiesta dumplings include pinto beans and Pico de Gallo, and the So Hot Chick is stuffed with spicy chicken, blue cheese and a cucumber ranch sauce. Bubbles’ Doubles serves Trinidadian food, which is similar to Indian but with a hint of the Caribbean, and the Saigon Sandwich cart has an amazing Bahn Mi, a Vietnamese-French fusion sub. Banzo is another stand-out and is known for its classic falafel, pita sandwiches and babaganush.
The glorious thing about food carts is you can sample from several different varieties—including dessert! Begin at Fried and Fabulous, where the name says it all. Share some fried cookie dough, but save room for Curt’s Gourmet Popcorn, rated the top food cart among local volunteer tasters. Madison-made flavors include peanut butter and jelly, and caramel with chocolate drizzle.
In addition to finding these street eats downtown, near campus, and in neighborhoods, you can also enjoy them all at once during the Isthmus Food Cart Festival! This festival is held annually in May and includes live music, craft beer and more than 35 local food carts. Madison Eats is another way to experience more than one cart at a time. Their Food Cart Friday tour in the spring and summer is a chance to learn more about our street eats culture and to sample some of the city’s best.
Madison’s street eats scene is diverse and expansive, providing a wealth of flavor throughout the city. For more information on food carts in Madison, including reviews and locations, visit Madison Street Eats.