Browsing articles in "food cart"
Oct 22, 2014
Jim Benson

Familiar FIB’s tops Madison’s 2014 food cart rankings

The official city of Madison food cart rankings for 2014 have been compiled and there’s a familiar name topping the list: FIB’s Fine Italian Beef and Sausage. FIB’s also topped the cart rankings in 2012.

To be clear, the FIB’s in question is the original FIB’s, also dubbed FIB’s 1, which vends at Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Main Street on the Square. FIB’s opened a second cart in 2013 that has been vending on or near Library Mall; FIB’s 2 ranked 25th this year.

The number one ranking for FIB’s 1 is helped with its seven points for seven years of seniority, plus consistent Chicago-centric branding from the cart (complete with Chicago-themed tunes) to its focused menu and carefully prepped foods.

Every fall, a committee of two dozen or so enthusiastic cart-eaters, recruited by street vending coordinator Warren Hansen, eats at every cart during a two-week review period. (Full disclosure: This year, I was a member of the committee.) Committee members are charged with evaluating each cart on a number of criteria, and scores are weighted 40% to food, 40% to “apparatus” (which includes evaluating cart design for both visual appeal and service practicality, as well as cleanliness and maintenance) and 20% to originality (with regard to both menu and cart design). Committee members must visit 80% of the carts or their scores are not counted.

Points are added for seniority (this tops out at 7 years, though, no matter how long the cart has been vending); deductions are made by the city for health or vending code violations. Top carts get their first pick of sites for the following year. If a cart’s scores fall below 70, further work is deemed necessary before it is allowed to vend.

Two carts had deductions for “significant health or vending violations” — SoHo Gourmet with seven and Hibachi Hut with five. Most carts have no deductions or just one.

This year, 50 carts participated, down slightly from last year’s 53 carts, but still up from 2012′s 48.

Here are the top ten carts in the city’s official scoring for 2014:

  1. FIB’s 1
  2. Good Food 1
  3. El Burrito Loco
  4. Curt’s Gourmet Popcorn (MLK at Doty Street)
  5. Zen Sushi
  6. Slide
  7. Caracas Empanadas
  8. Teriyaki Samurai
  9. Surco Peruvian
  10. Fresh Cool Drinks

A slightly different view of the current cart scene results if one considers what the committee came up with from the review period only (including food, originality and appearance scores, but leaving aside seniority and demerits). It’s easy to see how seniority points can really affect the overall list.

Here’s this somewhat altered top ten:

  1. Good Food 1
  2. SoHo Gourmet
  3. Good Food 2
  4. Slide
  5. Melted
  6. Ladonia Cafe
  7. Caracas Empanadas
  8. Curd Girl
  9. FIB’s 1
  10. Umami Dumpling

Looking at the list this way shines a light on some of the up-and-coming carts like Slide, a non-burger slider sandwich cart; Melted, a fancy grilled cheese cart; Curd Girl, home to ethereal fried cheese curds and housemade dipping sauces, and Ladonia Cafe, which features “healthy comfort food” that also happens to be vegan.

Worth noting here are the high scores for Good Food 2, a brand new cart from Melanie Nelson, who has replicated her popular salad/wrap/soup cart (the original Good Food usually vends at Main and Pinckney Streets) with a somewhat different menu, although alike in concept. Good Food 2 was the highest-scoring of the new carts jockeying for spots in 2015.

For new carts that have not vended before and aim to start regular vending next season, overall scoring from the review committee looked like this:

  1. Good Food 2
  2. Cali Fresh (a.k.a. Marimar Mexican Fresh)
  3. Pagoda Smoothie
  4. Café Social
  5. Bulgogi Burrito 2
  6. Blair Street BBQ
  7. Imperial Pops
  8. Marimar on Wheels
  9. Say Cheese
  10. Johnson Public House

The lineup of future vendors lacks any radically new cuisine or food type for Madison carts (unlike last year’s high-scoring Melted, for instance, which brought the grilled cheese trend to town).

Two of these new carts (Bulgogi Burrito 2 and Pagoda Smoothies) have had previous menu incarnations (as Wei’s Food to Go and Tea Garden, respectively) but retain the same ownership, and so retain their seniority points for their final scores.

View the complete 2014 rankings.

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Oct 21, 2014
Jim Benson

Restaurant News: It’s no lie, FIB’s comes out on top in annual food cart review

John Handley, who owns and operates two food carts called FIB’s, one on the Capitol Square and one on Library Mall, earned the top ranking in the 2014 city of Madison food cart review.

FIB’s (for Fine Italian Beef and Sausage) beat out 49 other carts in the annual review, conducted on Library Mall and around the Capitol Square over 12 days between Sept. 22 through Oct. 4 by the city’s food cart review panel.

The panel included 27 reviewers invited by Madison Street Vending coordinator Warren Hansen, who released the results Tuesday.

Vendors were judged on food, appearance and originality. The higher the score, the more likely the cart owner will be assigned to the site they apply for in the following vending year.

The FIB’S 1 cart, selling mostly Italian beef and Italian sausage sandwiches, Chicago hot dogs and meatball sandwiches, got a near perfect score and also earned points for seniority since it’s been around seven years now.

Good Food, a 4-year-old cart serving wraps, salads and soups on the Square, near 33 E. Main St., came in second. El Burrito Loco, also on the Square, and in business for at least seven years, came in third.

Rounding out the top 10 were Curt’s Gourmet Popcorn; Zen Sushi; Slide, which offers creative meat and vegetarian slider burgers; Caracas Empanadas, Teriyaki Samurai, Surco Peruvian Food and Fresh Cool Drinks. 

The site assignments are permanent for the next vending year which runs April 15, 2015, through April 14, 2016, Hansen said.

There were 50 carts that were judged, and vendors received extra points for seniority and got docked points for health violations, he said.

Some carts will remain through the winter, particularly the ones on Library Mall which were displaced in recent months because on construction. 

“More of them may stay around to sort of recoup their losses. It’s almost over. It’s almost over,” Hansen said, noting that construction is supposed to be completed Oct. 31. “Fairly soon they are going to be able to return.”

Handley got into the food cart business after a career in advertising, knowing nothing about cooking. When people ask him what it’s like running the food cart, he tells them, “it’s like going camping twice a day and feeding all the campers.”

The name FIB’s was born out of the long-standing rivalry between Wisconsin and Illinois. When Handley moved his family here from Chicago in 1994 for an advertising job, his children were playing with some neighborhood kids and came back and said, “Dad, everybody’s calling us a FIB. What’s a FIB?”

“It was our first day in Wisconsin basically,” he said, adding that he told them a fib was “a lie.”

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Oct 21, 2014
Jim Benson

Papaya King Rolls Out New Food Cart Wednesday

102114papayacart.jpg
(courtesy Papaya King)

Following the success of its brand new food truck, frankfurter purveyor Papaya King will launch an additional food cart for vending their delicious dogs. For its launch tomorrow, the cart will park outside of Macy’s in Herald Square, operating from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; the cart will also be available to rent for private events. There’s nothing more NYC than a hot dog cart at your wedding!

Or before a movie!

Prices are only a bit steeper than your classic dirty water dog—if you’ve visited a hot dog cart recently, hot dogs are sometimes $3.50 each, it’s ridiculous! Here, two dogs with a drink is just $7 or an extra 50 cents to add any two toppings like cheese or chili or onions. Other street classics like pretzels ($2) and knish ($2.50) are available, plus more State Fair-minded snacks like Fried Oreos ($4). Finally, it wouldn’t be PK without a tropical drink to accompany your tubed meat; they’ll offer flavors like mango and papaya for $3 each.

Papaya King Food Cart Menu 1

Papaya King Food Cart Menu 2

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Oct 20, 2014
Jim Benson

The NYC Cook Who Turned a Tiny Food Cart Into His Biggest Dream

NEW YORK, New York — On a hot Friday afternoon, a herd of customers flank both sides of the food cart, waiting on their South Indian fare. The phone rings loudly with takeout orders. Yet New York food vendor Thiru Kumar calmly shuffles between tasks, giving everyone due attention.

Better known as the Dosa Man, Kumar opened his tiny world-renowned cart, NY Dosas (a dosa is a South Indian crepe), in 2001. Soon he amassed a cult following; local and international patrons visit year-round to buy his inexpensive and flavorful street eats. His accolades are many: Listed in 42 countries’ guidebooks, his was the first vegan dosa cart in the world. He has fan clubs in California and Japan.

Today he serves crunchy, oily samosas stuffed with vegetables and potatoes. Hungry patrons chat while waiting in a long line; kids play in the park as cars zoom by, horns and sirens blaring. The frenzied pace is typical at the cart’s southwest corner location of Washington Square Park, where Kumar has parked since opening.

He talks of his life over the din of the city:

He’s from Jaffna, Sri Lanka.

Little potato and one samosa, boss?

He learned to cook from his mother and grandmother.

Mild? Spicy?

His first experiences cooking were for their family of six brothers and one sister — where he sometimes stole second helpings for himself, he laughs.

Samosa dosa, OK.

He steals a second to himself, and laughs.

Written up first by New York magazine in 2002, NY Dosas is covered with clips from newspapers around the world. Here is one from China, he says — and one from France, Japan and London. Kumar’s cart also displays the coveted Vendy Cup certificate, which he won in 2007 after years of being voted into the vending community’s yearly street food competition.

He usually works Monday through Saturday, from 12 to 3 p.m. — sometimes earlier, sometimes later, depending on the day. He simply stays until he runs out of food.

Kumar’s story is that of the American dream: An immigrant moves to New York City and makes it big with an idea. But Kumar’s story is also very much his own, that of a man who wanted to do things differently, a man ready to charge at even the biggest challenges.

Kumar spent his youth in Sri Lanka, cave diving in jungles and racing motorcycles on a makeshift track. As a diving instructor, he amassed a group of eager pupils; together, they explored far-flung locations previously undiscovered by humans.

Far from civilization (“No lifeguard, nothing… only animals rescue me” he says), he’d wake up early in the morning to cut vegetables and cook them with noodles, rice and fish on stones over a wood fire, smoke rising through the rich foliage of the jungle.

Later, as a travel agent at his own in company in Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo, Kumar took a business trip to Bangkok. He stopped by a particular food truck and inquired whether he could cook his own food. She allowed it, and he paid. He went back every subsequent trip to do the same.

“I thought, ‘This what I’m going to do one day,’” he remembers.

In 1990, at age 18, Kumar married his wife, Rajini, in a “love marriage,” atypical at the time. After fathering their now 4-year-old daughter, Sajini, Kumar won the green card lottery in 1995. So like many immigrants in search of better opportunities, Kumar and his family immigrated to New York City.

The family moved to Flushing, Queens, where some of New York’s small Sri Lankan community mixed with the bigger South Indian community. (“Still live there,” he says. “11355 — never changed the zip code.”) The two cultures are similar, especially when it comes to Kumar’s ethnic group, which speaks Tamil as its mother tongue and exists in populations from Sri Lanka to India to Malaysia to Mauritius. His own family is spread out from France to England to Canada.

At first, Kumar took whatever job he could get, his wife dedicated to the upkeep of the house and raising Sajini. He worked in construction; in a gas station; managing his friend’s restaurant, the Dosa Hutt, all the while inquiring about what it would take to start his own food cart. Sri Lanka hadn’t had a street food scene like Thailand. But New York, with its iconic hot dog and roasted peanut stands, did.

To open a food cart in the city takes two steps, explains Street Vendor Project’s staff attorney Matt Shapiro. As a nonprofit, SVP helps vendors with daily difficulties like ticketing, and builds a community that can make citywide change on their behalf. The first step is the license, administered by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and consisting of food safety classes and various certificates. Second, vendors require a permit, which includes applications, inspections and other steps. With these two components in hand, one can open a food cart.

But complications, of course, still arise. Only 4,000 permits can be doled out throughout the city at any given time. One can be stuck on the waiting list for 20 years, says Shapiro, so vendors often rent the permits for thousands of dollars or work for someone else.

After looking into exactly what was needed to open a cart, Kumar acquired the food vending license after three and a half years. Instead of trying to get a regular permit, though, he opted for a special one that allows him to vend specifically in Washington Square Park (the only place at the time with vegan restaurants, he says).

The permit would cost $27,000.

Kumar saved up for several years, designed his very own cart (akin to New York’s classic silver hot dog stands), and began telling family and friends that his new venture was a South Indian vegan food cart.

Those around him were skeptical.

“At that time, no one really sold anything other than hot dogs and pretzels on street carts,” says Kumar’s daughter Sajini, now 24. “It was unheard of to have Indian food, which is difficult to eat.”

But Kumar was adamant about his new idea.

At the time, he was transitioning from eating everything to a fully vegan diet, surrounded by friends with similar lifestyles. So he decided the cuisine he grew up with and loved would be what he served to customers: thin, addictive dosas; thick pancakes with vegetables, called uthappam; rich and doughy potato-filled appetizers, such as samosas and vegetable roti, cooked in a mixture of common Indian spices. He created some recipes based on what he knew; others he would invent.

He opened in December 2001. At the beginning, a “lot of yoga people, lot of celebrities” came to NY Dosas, he says. When the media got wind of his venture and SVP launched its now-famed Vendy Awards in 2005, though, business really picked up.

The Vendys are an annual picnic-style celebration, a fundraising effort and a way to highlight small business owners. Throughout the year, street food lovers nominate their favorite vendors, and a panel of celebrity judges votes on their favorites. Kumar was one of the Vendys’ first participants.

On this hot Friday afternoon, NY Dosas features fliers for the event’s 10-year anniversary: “Support NY Dosas at the Master’s Cup.” Past winners can’t compete for the Vendy Cup itself, but as this is an anniversary year, the Master’s Cup highlights winners past.

Saturday of the event, Kumar’s cart stands out among the rest, modest in its old-school style next to sleek, intimidating, brightly colored food trucks. As usual, the NY Dosas line never abets; people wait to try his signature Special Pondicherry, the dosa he invented and which won him 2007’s cup.

Vendors walk around the family-style event with samples — falafel, donuts, ice cream, German soul food, Bolivian lamb, French Canadian-inspired meals, pan-Asian. The judges sit in their own tent by the entrance, nodding to each other and taking notes in between bites from their paper plates.

Mexican food cart Calexico would win the Master’s Cup that day, and a different vegan food cart, Cinnamon Snail, the Vendy Cup.

Days start early for the Dosa Man, getting up at 4:45 or 5:45 a.m., depending on his errands. He meets up with his two or three morning helpers at the half-kitchen he rents from a Greek restaurant in Queens. He cooks for several hours before sitting down for breakfast.

This particular Monday morning, Kumar gets to his spot in the park around 11:15 as usual, pulling NY Dosas up a small hill and wedging in the bricks that hold the cart in place. A man walking by with his bicycle says, “What’s up, Dos?” and holds the cart as Kumar sets it up. “Thanks man,” says Kumar, and the man keeps walking.

He expands the green and white umbrella above the cart, which reads “Keep Parks Clean” (part of the permit’s regulations), turns on the grill and displays his numerous newspaper and magazine clips.

Within minutes, customers start inquiring when they can order.

Then he’s serving, inviting onlookers to watch him make the dosas, making sure orders are exactly right. Volunteers take down phone orders, count money and talk to customers. He’s not sure how many volunteers are in his network in total; 21 are registered, while others come sporadically to help with various aspects of the business.

Stanley Lee is one. A former NYU grad student focusing on international human rights, Lee first shouted out to Kumar from line in 2007, asking if he’d like some help, and has been volunteering ever since. Like Kumar, Lee’s parents immigrated to New York City, his father a political refugee from China’s Cultural Revolution.

When the food runs out at around 4 p.m., Kumar closes up shop, brings the cart back to its garage around the corner and drives back to his kitchen, where his team will help cut vegetables for the next day. He gets home around 9 or 10 p.m.

But Kumar has the boundless energy it all requires.

“He never sits still,” says daughter Sajini. “If I saw my dad sitting for hours in front of the TV I’d be like, ‘OK, what’s wrong.’”

At the stand that Monday morning, Kumar, gray-eyed and moustached, dons his graffiti-font “Thiru the Dosa Man” T-shirt. He also wears a baseball cap (part of the regulations) and a necklace of thick, brown rudraksha beads, a symbol of his devout Hinduism.

He tells stories about his customers as they order. This one is an NYU professor; his girlfriend comes here, too. This woman is from his hometown of Jaffna (“His dosas are as authentic as the ones we make at home,” she says). At one point, a man calls in an order. “Ya mon,” answers Kumar, “12:00 is ready … OK. One love,” he laughs and hangs up. “Rastafarian vegetarian. He can only have food here.”

Meanwhile, benches around the stand fill up with people devouring his lunches.

A longtime fan arrives to place her order. WNYC senior editor Andrea Bernstein comes back both for the dosas and the special attention. “It’s nice to get a little love with your lunch,” she says.

Food carts were not quite as popular in the NYU area when Kumar first started. Now, tens flank the streets of the school by night, which Kumar attributes to his popularity.

Kumar explains that others have, in fact, tried to emulate his dosa stand success. A man from a halal food truck tried to start a dosa cart on West 4th Street but closed within three months. A dosa cart has opened in Morningside Heights, as well.

“Me, no, I never scared of nothing,” Kumar says. “From small days, I don’t know, I never scared of nothing.”

Moreover, entrepreneurs are translating food cart success into bigger business ventures. A woman who made arepas in Jackson Heights recently opened her own restaurant. A few halal guys who had a stand on 53rd Street launched a brick and mortar location, too.

But what does success really mean to Kumar?

“Success mean as long as you satisfied what you’re doing, and then you pay all the bills, stay out of trouble — that’s enough success,” he says. “As long as you happy and you [make] surrounding people also happy, then you’re successful.”

So would he say that he’s successful?

“Of course, yeah!”

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Oct 16, 2014
Jim Benson

Drink Mobile

Tidbit Food Farm and Garden doesn’t look much like the apocalypse.

It’s a sunny
afternoon, and Portland’s newest food-cart pod—with 20 eateries, a
mobile apothecary and a school bus selling vintage dresses—is bustling
with families. An eight-deep selection of craft brews is served to
beer-garden patrons from a cart, while a mother squeezes pears under a
tent staffed by Canby’s Parsons Farms. An elderly Israeli man, standing
near the Aybla Grill cart, offers advice on hummus.

This scene is a
surprise from what we expected back in 2012—and even earlier this year.
Two years ago, the city tried desperately to stop the Oregon Liquor
Control Commission from allowing beer service from cart pods, saying it
would result in “increased crime, traffic accidents, fatalities, public
nuisances or other harms to the public safety.” That hasn’t happened,
obviously.

This
June, Portland looked to be losing eight of its pods to development
within six months—including iconic pods Cartopia and Good Food Here,
which were both eventually saved from the ax. Not long before, the same
fate befell the lot four blocks from what’s now Tidbit, where
LEED-certified apartments now perch atop the site of the former D Street
Pod. The scene was looking grim.

So what saved the cart pod? To hear some cart operators tell it, beer.

The original
steel-wheeled potluck was a largely chaotic affair, predicated largely
on the real-estate nosedive of 2007 and 2008. From Big Ass Sandwiches to
Potato Champion, those early food carts were seemingly the only thing
that could grow on fallow real estate that suddenly looked about as
fertile as Holly Hunter in Raising Arizona. “I was stuck holding a
big chunk of land with a huge mortgage payment,” says Roger Goldingay
of the plot that now houses beer bar Prost! and the Mississippi
Marketplace pod. “Somebody asked me if I could put a food cart on it,
and I said yes.” Having the bar and carts together is enough to make the
pod financially stable.

Increasingly,
developers are more willing to view food carts as a business unto
themselves, not merely a stopgap until they gather funding to plunk down
a condo. By the time Goldingay moved on to start massive cart pod
Cartlandia along the Springwater Trail on Southeast 82nd Avenue, he was
looking for property specifically to house food carts. And beer was
always part of the plan. It’s now served both out of a cart and in an
onsite bar called the Blue Room. Both licenses were opposed by the city
of Portland. But these days, Cartlandia is so busy that Goldingay
sometimes runs out to the parking lot to direct traffic.

“Now we’re a
destination for assisted living centers,” he says. “They come in their
buses and unload. Everybody comes. There are kids everywhere.” Goldingay
says that while he doesn’t make a lot from sales of beer, it widens the
carts’ audience. “It’s a nice thing to have a beer with a burger,” he
says.

He’s not the only one
who sees booze as a key piece of the puzzle. Brunch truck Fried Egg I’m
in Love co-owner Jace Krause says business is “way up” since they
started serving beer and “Sangria-ciata” cocktails blending wine and San
Pellegrino. Just down from Tidbit, fine Italian food cart Artigiano now
serves wine and hosts live jazz. Even farther down Division, the A La
Carts Food Pavilion hosts a cocktail cart on weekends.

“Having a beer garden
was critical to the whole notion of having a seating area,” says Tidbit
co-founder Aaron Blake, who brought in Scout Beer Garden from Belmont’s
Good Food Here pod. “I think it’s everything, in a lot of ways. It
gives patrons an opportunity to have a drink, and it offers another
hub—another draw.”

Blake
and partner Christina Davis don’t own the property the cart pod sits
on; just like most restaurateurs, they scouted out property for the
business they wanted to start, and are working on a long-term lease.
Blake says in contrast to the more improvised food-cart pods of the
past, they are trying to create a more curated experience geared toward
the customers who patronize the pod.

“[Pods] aren’t always well thought out,” he says. “They just occupy the space. We wanted to take it to the next level.”

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Oct 14, 2014
Jim Benson

Food trucks dampened sales for local food cart vendors during ArtPrize


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Local food cart vendors who are in Grand Rapids year-round saw dwindling profits during this year’s ArtPrize compared to previous years.

Vendors say it’s because of the number of food trucks that are now part of the large event.

Jennifer Idema, owner of Coney Girl, a hotdog cart located at Monroe Center and Ottawa Avenue, said over 15 years of operation the biggest boost in sales comes during ArtPrize since it began in 2009.

While the foot traffic grew over the years for the event, Idema said the presence of food trucks also got bigger, which made her profits smaller.

“Food trucks…love ya guys…but you’re killing me,” Idema said.

Still, Idema has a lot of pride in her product. She said the reason her coney dogs are such a hit is her father’s secret recipe.

“My mom doesn’t even know [the recipe]. Neither does my husband,” Idema said.

Her recipe won her the honor of being named best hot dog.

Idema said her parents have owned a Coney Island on the east side of the state for 45 years. She said when she moved to Grand Rapids, she couldn’t find a good hot dog. That’s when she decided to take her recipe to the street.

“It was wonderful,” Idema said. “I would sell out…repack…come back…sell out…repack…come back.”

The restaurants on wheels now seen on nearly every street during ArtPrize is something Idema said cut her profits by three-quarters when compared to the previous year.

She’s not the only one seeing a downward shift in sales. Steve Grinwis, owner of Vito’s Pizzeria, said that while the food trucks are taking away business, mother nature is also to blame. “We lost one good weekend,” Grinwis said. “Our best days are Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and it rained Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday.”

Grinwis said his sales are down by about half from ArtPrize 2013. Still, he said, hanging out with his cart, which is parked next to Coney Girl, continues to be worth his while.

“It’s a shot in the arm, boost wise, money wise,” Grinwis said. “And, it’s fun”

Idema said she understands the hard work that goes into running a small business and that she has no ill will against her competitors.

“I’m a small business, so I completely support it,” she said. “But, can’t go to Disneyland this year, guys.”

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Oct 13, 2014
Jim Benson

Two guys, a food cart and a bun full of memories

Mystery Diner

Guest Columnist
Read More From Mystery Diner


Mystery Diner



October 10th, 2014 9:40 am by Mystery Diner


While the mobile food vendor concept is the “new” that is “now,” the idea of selling food to your hungry customers on the street rather than in a restaurant is as old as civilization itself. Where I grew up, food cart vendors sold everything from hot chestnuts to bagels and Danish (yum) just steps away from my high school. Competing against my school’s cafeteria food, the vendors couldn’t help but be successful.

My favorite food cart was Pat’s, the classic hot dog vendor. Squat, middle-aged and cigar-chomping, Pat served up tube-style meat on a bun, mine with a slather of yellow mustard for taste. The memory of a Pat’s hot dog remains with me still, that welcome break after a morning of algebra and American history.

So when the dine-around bunch and I discovered Two Guys Hotdogs at the Johnson City Farmers Market last Saturday, it was like my saying hello to an old friend. The “Two Guys,” John and John, were doing a brisk business serving a cluster of customers waiting outside their parking space-sized location.

Two Guys features Nathan’s beef hot dogs as their main attraction. John and John make their own potato and macaroni salad; ditto for their chili. The hot dogs are served in a variety of styles.

My favorite is the Windy City Dog ($3.50), a classic Chicago-style beef hot dog on a poppy seed bun topped with yellow mustard, chopped onions, a length-wise slice of crisp dill pickle, tomato wedges, a crunchy banana pepper and celery salt.

My dining partner decided to try the Coney dog ($2.50) a New York number seated on a regular bun covered with mustard, chili and onions.

The Retiree liked the slaw dog ($2.50) with creamy coleslaw, mustard and onions.

The Dieter chose two of the original hot dogs ($2 each), while the Carnivore had his quarter-pounder dog fully loaded ($3.50) with chili, spicy brown mustard, onions, sauerkraut and relish.

“Ah, now that’s the way they serve a Nathan’s at Shea Stadium,” he said between happy mouthfuls.

Two Guys offers soft drinks at a dollar a throw, and your choice of bagged chips for the same price. They are now serving sweet tea as well. The aforementioned potato and macaroni salads are $2 each. You can get your $2.50-priced hot dog in a combo with a drink and chips for just $4.50, or $6 if you’re hungry and want two dogs.

John and John keep the Two Guys location squeaky clean; they’ve scored 100 percent on each of their last three health inspections. They are available for catering, do delivery and feature online offers from time to time along with a wristband-less VIP program.

You can find hot dog bliss at the Johnson City Farmers Market every Wednesday and Saturday; for their location the rest of the week, just give them a call. Two Guys Hotdogs will serve you classic hotdogs done the way you want, and they don’t charge extra for the memories.

Two Guys Hotdogs

100 Cherry St., Johnson City

(Corner of South Roan and Cherry streets)

Wednesdays and Saturdays at Johnson City Farmers Market

Monday-Friday 10:30 a.m.-6 p.m.

Saturday 10:30 a.m.-4 p.m.

Credit cards accepted

444-6814

Online: twoguyshotdogs.wix.com/twoguyshotdogs and on facebook

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Oct 13, 2014
Jim Benson

Food trucks dampening sales for local food cart vendors during ArtPrize

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. –Local food cart vendors who are in Grand Rapids year ’round are seeing dwindling profits during this year’s ArtPrize compared to previous years.

They said it’s because of the amount of food trucks that are now attending the large event.

Jennifer Idema, owner of Coney Girl, a hotdog cart located at Monroe Center and Ottawa Avenue, said her coney dogs that are such a hit come from her father’s secret recipe.

“My mom doesn’t even know [the recipe]…neither does my husband,” Idema said.

Her recipe won her the honor of being named best hot dog

Idema said her parents have owned a Coney Island on the East side of the state for 45 years. She said when she moved to Grand Rapids she couldn’t find a good hotdog. That’s when she decided to take her recipe to the street.

While serving the community for 15 years she said the biggest boost in sales came during the weeks of ArtPrize when it first began in 2009.

“It was wonderful,” Idema said. “I would sell out…repack…come back…sell out…repack…come back.”

While the foot traffic grew over the years for the event, Idema said the presence of food trucks also got bigger, which made her profits smaller.

“Food trucks…love ya guys…but you’re killing me,” Idema said.

The restaurants on wheels seen on nearly every street during ArtPrize is something Idema said cut her profits down by 3/4 when compared to the previous year. She’s not the only one seeing a downward shift in sales. Steve Grinwis, owner of Vito’s Pizzeria, said while the food trucks are taking away business, he said mother nature is also to blame.

“We lost one good weekend,” Grinwis said. “Our best days are Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday…and it rained Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday.”

Grinwis said his sales are down by about half from ArtPrize 2013. Still, he said hanging out with his cart, which is parked next to Coney Girl, continues to be worth his while.

“It’s a shot in the arm, boost wise, money wise,” Grinwis said. “And, it’s fun”

Idema said she understands the hard work that goes into running a small business and that she has no ill will against her competitors.

“I’m a small business, so I completely support it,” she said. “But, can’t go to Disney Land this year, guys.”

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