“Through some rare genetic oddity, my sense of taste is at full strength only when I’m standing up.” – Calvin Trillin, The New Yorker
When you visit street food vendors in other countries, you are likely to find food distinguished by its local flavor and food that represents well-esablished local traditions. This is because the ingredients are purchased that morning from local markets and farmers. Street food vendors in more developed countries, like America, where ingredients are more readily available, are more multi-cultural than what you might find on the streets in places like India, for example. We have food vendors that serve food that is not only traditional American cuisine, but also traditional foods from other regions such as Asia, India, the Middle-East and South America. We’re a melting pot, so this is expected. In keeping with the traditions of local street food, despite the ethnicity of the cuisine, the best street vendors will always be the ones with fresh food, sourced through local markets and farms.
Ann Arbor’s new street food vendor court, Mark’s Carts, falls right in line with this tradition.
Yesterday was the opening of Mark’s Carts in Ann Arbor. Mark Hodesh, owner of Downtown Home and Garden, is the force behind bringing street vendors to the area. Mark was “impressed with the breadth of street food available” of the food vendors in New York when he was there visiting his daughter last year, so he decided it was time to bring the concept to Ann Arbor. Mark’s Carts is based out of a small courtyard on the north side of Downtown Home and Garden, at 211 W. Washington Street, between Ashley Street and S. First Street.
Five of the seven vendors were open for business when I was there yesterday. Two more vendors,
San Street (Asian street food) and People’s Pierogi Collective (a variety of homemade pierogi), will be joining them soon and I believe Mark is still looking for a few more to fill up the court.
When I got home from visiting Mark’s Carts, I poked around, looking to see if I could find information on where these folks get their food. All five of the above vendors mention things on their website such as “emphasizes seasonal and local ingredients” and “uses local and organic produce”. Three of the five went so far as to list their menu and highlight just where they are getting much of their food. Two of them take it one step further and have their menus listed on Real Time Farms, a website devoted to helping the public see just where the food comes from.
In my opinion, the one vendor that stood out in terms of highlighting local foods was Darcy’s Cart. Check out their menu on Real Time Farms to see what I am talking about. Most of what they serve is sourced locally. In fact, one lunch menu item, the Warm Mushroom Salad, is 100% locally-sourced food. Talk about food distinguished by its local flavor!
Click on each ingredient to see where it comes from.
I’m impressed with their thoughtfulness and how this cart, in particular, is what I would call an Ann Arbor street vendor. My hope is that as each vendor finishes refining their menu, and that they, too, will look closely at where they get their ingredients and, whenever possible, choose a source close to home. Then, I encourage them to get on Real Time Farms and highlight just why we should be proud to call their food “Ann Arbor street food”, food distinguished by its local flavour and food that represents well-esablished local traditions!
Next I’d like to see the street vendors all around Ann Arbor for a real street food experience.