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Street cuisine

By MARTIN HINTZ

August 26, 2010

Streetza Pizza


"Meals on wheels" connotes a scenario of mature shut-ins visited by friendly folks bringing healthy food and the latest news from the "outside."

Now M-O-W also means a plethora of food carts, mostly trundling around downtown, but which now can be found from South Side Hispanic neighborhoods to upscale suburbs. They are a giant leap beyond the tinkling bells and repetitive songs of an ice cream truck. Some even cater parties. Take a look at some of the area’s best:

Pita Brothers: Brothers Vijay and Manoj Swearingen use Lebanese flatbread as the base for their sandwiches, assembled in a compact prep area of their battery-run vehicle. A fresh-chopped veggie pita wrap with hummus spread is $5, with a chicken-bacon-ranch delight at $6 and other menu items ranged in between. Subsequently, a diner can always be assured of an inexpensive munch, even if on the run. The vegetables can be grilled or raw. Fruit smoothies are prepared on-site, with sodas stored in a glass-front refrigerator. The Swearingens’ truck is most often found at Catalano Square in the Third Ward, showing up around 11:30 a.m. weekdays or alternating to 15th and Wells streets near Marquette. They can be tracked on their journey via twitter.com/pitabros and Facebook.

Streetza Pizza: Any way you slice it, Scott Baitinger and Steve Mai have an edible gold mine with their pizza by the slice. The truck usually parks along Water Street on hot summer weekend nights for after-hours grazing, much like the famous "chippers" in Britain. The duo can also be found outside festival grounds and similar outdoor events, temptingly presenting one last snack before revelers head home. Slices are $3.75, from a menu of daily changing offerings, including a sausage and four cheese to a fancier chicken Alfredo. Seek ’em out at twitter.com/streetzapizza.

Taqueria Arandas: No one can miss the taco trucks bustling throughout the South Side. Fans of Alejandro Leon eagerly track down his fleet, coming from all over the city for their taco treat. Or for a burrito, tostada or torta. Leon’s basic taco is merely $1.50, which means that a two-, three- or four-taco meal isn’t out of the ordinary. Fillings range from beef to chicken, steak and beef tongue. Aficionados go for the tripas (chitterlings) on crisp or soft tortillas, complemented with onion and cilantro. Leon’s restaurant, 1531 W. Lincoln Ave., is the "madre ship," accommodating off-season cravings.

American Euros: Owner Mike Miller sets up his gyro wagon at Water Street and Wisconsin Avenue from 10:30 a.m. to around 3 p.m., and can be found along Water Street on Thursdays and Fridays from 9:30 p.m. through bar closing. Starting just last year, business has grown enough so Miller is even thinking of opening a storefront outlet for the winter months. His basic $4 gyro is lamb, cucumber sauce and lettuce, topped European-style with french fries. Miller also offers chicken and veggie gyros. A lunch special of a gyro, drink and chips is $5. Feta cheese is a bonus extra at $1. Miller’s baklava babe is his Greek mom, Alexandra Stoerri, who creates the cart’s fresh pastry. A slice of the sticky, honey-sweet delicacy is $1.

Hot Dogs: The true harbinger of Milwaukee summer are the dog carts roaming in packs around greater Milwaukee. From May through early October, weiner wagons can be found in front of the Reuss Federal Plaza, along the River Walk, across from the Marcus Center, near City Hall and ranging throughout the Water Street neighborhood for post-partying. Prices are usually under $4, even with trimmings that can include sauerkraut, relish, peppers, various brown and yellow mustards, fried or raw onions, ketchup and additional condiments. "Upscale" carts, notably Real Dogs at Water Street and Wisconsin Avenue, present even more, carrying brats, knackwurst, andouille sausage and dynamite Hungarian for the discerning diner. Chips, cookies and related side orders are at the whim of the vendor.

Satellite Crepes: On various summer days, Janeen and Dirk Werderich are found on Brady Street, at Zeidler Park or even at the Brookfield Farmers Market. In fact, they are literally all around town with their eco-friendly, custom-built cart with its solar-powered refrigerator. Fanciers of this French style meal-on-the-go can even enjoy the Werderichs’ dairy/egg-free batter made from high protein garbanzo beans, in addition to their traditional organic buckwheat flour. The Moon Unit filling, at $5, is a delightful can-can of fresh banana, yummy Nutella and vanilla whipped cream. The Supercluster at $8, with prosciutto, shredded fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, tomatoes and truffle oil, would bring Quasimodo out of his Paris bell tower. The few leftovers are composted.

 


This story ran in the August 2010 issue of: