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Posted on Mon, May 9, 2011 : 5:38 p.m.

Mark's Carts opening day: Hungry crowd feasts on carnitas, barbecue tofu and ambiance

By Janet Miller


Customers wait to order at The Lunch Room, which serves vegan food, during the opening day at Mark's Carts, a collection of food carts in downtown Ann Arbor.

Janet Miller | For

By 11:30 a.m. Monday, Mark Hodesh had learned a lesson: If you build it, they will come.

A hungry crowd swarmed into the small landscaped rectangle of land behind Hodesh’s Downtown Home and Garden in Ann Arbor for the opening day of Mark’s Carts, what eventually will be a collection of 10 individually owned and operated street food carts.

By 11:30 a.m., the lines to the five food carts that kicked off the day started to form. By noon, the wait for food at some of the carts was 15 minutes or longer, and by 12:30, some of the carts had run out of some menu items.

It was, a glowing Hodesh said, a successful day.


Derek Peterson, an employee of Darcy's Cart, works on filling an order.

Janet Miller | For

“Half of this is about good food, but the other half is about being social,” he said.

It was Art Fair crowded, but without the humidity, as downtown workers jammed into the courtyard, sitting on temporary benches and wall edges in the bright May sunshine, eating braised pork cheek, barbecue tofu and pork ‘n beans.

The food cart courtyard is an idea whose time has come, said Ryan Werder, standing and eating in front of Darcy’s Cart, which features a locally sourced menu of carnitas, warm mushroom salad, flourless chocolate cake and more. “I didn’t know we needed it, but clearly we do.”

Frank Szollosi, who said his carnitas from Darcy’s Cart were “outstanding,” agreed.


Ryan Werder, left, and Frank Szollosi, who both work downtown, came to Mark's Carts on its opening day.

Janet Miller | For

“It puts people to work, it generates revenue for the owner and taxes for the city and it’s great for mixing. There is a social vibe,” he said.

And it gives vegetarians more options, said Anne Henningfeld.

“I’ve been waiting and waiting for this. I love street food. We don’t have enough vegetarian food in Ann Arbor,” she said.

It’s going to give downtown workers more options, said Ellen Chaney, who works downtown and eats lunch out every day.

“It’s nice to have something different. I’m tired of going to the same places all of the time,” she said.

Keith Ewing, owner of the Humble Hogs food cart, said the turnout exceeded his wildest imagination. An hour after opening, he ran out of macaroni and cheese. His headcheese hoagies sold out soon after that.

It’s Ewing’s first foray into entrepreneurship. He’d lived in Ann Arbor for 13 years before he moved to Houston for a job. But he lost that job and began soul searching.

“I began to examine myself and thought, what means a lot to me,” he said. “And I realized that food means a lot to me. I wanted to pursue my heart.”

Humble Hogs, he said, offers a heritage bistro menu.


The menu Monday at Humble Hogs.

Janet Miller | For

“It’s food that has a history, like headcheese,” Ewing said. “Whole hog typifies that. It’s eating, but without being trendy. It’s more anti-trendy, but slow cooking, like pork and beans.”

It wasn’t only the lunch crowd that spilled out of the courtyard, on to the sidewalk and across West Washington Street that announced the debut. A mix of aromas — pork confit, Korean barbecue, chorizo sausage — wound around the neighborhood.

Five carts opened today: Darcy’s Cart, Humble Hogs, eat, Debajo del Sol, and The Lunch Room.

Two more will join them in two weeks: San Street Asian street food and People’s Pierogi Collective.

Hodesh hopes to add a cart with Indian food soon, and is still looking for two more carts, perhaps a Jamaican/Caribbean cart and maybe a wood-fired pizza cart. He has received 35 applications for carts.

While Mark’s Carts hours will be 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week, each cart will set its own hours. For hours, menus and updates, go to

Janet Miller is a freelance reporter for


Ben Connor Barrie

Sun, May 15, 2011 : 5:50 a.m.

I've only had a chance to try out The Lunch Room so far. I liked the tangy Thai slaw a lot. My friend wrote up a review of three of the carts: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>

thomas siterlet

Wed, May 11, 2011 : 4:24 p.m.

I was one of the MANY there for opening day -and it certainly won't be my last time in attendance. A wide variety of foods &amp; prices-definately something for everyone!! Thanx Mark &amp; all the vendors. I anticipate this becoming a regular &quot;Ann Arbor Thing&quot;.


Wed, May 11, 2011 : 1:36 p.m.

My motto for the city? : Ann Arbor, home of the $9.00 sandwich.... If you want cheap, good, food you'll have to travel across 23 to Ypsi (horrors!), where you can find plenty of &quot;locally sourced&quot; hand-made food in actual restaurants. For example, Roy's Squeeze Inn offers an adorably grungy eating experience - a circular countertop where you can, well, squeeze in, and have some of the best hand-made burgers around with buttered, lightly salted grilled buns: five sliders + five dollars = YUMMMMM! Thai Thai on Washtenaw offers THE best Thai food in the County. For the veg's in the crowd, Taqueria La Casita (Washtenaw) has the tastiest quesadillas (locally sourced? who knows, who cares, they are DELICIOUS), and La Fiesta Mexicana (Cross St.) has the best bean and cheese tamales I have EVER had, and my grandmother used to make tamales all the time. Downtown you can have excellent locally sourced food at Beezy's which is next door to the Dreamland Puppet Theater (where I witnessed Ypsi's mayoral debate which was moderated by a puppet, no kidding), and across the street from Deja Vu (ah Ypsi...) The Ypsi food Co-op has the best baguette/bread anywhere, far superior to Zingerman's. Ugly Mug coffee-one word-YES. And Dos Hermanos has excellent pork tamales, again, as good as grandma's, and the best hot sauce available (I've stopped making it myself in deference), AND they butcher their own meat, so if you eat ground beef, buy it there because they grind it themselves.Ditto on the Mexican Chorizo, mmmmmm. There's so much more, classic steakhouses (Haab's), vegan (Cafe Ollie), fish tacos (Pacific Coast Burrito), but then they don't quite have the cache, or the accompanying price tag, of establishments to the West. That's fine, I can always get a table, no wait, and no second mortgage.


Wed, May 11, 2011 : 6:55 p.m.

Ah yes, Ypsi does have some very good restaurants (I love Haab's), but none that I can walk to from my house. One of the reasons I love living where I do...I can eat great food then can walk the calories off getting home from Downtown. I'll pay the few extra dollars just for that convenience alone.

Tom Teague

Tue, May 10, 2011 : 7:07 p.m.

The prospect of a headcheese hoagie is improving my productivity: The faster I finish this project, the sooner I can get to Humble Hogs for lunch. Good luck to Mark Hodesh and all the cart people. This looks like a great addition to downtown dining.


Tue, May 10, 2011 : 7:10 p.m.

HMMMMMM......he said hoagie.


Tue, May 10, 2011 : 6:44 p.m.

GOOD GRIEF!!! What is with all of the &quot;I've got it all figured out&quot; comments. This place has been open for a day &amp; a half now. Give it some time haters!

Elaine F. Owsley

Tue, May 10, 2011 : 5:32 p.m.

What is a &quot;carnita&quot;?


Wed, May 11, 2011 : 1:51 a.m.

Carnitas are a Mexican dish. It's made of boiled or roasted pork (usually shoulder) that's cut or shredded into bite-size pieces that are then fried in a liberal amount of fat (usually pork fat) until browned, crisp on the outside and succulent within. They are then often stuffed into warm corn tortillas with a salsa, chopped onion, cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice to make a delicious taco. Mmmmm....I'm drooling just writing this....

Tom Joad

Tue, May 10, 2011 : 4:21 p.m.

Styrofoam containers? Not very green. For a 10 minute meal it resides in the landfill for a millennium.

Mark's Carts

Tue, May 10, 2011 : 7:53 p.m.

Tom: We require all our vendors to use only recyclable or compostable take-out containers.


Tue, May 10, 2011 : 4:59 p.m.

they are not styrofoam, they are that tan recyclable material


Tue, May 10, 2011 : 3:35 p.m.

Certainly worth the money. If there's anything I hate it's non-locally-sourced pig's cheeks.


Tue, May 10, 2011 : 3:42 p.m.

Yep, that's some &quot;quality&quot; meat right there. Do you suppose they boil the pigs' heads right there in the onsite kitchen?


Tue, May 10, 2011 : 3:32 p.m.

I read this site all the time and hadn't heard about this. Didn't know anything about it until walking by on Saturday on my way to Kiwanis. So.... over - covered? I for one am excited to see more variety of fast, fresh, convenient and locally sourced foods available in the downtown area. This article is completely warranted - look at the number of comments.


Tue, May 10, 2011 : 1:14 p.m.

Also.... I assume is reporting about this because it is NEW and DIFFERENT and has clearly generated lots of community interest. This is exactly the kind of think I want to read about .

Atticus F.

Tue, May 10, 2011 : 1:14 p.m.

I went by yesterday, and everything looked good. I'd also be interested in trying the Jamaican food stand if they ever open one up.


Tue, May 10, 2011 : 1:13 p.m.

For those complaining about the prices: If you would prefer to eat unsustainably and mass-produced food &quot;products&quot; that can be purchased for $1 because you can remember eating those products for $1 in 1985.... be my guest! I for one am soooo happy to have the option to grab a bite for $5, in a great spot, knowing that my $5 is supporting local business and local food, AND I'm getting a great and quick lunch. The cost is just right. If you don't like it, don't go there. Or better yet, instead of griping, show some of your own initiative and open your own creative little business and try to make a decent living at it.


Tue, May 10, 2011 : 4:06 p.m.

Leanne, where did you get $8 a sandwich? Mine cost $5,and my daughter's meal cost $4, and it was delightful. If there was an $8 sandwich there (I didn't see one), there would clearly be other options for you.


Tue, May 10, 2011 : 2:44 p.m.

If you think that street food is usually about hot dogs and pretzels, then your experience with this method of food delivery is limited indeed. By some estimates, billions of people eat street food every day. They're throwing back tacos, dumplings, crepes, shawarma, pani puri, etc, and trust me, they're not paying the equivalent of $8 USD for these delights. My objection is that for most of the world street food is supposed to be inexpensive, tasty, and fast. I hate to join the crowd of Ann Arbor haters, but the cost of items in this new food court smacks of yuppification. $8 for a sandwich? Get real. On the one hand, it's cool that America is trying to embrace the culture of street food, but what we're seeing instead is the peddling of overpriced imitations of what the rest of the world regards as normal, everyday eats.

Peter Baker

Tue, May 10, 2011 : 2:08 p.m.

Sure, prices are high for &quot;street food&quot; because most &quot;street food&quot; is usually hot dogs and pretzels. These carts are WAY more interesting and high quality than that. If you want to be full for &lt;$5, there's plenty of options out there, but I'd pay 3 bucks more for some quality any day.


Tue, May 10, 2011 : 1:28 p.m.

You'd better bring more than five bucks if you plan to make a meal of a visit to the cart court. Let's be fair, the prices are a tad high for &quot;street food.&quot;


Tue, May 10, 2011 : 1:13 p.m.

Some one wrote does Hodesh has a connection to usually when some one gets alot of articles wrote about them, either Mary Sure Coleman has something to do with it or the university of Michigan. Look at all the articles about the Football stadiam when they were building the new enclosed seating and NOT everyone is a Football fan or a University of Michigan Fan.


Tue, May 10, 2011 : 12:54 p.m.

It sounds like a wonderful place to try, I know I will not buy my lunch at the Hospital where I work, the prices are way too much for a example at the VA Medical Center, I was charged $4.25 for one Slice of Pizza &amp; $1.60 for one Bottle of Coke. Nothing extra and nothing more. Last Friday for one Taco Salad that was sold by Weight, it was $8.55 and the Friday one week before the same thing was $4.25. They told me there was a price increase. So, today, I am going to check out the new place to eat, it sounds wonderful and I am sure the prices are better than they are at the VA Medical center, I am spending over $25.00 or more per day and this is a Hospital that is helping the veterans with a discount price. It would be nice if it was close to the VA Medical because we only get a 30 min lunch.


Tue, May 10, 2011 : 12:43 p.m.

So many complaints about the prices! Isn't there still a hot dog cart or two around downtonw where you can get cheap dogs for a couple bucks? Go there if you want bulk food and the attendant low prices. Patronize the differentiated products at Mark's Carts if that's your thing. More diversity and choice is good, the market will decide. But why complain because there's a new option? Folks can stick with the same old, same old if they like. Time will tell.


Tue, May 10, 2011 : 12:33 p.m.

I have to agree with Machine that Hodesh gets more coverage than he deserves. Like so many &quot;stories&quot; here, this one lacks meat. We already knew the food cart court was going to open - and the freelancer &quot;forgot&quot; to mention it's a month behind schedule - and first-day crowds are pretty normal. Why not tell us something worthwhile, with context and detail we don't already know,


Tue, May 10, 2011 : 12:33 p.m.

I used to eat from the food carts in New York because you could get a knish or a hot dog for $1; prices have gone up a bit but it's still pretty cheap. Not quite the same experience as the Ann Arbor food carts are offering!


Tue, May 10, 2011 : 12:20 p.m.

I would like to hear a report from someone who tried the headcheese hoagie, I'm fascinated.


Tue, May 10, 2011 : 10:21 a.m. I understand it...I can spend $8 for a headcheese hoagie or I can go to Zingerman's with a friend and split a large Reuben, which split will cost me $7.75. So the day has comeā€¦.Zingerman's is the cheap place to eat downtown.


Tue, May 10, 2011 : 2:56 a.m.

Way to go Mark. From an old time Fleetwood diner to a current patron of Downtown Home and Garden and even a short stint in Castine at the Inn. You've got what it takes and keep it coming.


Tue, May 10, 2011 : 2:12 a.m.

What is most interesting about this whole food cart thing is how MANY people there are who are looking for alternatives to the current range of options. That said, Ann Arbor has never been known for GOOD cheap eats. I don't particularly care if it is locally sourced, as long as it tastes good, and is well-prepared. More &quot;Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives&quot;, please!


Tue, May 10, 2011 : 2:11 a.m.

Just what Ann arbor needs, more places to eat.


Tue, May 10, 2011 : 1:41 a.m.

Ann Arbor really is the home of overpriced food. Price your sandwich a dollar below the going rate and people fall all over themselves to praise you. Meanwhile, people visiting from metropolitan cities such as Chicago and NY always marvel at how expensive food is here compared to what they can get back home. I can only assume that all the people rabidly defending this food court have some sort of vested interest in it because a disinterested party would be able to step back and acknowledge the flaws. Also, I am sure the quality of the food being offered is very good but I wish the cart concepts were a little more adventurous. As it stands, it feels like the carts were selected by a focus group and they were told to throw in a couple trendy buzzwords that somebody heard on the Food Network. &quot;Locally sourced&quot; sandwiches, asian street food and macaroni and cheese? How innovative! And Hodesh wants to add a wood fired pizza cart and Indian food? How underground! Honestly, the only one that surprised me at all was the pierogi cart. That's it for me. I'm out.


Tue, May 10, 2011 : 4:46 p.m.

Ann Arbor really is the home of overpriced food. Um, have you ever been to a big city? Have you ever tried to buy street food from a food truck in LA, SF, or NY? Once you do this, then we'll talk about &quot;overpriced.&quot;


Tue, May 10, 2011 : 12:25 p.m.

Were you looking for something more subversive like a lamb offal cart? There's an unlimited number of possibilities for food options, I'll give you that. But these people have to be able to SELL what they produce. I think they have a fair mix of the accessible and exotic to get started with. As they build a clientele that trusts them, they can experiment more with the adventurous. This is, after all, a city of just over 110k in the Midwest.


Tue, May 10, 2011 : 1:08 a.m.

Okay, I get the idea of a new option for lunch, we are after all, a New York wannabe town so street vendors are appropriate, but what's with all of the &quot;social&quot; mix and ambiance jargon. It's just another new place to eat....why not go over board about The Raven that is opening soon...or what new restaurant(s) that will go into the spaces previously occupied by Barclay Gallery and soon to be gone 16 Hands...after all, we are quickly becoming a destination for two things....a restaurant or to show up for a hair/salon appointment...@Tom Joad, prices aren't that can get a 1/2 cup serving of tropical cole slaw at a close by Cuban inspired place for $5 or go kitty corner to another restaurant and pay what?-$12 for a bowl of Mac and Cheese, so I'd say not too expensive. Coffee is $2 (plus) almost anywhere in town so drinks @ $2 is not too bad,unless they are really small.

Tom Joad

Tue, May 10, 2011 : 12:48 a.m.

Not the right price point to survive the recession. These levels of prices don't reflect the spirit of a food cart lunch experience. They don't have the overhead of restaurants yet they presume to ingratiate themselves with the savings. It's a slender thread in deciding whether to buy a $6 sandwich and one that costs $5, which most would agree is the optimal price for the casual diner.


Tue, May 10, 2011 : 12:16 p.m.

Yes. Sorry Tom Joad, but you're not an expert at the economics of a food cart court. You don't speak for all of us, although your post makes it sound as if you've a consituency. Your opinion is your opinion. Nothing more.


Tue, May 10, 2011 : 1:18 a.m.

I would challenge Mr. Joad to find a $6 sandwich of the same quality with locally sourced ingredients in a restaurant nearby. These new businesses need to operate with enough profit margin to pay for their carts, the rent, and themselves... and to survive the winter... and maybe eventually to prove themselves worthy of one of the scarce bank loans available these days for a brick and mortar place. These are little entrepreneurial ventures with real character and heart. If we want to have a town with character and heart, we need to support and foster them. Even if it costs an extra buck. Thanks to Mark for making space for a food business incubator. It's a great idea.

Jenille Boston

Tue, May 10, 2011 : 12:46 a.m.

Machine - Underwhelming and overpriced? Did you manage to eat every menu item from every cart today? I'm guessing not. I can only really speak of Darcy's Cart, but their prices are phenomenal for being completely locally sourced, not to mention their food rocks! I think this is a wonderful opportunity for the community, as there is no where in AA that has good, cheaper lunch food. Also, word on the street is that the carts will be open late night for the bar crowd down the road, it's just not happening right now.


Tue, May 10, 2011 : 12:24 a.m.

Does Hodesh have some connection to His little business venture has gotten write-ups in January, April, and twice in May (did I miss any?). Four write-ups in less than 6 months for an underwhelming, overpriced food court? Surely there are more newsworthy things going or other new business ventures that could use a little more attention.

Atticus F.

Tue, May 10, 2011 : 1:17 p.m.

The concept is new to Ann Arbor. Thats the reason they have been writing about it.


Tue, May 10, 2011 : 12:18 p.m.

What did you find underwhelming about your experience there today?


Mon, May 9, 2011 : 11:52 p.m.

Why so cranky, Tom Joad? Yes, you could stay home and open a can of beans for less, but these people have overhead and provide a novel experience, a social time, and real convenience for downtown workers. This is a good thing!


Mon, May 9, 2011 : 11:40 p.m.

Not everyone eats lunch at the same time! I came down for a late lunch, 2:30ish, and was stymied by closed carts and what was open had run out of most offerings. Hopefully that was just a function of the rousingly successful first day. I'll be back. This is a great, great idea, and I think the prices are fine.

Mark's Carts

Tue, May 10, 2011 : 7:58 p.m.

Dawn01: Things were a bit calmer today - still brisk, and some items still sold out, but we expect it to settle into a more manageable routine after a week or two. Hope you'll come back and check it out again!

rusty shackelford

Mon, May 9, 2011 : 11:36 p.m.

Great opening day, but you seriously need to let the carts open earlier and/or stay open later. By 8am most people are already at work, so you lose breakfast, and closing at 10 you lose the post-bar crowd. It was a huge turnout today with all the excitement, but give these folks a chance to turn a profit long-term.


Mon, May 9, 2011 : 11:30 p.m.

What an excellent addition to Ann Arbor. Thank you Mark!

Boo Radley

Mon, May 9, 2011 : 11:24 p.m.

Someone can actually sell out of headcheese hoagies? Who'd a thunk ?

Atticus F.

Tue, May 10, 2011 : 1:15 p.m.

I wont eat anything with brains or intestinal tack... I try to stay away from zombie food.


Tue, May 10, 2011 : 1:11 a.m.

I ate headcheese sandwiches quite a bit when I was young. When I was 10 or 11 Grandpa thought I was old enough to help him make it...never ate it again.

Tom Joad

Mon, May 9, 2011 : 10:33 p.m.

Mac and cheese for $6, Pork and beans for $4, $2 for a drink...I don't think so. The prices are restaurant level

Jimmy McNulty

Tue, May 10, 2011 : 10:49 a.m.

And maybe it's the best mac + cheese and pork + beans you will ever have. I do not think that's exhorbitant.