Living in large university town like Madison means there are typically two distinct seasons: with the students and without. During summer (as well as during winter and spring breaks), the downtown campus area, while far from being deserted, has a slower but steady hum of people and activities; a perfect time to hang out at the Union Terrace, shop lower State Street, or take a class through UW Extension.
With students returning in late August, the dynamic around the campus area predictably changes: clots of students moving to and from class, with other students darting around them with their bikes and mopeds. Cafes that only a couple weeks ago had quiet open tables, are now crowded with chatter and laughter.
As permanent residents, this change in dynamism is neither a good nor bad thing, just two vibes of the same place. One thing that certainly changes are the crowds around the many food carts in the Library Mall area at the base of State Street. Suddenly, their numbers have increased, each with their own lines snaking through the press of students.
One of our favorite food carts is Banzo. Banzo is known for it’s fresh take on Mediterranean cuisine favorites like pita sandwiches, kebabs, and hummus. In fact their hummus is so good, we buy tubs of it from the several Madison area grocery stores that carry it.
But the crowd favorite has always been their falafel. Their golden-fried balls of ground and seasoned garbanzo beans (hence the name Banzo) have a satisfying outer crunch that gives way to a tender inside suffused with green herbs and spices.
We are fairly evenly split in the Madison Foodie family between preferring the platter or the pita. Most times when we are on the go, the pita sandwich is the perfect portable lunch. (And Foodie Jr. loves the surprise of the potato chips at the bottom.) However, being able to mix and match flavors with platter is also great, as long as you’re not trying to balance a to-go container on your lap in a stiff wind.
Check Banzo’s Facebook page or their Twitter page for when and where the food cart will be around around town: either at the Library Mall, the Capital Square, or at events around town. Or you can enjoy a restful lunch on their deck at their restaurant location outside Maple Bluff on the near East Side. The staff is super friendly and helpful at all their locations.