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Banzo (cart)

Banzo menuIn a word: Lunchtime for Banzo.

The specs: #0747  
Address, hours & details via Isthmus; reviews at Yelp, Isthmus; Facebook, Twitter, Banzo Food Cart on Urbanspoon

Latest Banzo news and reviews

JM ate the Chick pita with a Fanta.
Marijka, Nichole and Ryan all ate the Banzo pita, plus a cup of fries.
The bill was about $7/person, plus tip.
Marijka, Nichole & Ryan gave Banzo an A; JM gave Banzo a B (see our grading rubric).

Falafel fans are rejoicing. Banzo, the newest and best best new [thanks for the correction, Linda] food cart in Madison (according to the city's annual review pdf) lives up to the praise. Word traveled quickly among connossieurs of Israeli-style deep-fried chickpea patties that there is now a place that gives falafel its due and presents it in its most natural form, as street food.

To Nichole, falafel is the food she should like but has a hard time trying because of a disastrous first exposure, on a high school exchange trip to Tel Aviv, of all places. (For JM, it's coffee, first tasted as cold church percolator tincture. Blech.) The good news is, Banzo won her over immediately. Ryan, a ntural-born falafel fan, called it the best falafel he'd had in Madison, without qualifier. This stuff is good.

Banzo!Chick

The outside of each gluten-free falafel ball was crisp and brown, studded with barely-detectable but verified sesame seeds. The insides were vibrant green with fresh herbs (parsley, mostly, and a bit of onion, maybe?) and tender as a hush puppy.

The "chick" chicken pita sandwich was quite good, though the chicken was a little dry and yogurt dill sauce did little to help it along.  The tender pita, available in regular or whole wheat, was quite good and the vegetables were fresh and not overpowering.

Banzo packagingEach sandwich was packed full and could be topped with any combo of hummus, hand-cut chips, pickle relish, and chopped salad, plus one or more sauces. The salad varies day to day: on one visit, it was cucumber and tomato; on another, cucumber and green cabbage. The sauces offered are tahini, yogurt-dill, and hot pepper. The "hot" was not very. If you like spice, ask the gloved man in the cart for the pepper-flake-studded "extra hot," which is also not that hot, so ask for extra "extra hot."

Marijka was glad to see the "chips-in-the-wrap" option offered because past experience showed that's a tasty and efficient combination, but she was expecting heartier potato pieces. These are thin, crips chips that easily get lost in the sauce. Our only (related) complaint was that the ingredients were unevenly distributed such that all the delicious sauce ended up in the last few bites, and sogged out the bottom of the pitas.

The standalone side of fries came out a tad underdone and the autumn wind cooled them off too fast for us to enjoy them at their best. Ryan aptly described the fries as "backup singers" to the Smokey Robinson-magnitude star, the falafel.

There are also beef sliders and daily specials (recently they were handing out tempting samples of butternut squash soup), but they're mostly there to satisfy non-falafel-eaters. In that vein, they're far better than the played-out fettucine Alfredo at a steakhouse, but it's nice to see the tables turned in favor of vegetarian food.

We can't not mention the clever and perfectly portable cardboard packaging, the shiny clean green cart, or Banzo's social media acumen, particularly on Twitter - yay for carts that care about being easy to find!

Banzo pita

Comments

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Great cart. Loved the falafel sandwich and its packaging, though in the end like all falafel sandwiches my cabbage was all over the ground when I was done. My second visit I tried the falafel with chunks of beef sandwich. A weird textural and flavor combination that didn't work. Stick with the falafels, which get my vote for best within a 5 mile radius (Shish Cafe is better but not a quick lunch option).

I think it would have been ranked the best of the new carts, not overall.

How did I not know about this cart yet?! OOH! I love falafel and cannot wait to try... Thanks for the review.
- Wisconsin Fun Next Exit

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