Food carts, the off-the-cuff business ventures that mix low overhead with maximum efficiency, are commonplace on the coasts but took longer to hit Milwaukee. Alas, they’re finally here in full force. So how do you find them? Digitally, of course. Tiger Bite, Streetza Pizza, Pita Brothers and Satellite Crepes have amassed thousands of loyal followers […]
Food carts, the off-the-cuff business ventures that mix low overhead with maximum efficiency, are commonplace on the coasts but took longer to hit Milwaukee. Alas, they’re finally here in full force. So how do you find them? Digitally, of course. Tiger Bite, Streetza Pizza, Pita Brothers and Satellite Crepes have amassed thousands of loyal followers on Twitter, where the truck folks tweet their every move. This way, hungry customers can faithfully follow them around like a Phish fan on tour. For the less social media savvy, you can count on them being in Cathedral Square Park every Friday in September (and into October, weather permitting).
You can thank East Town Association for the congregation, as it’s leading the effort to corral Milwaukee’s food carts. “We are looking to grow this program next year and get organized much earlier so that it can last all summer long,” says Peter Adams, East Town’s director of development. For now, Food Cart Fridays is an informal convergence of some of Milwaukee’s most innovative food vendors. So I went and made the rounds.
Intrigued, I stopped at Tiger Bite, a captivating cross between Asian and Mexican cuisines. It’s new to Milwaukee, but the trend is all over the west coast. Immediately, the Pho-nita tacos caught my eye. The name and preparation is a cross between the popular Mexican version of shredded pork, carnitas and pho, the Vietnamese noodle soup piled high with fresh fixins. Order a single for $2.25 or a trio for $6, the mini tacos are served on a white corn tortilla filled with tender, succulent pork and topped with cilantro, lime and bean sprouts – pho-style. It might sound like an odd combo, but it couldn’t taste more right. The egg rolls were a bit greasy on the outside, but the crispy shell gave way to a fresh-tasting blend of shredded veggies. The small menu also offers up a traditional Mexican quesadilla (beef, chicken or cheese) for $5 and a wild card – sweet potato fries for $4.
At Streetza Pizza, the Water Street bar time staple, oversized slices are $3.75. The popular “Slice of Milwaukee” comes with sausage, pepperoni, mushroom and onion, but I opted for the veggie. The crust was crispy and flaky, a result of baking the pizza at two different temperatures on stone decks in the in-truck custom oven. The hearty slice was overloaded with cheese (oh, delicious cheese!) and fresh veggies, but the sauce was sparse and a bit bland. Although Streetza has won accolades by several local and national media outlets, I wasn’t blown away.
Craving more, I went to Pita Brothers in search of something light and fresh. Their futuristic-looking, battery-electric vehicle doubles as a self-contained mobile kitchen, complete with refrigeration and a grill. Whether you opt for the more Americanized Chicken-Bacon-Ranch or the traditional falafel, Pita Brothers has something for everyone. Rolled Lebanese flatbread neatly holds the ingredients made fresh in front of your eyes and customized with veggies of your choice. Although the bread was a bit dry and lacking in the taste department, the made-from-scratch falafel, hummus and tahini sauce combo was authentic and delicious. Full disclosure: My family owns a pita bread company, so I’m particular about my pita. Wraps run between $5 and $6.
Rounding out the experience, I couldn’t pass up a trip to Satellite Crepes, so I decided to indulge in a little dessert. The organic crepes are made with buckwheat or vegan garbanzo batter, which yields a light, fluffy taste, but sturdy, foldable crepe. Sweet or savory varieties range from $4-7. I had the standard Satellite crepe with Nutella, which never disappoints. For something heartier, try the Supercluster with prosciutto, mozzarella, basil, tomato and truffle oil – pardon the pun, but it really is out of this world.
George’s Dogs was also onsite with gyros, hot dogs, Polish sausages and brats. The only thing Food Cart Fridays lacks is ample seating. Tables and benches are hard to come by in Cathedral Square, so you might want to pack a blanket if you chose to stay and dine.