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Posted on Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 11:40 a.m.

Mark's Carts: Downtown Ann Arbor outdoor food courtyard to reopen next month with three new carts

By Lizzy Alfs


Mark's Carts outdoor food courtyard will reopen in downtown Ann Arbor March 30.

Thomas Boulan, Photographer

From wood-fired personal pizzas to artisan grilled cheese sandwiches, Mark’s Carts outdoor food courtyard in downtown Ann Arbor is expanding its mix of tenants when it reopens March 30.

The courtyard, located behind Downtown Home & Garden and off East Washington Street, will celebrate its grand reopening from 5 to 10 p.m. the night of FoolMoon, a procession of illuminated sculptures that leads into the annual FestiFools event.

The courtyard will be decorated in lights and have a fire pit, located yards away from the FoolMoon music stage.

Three new food carts are joining the courtyard this year: The Beet Box, an eclectic mix of fresh, healthy foods, a wood-fired personal pizza cart, and Cheese Dream, an artisan grilled cheese and soup vendor.

Among the returning food carts: The Lunch Room, San Street, Debajo del Sol, Darcy’s Cart and Hut K Chaat.

Downtown Home & Garden owner Mark Hodesh launched the food courtyard concept in May 2011 on a 2,700-square-foot parcel of land behind his store. He intended Mark’s Carts to act as a launching pad for businesses, allowing food vendors to dive into Ann Arbor’s food scene with lower operating costs than opening a storefront.

And so far, Hodesh told, the concept has been successful.

Food vendors The Lunch Room and The Beet Box were both able to launch their carts thanks to the online funding platform Kickstarter.

The Beet Box is run by a group of University of Michigan students interested in healthy food and community empowerment, according to its Kickstarter video. The group has raised $10,463 dollars to help buy a cart and other necessary supplies.

Last year, the vegan food cart The Lunch Room raised $10,500 with Kickstarter to open the cart, and reported a profitable first summer.

The hours for the courtyard are yet to be determined, but Hodesh said he’s encouraging more afternoon and evening hours from the carts.

Lizzy Alfs is a business reporter for Reach her at 734-623-2584 or email her at Follow her on Twitter at



Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 8:54 p.m.

Alan Goldsmith, thanks for the laugh! So true, never seen so much attention to a local business owner. What's Marks connection?


Sat, Feb 25, 2012 : 2:52 a.m.

Yes, let's prosecute those advancing our economy. Sorry your arrivals were inconvenient to business hours.


Fri, Feb 24, 2012 : 2:31 p.m.

A cart dedicated to cheese. My life is complete! will be once I get to eat there!!


Fri, Feb 24, 2012 : 12:54 p.m.

My heavens, every time I read "comments" there are so many grumblers! Come on, it's very interesting to read updates about our eateries, whether they be restaurants or carts. Is this really going to become only a forum for negativity?

Alan Goldsmith

Fri, Feb 24, 2012 : 11:20 a.m.

" measured by traffic to the stories..." Thanks for the admission of what guides the journalist values of Your confession about how stories are assigned explains a great deal about scores of recent "news" decisions.


Fri, Feb 24, 2012 : 4:43 a.m.

Cursing myself for not making it to Humble Hog while I had the chance. My schedule makes it difficult to make it there for lunch, but I need to make it happen. I'm sure will remind me if I forget.

Nathan Bomey

Fri, Feb 24, 2012 : 1:57 a.m.

Thanks for reading, everyone. For what it's worth, I thought you might be interested in one of the many reasons why we have written frequently about Mark's Carts. Quite simply, every time we do, we see significant interest in Mark's Carts — as measured by traffic to the stories. In addition to that factor, however, Mark's Carts is also interesting as a business story. It's an example of innovation in a generally static industry. It's not one business, but many businesses. And, as many can attest, it has injected energy into downtown Ann Arbor. For all these reasons, we believe it remains an interesting story. Naturally, the amount of coverage will decline as it becomes more of a established business. But because it's still new and generating a lot of discussion and interest, we'll continue to talk about it. Hope that helps clarify!


Fri, Feb 24, 2012 : 3:49 a.m.

No, it appears the "significant interest" seems to be why is writing so many stories about this plac, not the actual business.


Fri, Feb 24, 2012 : 2:31 a.m.

Fair enough.


Fri, Feb 24, 2012 : 12:23 a.m.

I'm sorry. The old press release deal is fine for business updates "In the business section" Marks has had all these articles as either Headline News or at least in the first few articles. Coverage like that takes more than press releases. It takes inside help. Bottom line is someone at Marks knows someone in authority at Same thing goes for Zingermans. Now....I don't even begrudge them that luxury but jeebus.....try being a little less in our face and discreet, ay?


Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 10:35 p.m.

Marketing 101. It's called a press release people.


Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 10:05 p.m.

Oops, sorry, perhaps it should be "Markscarts/Blue"! When it comes to Frita Bandita you guys and gals are no slouch either. Do you own stock in any of the above?


Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 10:02 p.m.

Maybe you should re-name this blog/paper, ""!

Vivienne Armentrout

Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 9:56 p.m.

Apparently Humble Hogs is now producing their headcheese as a retail product and placing it in local stores as well as selling it online. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 9:08 p.m.

I agree completely about the head cheese hoagie - BEST THING by far! Guess I'll have to make my own now, if I can find some good head cheese ( souse would be great, too).


Fri, Feb 24, 2012 : 12:39 a.m.

please tell me this is a joke?


Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 8:17 p.m.

How is the sanitation handled at these carts? Is one person handling money and food? Do the carts each have a sink with running water? As far as cost, no reason why these carts can't serve food at no more than $5.00. Someone mentioned a tip, sorry but street food is picked up by customers waiting in line, not served to a table by a wait staff. No tip required. The carts are a good idea, but they need to keep the costs down or they will not survive. There is already enough fancy overpriced artisan food in A2.

Mike Martin

Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 9:36 p.m.

Ha - What level of sanitation do you think you are getting sitting in a restaurant where the kitchen is hidden? You see 100% of what these people are doing. I see no sanitation issue. And, of course, they are inspected by the city food inspectors that same way a restaurant is.


Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 8:42 p.m.

The sanitation inquiry is a good one. What standards of sanitation at the carts are required? And wearing gloves while touching food AND money isn't satisfactory


Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 8:30 p.m.

@Sallyxyz You clearly haven't read all the previous articles on Mark's Carts. Hodesh has provided a commercial kitchen for the vendors to use. The carts pay a fee for access to the kitchen and the courtyard. While the fee seems steep, it is much cheaper than opening an actual restaurant. Many of the carts get additional business via catering, etc.

West of Main

Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 7:56 p.m.

So the headcheese hoagie cart is no more? Whudda thunk that?

Jake C

Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 8:15 p.m.

As someone who ate most every meal choice from every cart, the headcheese hoagie was probably the tastiest thing I ate there. No joking.

Jake C

Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 7:54 p.m.

For people like me who work downtown on weekdays, places like Mark's Carts are a breath of fresh air for those of us who just want a quick, tasty, inexpensive lunch. Perhaps there's been 11 stories done on Mark's Carts because it's actually a big deal for us and we really, really like it and like to know more about it. As for those complaining that the food is &quot;pricey for what you get&quot; -- aside from Le Dog downtown, good luck finding a similar quality lunch for under $7 including tip, tax, and parking. Taco Bell and McDonalds don't count.

Mike Martin

Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 10:45 p.m.

Yeah, I suppose it is a matter of personal choice and habit. I could never eat $12 worth of food for lunch there. $6 was sufficient on the countless number of times I ate there.

Jojo B

Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 9:46 p.m.

@Mike Martin: I'm not going to get into a pointless argument over portion control, but many of the carts offer small $4 items. Eating two or three of these little treats does not equal a full meal that you get for $10 elsewhere. If you think this is a good deal, that's great.

Mike Martin

Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 9:34 p.m.

@ Jojo B: $8 - $12 at Mark's Carts? Are you eating something from every cart? You are supposed to pick and choose. I work on Main St. and eat lunch downtown daily too. I can't imagine a $12 lunch at Mark's Carts.

Jojo B

Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 9:24 p.m.

@Jake C: Oh but it is a bit pricey. I work downtown and eat downtown every day. I expect to pay $8-12 dollars when I eat at any mid-level restaurant. When I've eaten at several Mark's Carts stands, I spend roughly that amount as well, but I usually don't have a place to sit and I'm left still hungry. So I'd expect to pay $15-20 to get my fill at Mark's Carts, which I have already done. The food has been good, but geeze, that's way more expensive than the lobster bisque at Le Dog.

Jojo B

Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 6:53 p.m.

I took a trip down there several times last year. Some interesting food, a bit pricey for what you get, and BARELY ANY SEATING. If it hopes to attract more customers, there has to be more than two picnic tables. If I'm going to go out of my way to eat overpriced artisan street food, at least give me a place to sit!


Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 4:15 a.m.



Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 6:13 p.m.

Much as I thought Alan was exaggerating, a quick search reveals this is in fact the 12th story has done about Mark's Carts since January 2011. While it's a neat idea for a food court and certainly worth a couple articles, I daresay 12 is too many. Surely there are other local businesses worth reporting on?

Mike Martin

Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 5:40 p.m.

Yay! Spring is coming. I'm looking forward to returning to Mark's carts as a frequent lunch choice. Mark Hodesh did a nice job adding something interesting and different to the downtown food scene. I applaud the effort. Downtown Home and Garden is also a quality venue. We are lucky to have these guys downtown.

Alan Goldsmith

Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 5:18 p.m.

Thank you for part 17 in your continuing series: The Mark's Carts Story.


Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 6:14 p.m.

...and if I see the word &quot;artisan&quot; one more time I may just throw up!


Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 5:11 p.m.

Made a trip down town last year just to check out the carts and they weren't open. And this was when they had more then 3 carts dont think I'll be back unless I hear something more promising then 3 carts. Seem like a good idea, but not very well thought out.


Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 5:31 p.m.

Or, what she said ^ ^.


Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 5:30 p.m.

Read it again &mdash; eight new and returning carts were mentioned above. Three are new.

Lizzy Alfs

Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 5:24 p.m.

Sorry that wasn't clear. There are eight vendors in total and three new ones. These are the returning carts: The Lunch Room, San Street, Debajo del Sol, Darcy's Cart and Hut K Chaat.