Mark's Carts Third Season
Now with Mexican and BBQ
by Sally Mitani
"It costs $9,500 for the season, and all you have to do is go to the grocery store," says Mark Hodesh.
And get a food truck. Still, a patch of concrete behind Downtown Home & Garden is probably the cheapest way to start a restaurant, other than a hot dog cart on the city sidewalk. Mark's Carts will open for a third season on April 1.
Hodesh says that $9,500 might sound like a lot for a few square feet of pavement with no walls, but it includes all utilities and use of the commercial kitchen on site. You also get as much mentoring as you want from Hodesh, who seems to enjoy being paterfamilias of an ever-growing crop of new restaurateurs. Hodesh owned the Fleetwood for three years in the early 1970s before he bought Downtown Home & Garden (then Hertler's), so his advice isn't insignificant.
Like last year, he will have eight carts. He balances the mix, looking for good food, "enthusiasm, and realistic expectations. Realistic expectations are important, because it's a lot of work." This year's rookie carts are Satchel's BBQ (already well known as a bricks and mortar restaurant on Washtenaw) and the central Mexican home cooking of Mariano Rodriguez's El Manantial. Hodesh will be welcoming back San Street, Hut-K Chaats, A2 Pizza Pi, Darcy's Cart, the Beet Box, and Cheese Dream. The Beet Box, he says, may be starting a little late: "They have to graduate." He means literally--it's run by a trio of U-M students.
And about that food truck you have to come up with. Hodesh says people tend to go one of three ways: "there's a guy in Jackson who makes them, there's Cart Concepts in New York, or you can make your own. The Lunch Room did."
And it served them well. Phillis Engelbert and Joel Panozzo's vegan Lunch Room won't be coming back for a third season because they're opening a more permanent Lunch Room this summer at Kerrytown,
in the former Yamato. Engelbert says she doesn't know what they're doing with their cart: "We might sell it, we might keep it for event catering."
Engelbert spoke by phone from the car--Panozzo in the driver's seat--as they were returning from the Libbey restaurant supply showroom in Toledo. "We picked out lots of samples. We'll be cooking and plating and making our decisions in the next few days."
She hopes the Lunch Room will open in June for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and weekend brunches.
[Originally published in March, 2013.]