Until recently, hip Ann Arbor's dining scene had everything except the new foodie go-to: food carts. Enter Mark's Carts, a collection of independently owned carts offering locally sourced ethnic food downtown. In early 2011, local storeowner Mark Hodesh fenced, lit and landscaped an empty lot behind his building. Next, he simply advertised for cart operators, planning to select a handful. Instead, Hodesh received more than 30 applicants who vied for use of a communal kitchen and a slot in the lot. The winners were seasoned kitchen vets with extensive culinary experience selling vegan entrees and headcheese hoagies, fruit gazpacho and Korean pork buns. Mark's Carts is wallet-friendly, too. Most items on the short, well-edited menus average around $6.
2012 marked Mark’s Carts’ second season and while several of the original winners still operate food carts, the mix of carts has changed a bit including the addition of A2 Wood-Fired Pizza (check out the wood stove sitting next to A2’s cart) and a healthy fast-food eatery called The Beet Box, where we ate lunch. We dug into a healthy meal of Chili Lime Chicken, a dish of brown rice and black beans topped with corn ceviche and fire-roasted salsa. We also had a side of crispy kale chips and sweet-tart beet lemonade, a drink made of agave, lemon and beet juices. Yum.
On warm summer evenings, Mark turns his store's parking lot into a lively beer garden. Revelers can purchase dinner at one of the carts, then bring their meal into the beer garden to enjoy it with a local brew.
Mark’s Carts are typically open for lunch and dinner, 11:30a-8p. But most carts shut down when the weather proves too hot, cold or wet to attract customers.