Browsing articles in "food cart"
Mar 31, 2014
Jim Benson

Caldwell Acts on Five Bills, Expresses Concerns for Food Cart Vendors


Mayor Kirk Caldwell signed three bills into law on Friday relating to publication dispensing racks in Waikiki, alarm systems and increased fees for services administered by the city’s Department of Planning and Permitting. 

Two other bills he returned to the City Council unsigned with letters expressing his reservations about the measures. The bills — related to food trucks and native plants — become law without his signature. 

Caldwell chose not to veto the bills because such power “should be used sparingly,” he said in a press release. 

“Though I have concerns about these bills, they are concerns we can deal with administratively or with legislation therefore I am returning them unsigned,” he said.

Bill 1 requires food truck operators to obtain a permit in order to operate within the Hawaii Capital Special District. 

Caldwell noted in a letter to council members that his administration initially supported the measure as a way to attract more food trucks to the area.

“We also wanted to provide a more structured, fair and competitive business environment for food trucks to operate within while using city parking stalls,” wrote the mayor. 

But food truck operators, who didn’t weigh in on the measure while it was moving through the City Council, have recently expressed concerns that the ordnance will hurt their business. 

“Given this reaction, I have asked the Department of Transportation Services to conduct public hearings, as part of the rulemaking process, to address the complaints and determine whether the issues can be resolved via rulemaking,” he told council members.

Caldwell also said that the food cart permit program, which is in place as a two-year pilot project, amounts to an unfunded mandate. The City Council didn’t allocate any staff or funding to administer the program. 

Caldwell also allowed Bill 4 to become law without his signature.

The measure requires the city to use indigenous and Polynesian introduced plants in public landscaping wherever possible. 

He told council members that state procurement law preempts the city measure. He also said the language of the measure is vague and that other factors should be considered when making landscaping decisions. 

The “use of certain plants for landscaping of city parks, streets, and facilities requires other considerations, such as of cost, availability, suitability, ease of maintenance, soil and climate conditions in which the plant can thrive, the intended purpose of the plant, aesthetics, and most importantly public safety,” he wrote in a separate letter to council members. 

He said it will be particularly difficult to implement the ordinance when it comes to turf grass and street trees. 

As for the bills Caldwell signed, you can read them here: 

Bill 60, relating to publication dispensing racks

Bill 66, relating to alarm systems

Bill 70, relating to fees for certain permits and services administered by the Department of Planning and Permitting 

Photo: Komodo Food Truck in Los Angeles (Flickr: Ricardo Diaz)

Sophie Cocke

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Mar 30, 2014
Jim Benson

Go for the Food: Cart culture is on a roll in Portland

The many accolades earned by chefs in this city are rooted in what the land offers. They succeed by adaptation to their environment.

That’s especially true with the city’s bustling food cart scene, which has become an incubator for great restaurants. Whether inspired by Norwegian comfort food, Peace Corps missions to the Republic of Georgia, or Thai “chaos in a bowl,” the menus reinvigorate and challenge both customer and chef to think harder and dream bigger.

The culture of Portland food carts – cheaper than restaurants and meriting just a couple-of-dollars tip (and sales-tax free, to boot) – allows diners to assemble their own multicourse tasting menu, provided they don’t mind a moderate walk or a quick bike ride. Luckily, most food trucks are assembled in pods scattered across the city, making it easy to visit multiple trucks at each stop.

Start in southeast Portland, where Viking Soul Food does one thing and does it well. The simple, steel-bodied trailer is adorned only with a red umbrella. A sign promises “marvelous handcrafted edibles,” and the menu is as stripped down as the cart itself.

Here you will find lefse, and not much else.

Like crepes without eggs, these Norwegian potato-flatbread wraps serve as a versatile bed for sweet and savory entrees that co-owner Megan Walhood’s great-grandmother put on the Christmas table every year. The fillings can include heavy-duty pork-and-beef meatballs or a local grab of mushrooms and Oregon-grown hazelnut patties.

The seasonal winter lefse presented a well-balanced mix of goat cheese, pears and walnuts under sherry-sugar reduction – fresh, elegant and simple. Another lefse of house- (er, cart-) cured salmon with pickled shallots and crunchy watercress presented a slightly lighter take.

The real star, though, may be the $3 appetizer of pickled herring and onions, meaty fillets that manage to be bright and salty without overbearing fishiness.

As a bonus, pop by the Brazilian House cart next door for the coxinha, a ball of shredded chicken and spices fried in dough into the shape of a drumstick.

Then walk (or hop on a rental bike) to a rising star of the culinary scene, Carte Blanche, where “Supreme Dictator for Life” Jessie Aron is willing to admit to Thai influences from her days in the kitchen at the bicoastal sensation Pok Pok, but says her chief culinary driver is avoiding repetition.

“Usually when I explain the cart, the looks I get back are confusion,” Aron said. “We’ve gotten used to confusing the customer. Until they try the food. Then they’re just happy.”

Here you’ll get coyly named bowls such as “Mischief” and “Rum Tum Tugger.” Layered in a way that makes each bite genuinely different from the last are a fruit salad with diced pineapples, snap peas and corn in a sesame-miso crema, and a small heap of prawns.

Crusted with coconut, cashew and kaffir lime, the prawns are a revelation – sweet and citrusy, firm but yielding, the combination balances perfectly against a bed of jasmine rice. The eggplant in the vegetarian version was similarly impressive, glazed in a Thai lime-chili reduction and crisped to a crunch.

Before your next stop, consider one of Aron’s compost cookies. Don’t worry, this isn’t “Portlandia” gone rogue; it’s just the compilation of what they had hanging around. One winter evening, potato chips and raisins joined pretzels and chocolate chips in a salty-sweet, straight-from-the-oven collaboration.

Have you had enough yet? You have not. Because across the river is a slightly different take on international cuisine, borne of two former Peace Corps volunteers who met in the Republic of Georgia and decided to bring what they ate there back with them.

Behold, Kargi Gogo (roughly translated to “good girl”) and a carb-laden end to one night in town. Here you can go vegetarian and not miss the meat.

Start with the $8 pick-three combination, from which you can sample dumplings, a garlic-walnut purée wrapped in eggplant and khachapuri, a gooey blend of feta and a local sour pickled curd called sulguni inside a thin crust that doubles as perhaps the best grilled cheese in town.

The dumplings, khinkali, come with a brief introduction from co-owner McKinze Cook, who advises diners to lift them from the doughy knot at the top, flip them and eat them from the bottom. It’s an elegant solution to keeping the juices evenly layered over the filling. Eating the dough knot, she says, is optional.

Whether you take it all at once or over a couple days, Portland’s international cuisine remains on the fringes while the sun shines brightly on the stuff of more traditional childhood comforts: carts starring grilled peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches, homemade marshmallows and gourmet BLTs.

So you’ll have to look. But for those with an open mind and a curious palate, an exciting reward awaits.

• Read more articles by Nigel Duara

Order Reprint

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Mar 28, 2014
Jim Benson

New restaurants bring market oases to Portland’s food deserts

Gary Lowe, the man behind the meat smoker at Crown Q Market Deli, recalls an earlier Northeast Portland, a time when his grandmother, Josephine “Outlaw Josie” Bell, “carried a little Derringer and a razor blade” while running “the only food cart in the roughest part of town.”

But last year, when Lowe decided to turn his own cart, Crown Q, into a brick-and-mortar restaurant, he had different memories in mind: Learning to cook while helping out at the Tropicana, a once-hopping North Williams Avenue barbecue joint, and the sense of togetherness and community he felt there.

At his new restaurant, he devoted half the dining room to a little market, where customers can pick up Northwest beer and wine, farm-fresh eggs and meat from Stroupe Family Farm in Aurora while Lowe smokes ribs, brisket and turkey legs out front.

By opening with a market, Lowe tapped into the latest trend in Portland’s food scene. In the past year-plus, nearly 10 Portland restaurants, including Crown Q, Old Salt Marketplace and Oso Market and Bar have opened with small markets where everything from everyday staples to boutique goods are available to-go.

Market-restaurant hybrids — pharmacies with soda fountains, Mexican tiendas with back-of-house taquerias, convenience stores with heat-lamped pizza — aren’t new. But today’s restaurant owners are flipping the script, with restaurants that pave the way for (and sometimes financially support) the market.

Along the way, these restaurateurs may have stumbled on a salve for the persistent problem of so-called “food deserts,” areas under-served by stores with fresh produce and healthful food.

Louisiana hot links for sale at Crown Q Market Deli.

Food Oasis

After a combined 30 years in restaurant work, Emily Anderson and Paul Davis seemed perfectly positioned to open a restaurant of their own.

But while looking around their Woodlawn neighborhood, Anderson, a former server and front-of-house manager (Por Que No?, Lovely’s Fifty Fifty), and Davis, a cook and kitchen manager (Kenny Zuke’s, Dove Vivi), realized there was a more pressing need.

“Technically we’re in a food desert, or we used to be,” says Anderson, whose house is about a mile from the nearest grocery store. “We were just tired of having to drive. We wanted to have a little neighborhood grocery store we could walk to.”

The couple found a space, a former soul food restaurant that had sat empty for several years, and transformed it into Ps and Qs Market, a cozy grocery store selling fresh produce and a small kitchen where Davis prepares tasty soups, salads and sandwiches.

“The two businesses work really well together,” Anderson says. “People come in for food, then peruse the store and inevitably buy something. Or they come in for groceries and see a special on the board and stay for dinner.”

The market at Southeast Portland’s new Bollywood Theater.

Asafetida and au jus

Not every restaurant-market hybrid has community-building on the brain. Some spots just want to give their customers easier access to unusual or hard-to-find ingredients.

Shut Up and Eat, the Southeast Portland sandwich shop known for its cheesesteak, recently expanded with a market and deli next door. The move was deigned to increase the restaurant’s prep space, but co-owner John Fimmano said he also wanted to offer Portland a taste of his Philadelphia-area childhood.

“When we were growing up, we used to go down to the store and get 10 pounds of roast beef, a quart of au jus, some rolls and Provolone and go home and make our own sandwiches and watch some football,” Fimmano says. “We wanted to create that option here.”

On Southeast Division Street, chef Troy MacLarty’s second Bollywood Theater location has a small market on the side selling hard-to-find ingredients such as puffed rice, ghee (clarified butter) and asafetida (a strong-smelling herbal resin prized in Indian cooking).

“The original idea for the market has come from our customers,” MacLarty emailed from his wedding weekend in Mexico. “They’ve asked us many times (whether) they could buy small amounts of certain ingredients because they didn’t want to drive out to the suburbs to purchase them.”

Not far away, shoppers can find Thai ingredients at Tarad Thai Market and carefully sourced Italian products at Luce, an Italian restaurant in a space resembling a general goods store.

Emily Anderson sits at Ps and Qs market.
Cutting down waste

For Ps and Qs, the market provides an added bonus: Davis can plan his menus around what’s available in the store, cutting down on the food waste typically found at larger grocery stores. And though the market barely breaks even, the profits from the restaurant help Anderson and Davis employ 14 people.

“We’re sustainable because of the deli,” Anderson says.

“Emily is a born entrepreneur,” Davis says. “She’s had a ton of multi-faceted business ideas: a coffee shop with a record store, a flower shop with a bar. When we met, she had this idea to do a general store. I said, “If you had a market, I could do this and this with the food. The idea just grew and grew.”
Turns out, Anderson had been plotting the market for while. She recalls talking the idea over with Old Salt Marketplace co-owner Ben Meyer years ago. And before opening, she took a job at the Woodsman Market, a small food boutique attached to the Woodsman Tavern restaurant, to learn the trade.

Over at Crown Q, Lowe says he plans to add fresh fruit and vegetables to the market in May. He hopes customers will embrace his store as a smaller-scale alternative to big grocery stores such as Safeway and Trader Joe’s, the latter of which recently reverse plans to build a location a few blocks from Crown Q.

But mostly, Lowe wants to offer people a reason to swing by and hang out.

“This was a predominantly black area,” Lowe says. “Now that everyone’s here — the whole melting pot — we’re trying to make this a clean, community place where you can sit back with a glass of wine, a beer and listen to some Bob Marley or jazz music.

“We really don’t know what we’re doing, but it seems to be working.”

– Michael Russell

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Mar 28, 2014
Jim Benson

Poll results: Readers choose their top Beaverton food cart craving

Barbecue reigned supreme in our poll asking readers which cuisine they’d like to see roll into Beaverton in the form of a food cart.

With 10.4 percent of the vote (33 votes), barbecue beat out 15 other poll options, including close runner-ups gyros and Indian food, which both received about 9 percent of the vote. The poll, which opened Wednesday, March 26, received a total 316 votes.

The poll was part of our series on Beaverton food carts spawned by the city’s decision to revisit its stiff regulations on the mobile eateries. Because changes to the regulations could bring more food carts to the city, we were curious which types of cuisines readers wanted most.

And readers chose barbecue, though Pork Chop City, a trailer stationed just outside Beaverton city limits on Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway, serves up ribs, brisket and pulled pork daily. (Head Cook Troy Herren classifies the food as smoked meat, not barbecue.)

Other Beaverton food carts – there are only a handful of them – serve up Filipino fare and Mexican food.

The poll results beg the following questions: Why do readers want barbecue in Beaverton? Does Pork Chop City fail to qualify as true barbecue, as Herren pointed out? Or is the hunger for barbecue in Beaverton simply too great for one food cart to satisfy? Comment below and satisfy our curiosity.

– Anna Marum

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Mar 27, 2014
Jim Benson

City Councilman Rafael Espinal wants schools to offer halal lunches to Muslim …

City Councilman Rafael Espinal says schools not having a halal lunch option is “unacceptable.”Jeanne Noonan for New York Daily News
City Councilman Rafael Espinal says schools not having a halal lunch option is “unacceptable.”

NEIGHBORHOOD PROFILE: FOREST HILLS, QUEENS: Mike Mashriqi, 37, works Nisar's Halal Food cart on 108th Street.Pearl Gabel
NEIGHBORHOOD PROFILE: FOREST HILLS, QUEENS: Mike Mashriqi, 37, works Nisar’s Halal Food cart on 108th Street.

  • City Councilman Rafael Espinal says schools not having a halal lunch option is “unacceptable.”
  • NEIGHBORHOOD PROFILE: FOREST HILLS, QUEENS: Mike Mashriqi, 37, works Nisar's Halal Food cart on 108th Street.


A Brooklyn politician wants schools to offer halal lunches to reflect the system’s growing Muslim population.

City Councilman Rafael Espinal introduced a resolution Wednesday to expand cafeteria menus to include halal options — saying it’s unfair Muslim kids can’t eat the food schools provide.

Roughly 13% of city schoolchildren — more than 100,000 students — are Muslim, Mayor de Blasio has said, and Espinal says the number is actually closer to 170,000.

He said observant Muslims often go full days without eating because of religious dietary restrictions.

“It’s unacceptable,” said Espinal (D-East New York). “I cannot sit idle while children in my district go hungry in school.”

No date has been set for a City Council hearing on the proposal, but a spokeswoman for Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said she is looking into the issue.

Public Advocate Letitia James has been urging the Department of Education to fork over more money so that every public school student can get a free lunch.

But Espinal said that proposal, introduced by James earlier this month, should be inclusive of all students according to faith-based needs — and that includes serving kosher meals to Jewish students.

Public Advocate Letitia James is joined by food advocates in announcing plan to provide free lunch for all public school students outside City Hall on Tuesday, March 11, 2014.David Handschuh/New York Daily News

Public Advocate Letitia James wants every public school student to get a free lunch.


Rules for kosher and halal food are very similar, with both religions barring pork and dictating how animals are slaughtered. But there are differences — for example, Muslims are generally permitted to eat shellfish while Jews who keep kosher are not.

“While there is an ongoing conversation of providing free lunch to every student, we must also be progressive in instituting lunches that respect the faiths of New York City’s diverse population,” Espinal said.

An Education Department spokeswoman said city school kitchens are not capable of serving fare based on students’ religious needs.

“We are not equipped to customize meals and offer specialty food,” said spokeswoman Margie Feinberg, adding that schools offer vegetarian menus.

But Mona Davids, president of the New York City Parents Union and a practicing Muslim, said it would be easy for the city to contract with halal food vendors.


“Giving them an option to have halal food instead of parents always having to send them with food every day is a good thing,” said Davids, who sends her 5-year-old son to kindergarten at Public School 106 in the Bronx with homemade lunches.

Public schools in Dearborn, Mich., have served halal meat options since 2001 and have since expanded the program to accommodate a rapidly increasing Muslim population.

Kamal Bhuiyan, chairman of the Bangladeshi American Advocacy Group, said his two children often come home hungry because they cannot eat any of the cafeteria food offered in their Queens schools.

“They are not able to eat lunch,” he said. “They come home at 3:30, and they’re weak, tired and fatigued

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Mar 27, 2014
Jim Benson

Italian Ice Cart Stirs Discussion on Food Trucks for Downtown Glen Ellyn

Glen Ellyn village board trustees discussed options for food trucks in its downtown during a recent meeting, according to media reports. 

The owner of an Italian ice cart recently requested a spot downtown and the discussion among trustees has centered around how Glen Ellyn should handle such requests and if food carts “affect brick-and-mortar businesses in town,” according to the Chicago Tribune. 

Director of Planning and Development Staci Hulseberg said Glen Ellyn does not get many requests from food cart owners interested in its downtown area but has allowed a hot dog cart in the area for the past 17 years and approved a gelato cart to operate in its downtown for one year, according to the Chicago Tribune. 

The Italian ice operator, Sunset Slush, is requesting a license agreement to operate in Glen Ellyn’s central business district. Sunset Slush plans to operate a portable cart for the purpose of selling Italian ice in front of the Citibank building at 444 N. Main Street from May 15 to Sept. 15, according to the village of Glen Ellyn March 24 village board packet. 

Glen Ellyn charges $50 for a food cart license fee. Other communities charge between $44 and $500 for an annual license fee, according to village documents. 

The Chicago Tribune reports the Glen Ellyn village board this past week decided to table its decision until its April meeting on the Italian ice cart and will also hold off for now on renewing a license for the hot dog cart. 

Read more on the Chicago Tribune

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Mar 27, 2014
Jim Benson

Beaverton food cart guide

As the city of Beaverton considers easing up on strict food cart regulations, we’ve been stopping by a few of the mobile eateries to see what’s cooking.

If the city makes changes to the restrictive rules, more carts could be rolling in soon. So we’re taking it upon ourselves to create a guide to food carts in Beaverton (and just outside city limits, like Pork Chop City).

Click on the names of the food carts below for hours, addresses and photos for each cart.

We suspect there are a few more food carts parked around Beaverton, so let us know of any carts we should add to our guide. And if more carts move into the city, we’ll include them here.

– Anna Marum

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Mar 26, 2014
Jim Benson

Lebanon Optimist Club’s food cart for sale

By Matt DeBow

Lebanon Express

The Lebanon Optimist has one more food cart than they need, and they are selling the old one.

The club is selling the trailer because it hasn’t been used in years, said Brandon Drivon, Optimist club member.

“Rather than let it deteriorate, we think it’s best to give someone else a chance to own it,” Drivon said. “The trailer has two grills, a dual burner, a three compartment stainless steel sink, a full size refrigerator, a fume hood system, and a hot water heater.”

Club members met on March 14 to clean up both trailers, and take inventory of the club’s assets, Drivon said.

“(The cleanup event) is something I would like to try and do every year before our big pancake breakfast fundraiser as a way to familiarize our new members with our assets, to check and catalog our inventory, and assess whether we need to make any changes to the trailer itself,” Drivon said.

This year the club will have the trailer present for the Hero Half Marathon on May 24, and the Optimist pancake breakfast on June 7, he said.

The Optimist pancake breakfast is held during the Lebanon Strawberry Festival.

“Having the trailer cleaned up and organized is really going to help us be prepared for these events.,” Drivon said. “Some of the changes we are making this year include replacing the hitch, the hitch jack, and a few other small miscellaneous things.”

As of press time the club had not set a selling price for the trailer.

To view the trailer visit,

For those who would like to see the trailer in person, contact Drivon at Citizens Bank

Contact reporter Matt DeBow at 541-259-3126, or via email at

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Mar 26, 2014
Jim Benson

Spoonfed gives way to new Saw’s Street Kitchen food truck


Michael Brandon, right, will run the new Saw’s Street Kitchen food truck that is replacing Spoonfed in Birmingham.

Say hello to a new food truck, Birmingham.

The new Saw’s Street Kitchen could start next week,  according to a report.

The new truck will be run by the owners of Saw’s Soul Kitchen in Avondale and will replace what has been the popular Spoonfed Grill food truck and food cart. The cart will be parked at the corner of 20th Street and Fifth Avenue North downtown, and the truck will make its rounds near UAB and other areas of Birmingham.

Spoonfed owner Jason Parkman sold his truck as he transitions to running several Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe locations. Michael Brandon, who ran the Spoonfed truck, will also operate the new Saw’s truck and cart.

“We will take the truck to festivals and all that, and if we can get enough people to run it, we might do the late-night thing in front of Innisfree (in Lakeview),” one of the owners, Mike Wilson, told “And maybe we’ll take the cart down to Railroad Park on weekends.”

Wilson is joined by Brandon Cain to run the new Saw’s Street Kitchen food truck and food cart. The duo was also recently involved in opening Post Office Pies, a neighborhood pizza joint in Avondale.

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Mar 25, 2014
Jim Benson

Mark’s Carts food courtyard to reopen first week of April with 5 new vendors

From Spanish tapas to locally roasted coffee, Mark’s Carts owner Mark Hodesh said his outdoor food courtyard will have an exciting mix of tenants when it reopens next week.

The courtyard is set to open for lunch at 11 a.m. on Friday, April 4, after closing for the winter months.

“We have some really enthusiastic vendors coming this year,” Hodesh said.

New vendors this year include:

  • Old Carolina Barbecue: The Ohio-based fast casual barbecue restaurant opened its first restaurant in Ann Arbor on Monday, in the outlot building of the Cranbrook Village Shopping Center. Hodesh said Old Carolina hopes to grow brand awareness by opening a cart at the outdoor food courtyard.
  • Great Grilled Sandwiches: Hodesh said this vendor will serve healthy sandwiches.
  • Xdelica: Potential menu items at this cart include pot stickers and Vietnamese pho.
  • Simply Spanish: This vendor will serve authentic Spanish cuisine made with fresh ingredients.
  • Mighty Good Coffee: David Myers, the owner of the Mighty Good Coffee Roasting Co. on Ann Arbor’s North Main Street, plans to bring his popular coffee and espresso drinks to Mark’s Carts this year.

The Hut-K Chaat cart made its debut during Mark’s Carts inaugural season in 2011.  Returning food carts include:

  • El Manantial: Returning for its second season at Mark’s Carts, El Manantial serves authentic Mexican cuisine.
  • San Street: This food cart serves Asian street food prepared with fresh ingredients, such as hand-rolled and steamed buns filled with meat, mushrooms or tofu.
  • Hut-k Chaats: Indian street food is the focus of Hut-k Chaats, which uses raw foods such as spinach, cilantro, mint, dates and limes to create sauces for the menu items.

Hodesh said the courtyard is at capacity this season with eight vendors.

Mark’s Carts opened off West Washington Street in May 2011, on a 2,700-square-foot parcel of land behind Hodesh’s Downtown Home Garden store. Hodesh and his long-time business associate, Bill Zolkowski, opened Bill’s Beer Garden next to the food courtyard in 2012.

Bill’s Beer Garden opened March 14 for the season. It will be open three days a week during the month of April, expanding to six days a week in May, although hours fluctuate depending on the weather.

Hodesh said he’s anticipating a successful year at Mark’s Carts, strengthened by the tenants living at the new Ann Arbor City Apartments on West Washington and South First streets.

“Ann Arbor City Apartments is good, parking is good, more traffic on Washington Street is good. It’s further bolstering what the YMCA started a number of years ago, increasing activity on Washington,” he said.

Hours will vary for each individual food cart, and Hodesh said most vendors update their hours on their Facebook pages.

Lizzy Alfs is a business reporter for The Ann Arbor News. Reach her at 734-623-2584, email her or follow her on Twitter.

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