While many of the food carts have hung up their shingles for the season, the intrepid are still cooking for the masses. One of the new carts that participated in the city's September ranking exercise has started coming to the Square almost daily.
Blowin' Smoke Barbecue features Kansas City-style barbecue, says owner-chef Robert Bishop. That means slow-smoked and dry-rubbed, with a ketchup-based, sweet sauce "with maybe a little kick" but not a super amount of heat. Bishop serves the sauce on the side, the meat in hamburger-style buns. Available are beef brisket, pork, ham, chicken, turkey and pastrami. The pastrami has been the biggest hit, somewhat to Bishop's surprise. At 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, he's out of the pastrami and the chicken. A potential customer comes up to the window and, a perfect test case, asks for the pastrami, then asks for a recommendation for a substitute. "The pork or the beef," Bishop suggests. Sandwiches are $5 each; sides of baked beans, coleslaw, potato salad and bean salad are another $1.50.
Bishop, a Kansas City native, used to work construction, but started catering and entering contests on the barbecue circuit. He decided to follow his passion for cooking, and came to Madison four years ago after his sister moved here and told him about the culinary arts program at MATC, which he describes as "awesome." His helper in the cart, Brian Becker, was a classmate.
Bishop says the response from lunchers so far has been "overwhelming, everyone's been very welcoming." He'll be serving barbecue all winter, as long as heavy snow doesn't stop him.
The cart parks in front of the Tenney Building (South Pinckney and East Main), and Bishop says he's trying to get a delivery option started for bad weather, if several people from the same office call in an order to 608-215-0069. Also in the offing: catering. "I have 15 years experience catering in Kansas City," says Bishop, but here it's been hard to pick up catering when "people haven't been able to taste the product." That's a problem no longer.