The eating has been done and the scores tallied -- Madison's 2011 food cart rankings are out.
For the second year in a row, Ingrid's Lunchbox has topped the rankings. The cart also made the Bon Appetit list of best street food in American in 2009 and represented Madison at this year's Street Food Conference in San Francisco back in August. Ingrid's usually vends only during the Saturday Farmers' Market on the Square.
FIB's Fine Italian Beef and Sausage, which vends weekdays on the Capitol Square at Martin Luther King Blvd., came in second overall, although its evaluation score minus seniority points would place it first. (With only four years of seniority to Ingrid's seven, it fell to second.)
Scoring second to FIB's in evaluation score only (minus seniority) was newcomer Banzo.
To backtrack: Every September, a panel of volunteer tasters eat at every operating food cart, and at carts who wish to get into Mall/Concourse vending the following season. Over the course of six days, a panel of testers rate the stands on food taste and quality (40%), cart appearance and presentation (40%) and originality of menu items (20%). To complete the score, years of seniority (capped at seven) and any demerits are figured in. The scores help determine cart placement for the next year. This year, 44 carts participated, down from 46 in 2010.
Looking at the raw data for food evaluation only (jettisoning originality, cart appearance, seniority and demerits), so presumably looking at yumminess only, the rankings go like this:
- Madison Sourdough
- Ingrid's Lunchbox
- Surco Peruvian
- Dandelion Vegetarian
- Lao Laan Xang
- Caracas Empanadas
- Cafe Costa Rica
Luangprabang is a new cart. Other newcomers that participated in the cart review are Tea Garden, Mad City Fry Guy, and Igo Vego.
Tammy Markee-Mayas, of Igo Vego, will be specializing in veggie burgers, with four on the menu: sweet and spicy walnut burger; mystic mushroom burger (featuring three kinds of mushrooms); the veg-out burger (with black beans and loaded with vegetables); and, the chili burger. Markee-Mayas' plan is to use as much local and organic food as possible. While she won't start vending until April 15, 2012, she is going to be serving food at the North Star Awards at the Warner Park Community Center on November 11.
Longtime Library Mall cart Zen Sushi, which has not appeared often this past season, also participated in the review, as did others listed in the official final ranking (PDF).