Mark's Carts' Third Season
that leads from Bill's Beer Garden straight into the magical flower-decked world of little restaurants on wheels.
Really, there's a lot going on at this tiny food court in the shadow of the rising Ann Arbor City Apartments at Washington and First (which, Hodesh says, is generating hungry lunchtime construction-worker customers).
Mariano Rodriguez's El Manantial is a purveyor of robust Mexican fare. Its attractively folk-arty menu lists a simple lineup of pork and chicken "sandwiches" translated into torta, quesadilla, tostada, and taco varieties. The corn taco duo is a deal at four bucks, and it's the only option where the meat choice is prescribed--a tasty al pastor pork slow-cooked with red chili sauce. I came across a gristly bite or two and some grease soaked into the taco, but that's nothing unexpected in country-style fare. There was an intriguing unlisted ingredient that I couldn't initially identify, although stewed green onion bulbs seemed a possibility. Turned out, duh, to be stewed pineapple chunks, which helped account for the complex sweet spiciness of the sauce.
A sprinkling of poblano chunks, lettuce, tomato, cilantro, queso fresco, avocado, and refreshingly real salsa make the other offerings into full meals. Vegetarians have to hope the daily special will suit them, as did the humble potato flautas I happened upon one day, lightly pre-fried and dressed up in all those veggie and cheese trappings for eight bucks. Quesadillas and tostadas cost the same, and the torta on thick bread is a dollar less.