Mark’s Carts is Open for Business

For the seventh year, foot traffic continues to pour into the outdoor courtyard at 211 W. Washington St. between First St. and Ashley. For the 2016 season six carts, each of them individually owned, will share a kitchen and serve up lunch and dinner to hungry patrons (weather permitting). 

To celebrate the season, we talked to each cart owner about their unique food, how they got started, and what makes the Mark’s Carts community unique.


El Manantial: Mariano Rodriguez | @El_Manantial_A2
5-8pm/Tuesday-Thursday | 5-9:30pm/Friday 
and Saturday | 5-9pm/Sunday

How long has El Manantial been in operation?
El Manantial is starting its fourth year at Mark’s Carts. Open seven days a week from April 1 to October 31, we cater and have a second cart we take to off-site events.

Signature Dish?
This food is our family. Our family restaurant has been open in Guanajuato, Mexico for 38 years. All of our food at El Manantial is made from scratch, using family recipes. From tacos to quesadillas to flautas, our food is from the heart—fresh and flavorful. We have something for kids and vegetarians, vegan, lactose-intolerant and gluten-free options.

Best part of the job?
Making food for my customers, doing what I love and working with my family. I rest at night knowing I work hard every single day. It’s exciting to grow my business and work locally and with national companies. I’ve met some of the nicest people. I’ve fed 5th-graders, corporate executives, celebrities, fellow Ann Arborites and Grammy winners. Food brings out the best in people.


Great Grilled Sandwiches: Jay Nirban
11-3/Monday | 11-3 and 5-9/Tuesday 
through Saturday | Varies/Sunday

Signature dish?
Our most popular and signature dish is CBM (Chicken Basil Mozzarella) and Jay’s Chicmole sandwiches. 

What makes your Great Grilled Sandwiches awesome?
The most innovative part of our sandwich is its three layers, so you get extra meat and also an extra cheese. People are surprised that they get an extra meat and extra cheese sandwich for just $9 which is affordable for everyone.  

Strangest thing that’s ever happened to you while working?
My dad came to help me one day. I was working a lunch hour shift and I didn’t make a single dollar tip and when he made a sandwich for a customer they left him a 10 dollar tip! I learned from my dad how to make a customer happy and satisfied.



Hut-K Chaats: Sumi (above) & Swaroop Bhojani | 11am-3pm and 5-8pm/Monday-Thursday.
11am-3pm and 5pm-9pm/Friday. 11am-3pm and flexible evening times/Saturday.
Flexible morning times/Sunday.

How long have you been in operation?
Ever since Mark’s Carts began in 2011. 

Signature dish?
​Shanu Chaat is our award-winning dish. It won the Le Crueset Cook-off award in 2011, garnering 42 percent of the total votes that were cast that day among eight carts.

Most difficult part of working in a food cart versus working in a traditional kitchen?
The most difficult yet fun part is managing people from different carts, all working in one kitchen. Different ethnicities, backgrounds, attitudes and work ethics creates a great melting pot.

Strangest food cart experience?
While talking to one customer, I realized that he was a radiation oncologist from Canada with whom I have had many e-mail and data exchanges while I was at the University of Michigan. What serendipity!


Pita Cruiser: Jami & Blake Miller | @PitaCruiser

How long have you been in operation? 
The Pita Cruiser Food Truck was born in October 2014 in Charlevoix, Michigan.

Signature dish? 
We make the most mouthwatering shawarma, falafel, and more, all from the freshest ingredients. 

Most difficult part of working in a food cart versus working in a traditional kitchen? 
We are trying to serve gourmet food out of a shoebox! Our goal is to serve made-to-order hot, fresh pitas in under two minutes, while our customers are basically standing in the kitchen with us.

Strangest food cart experience? 
It was pretty cool. This winter, at Boyne Mountain Resort, our food truck was towed into position next to the six-man chair lift by a groomer. The groomer had to tow us back out to leave.


Seafood Driven: Allison Thacker & Alexander Curtis
11am-3pm and 5pm-9pm/Tuesday-Saturday | 10am-3pm/Sunday

How did you decide to open a food cart?
Long before we met, Alex, his brothers, and dad had envisioned opening a restaurant. When Alex moved to Athens, Ohio to be closer to his brother, he originally planned on starting a food cart there; however the laws are ridiculously strict, so back to Ann Arbor he went–with me in tow. I knew I wanted to eventually have my own restaurant, so a food cart seemed like the natural progression of things.

Signature dish?
Definitely the lobster roll. It’s Alex’s favorite seafood item and, in his experience, people tend to agree.

Best part of the job?
Despite loving the long, hot hours, nothing beats the happiness of the customers. The way their faces light up or how they praise the food makes the hard part, doing the cooking, worth it. Not to mention, we get to work with our best friends: each other.


Simply Spanish​: Xavi Vitta
​11am-3pm/Monday | 11am-2:30pm and 

Signature dish? 
My signature dish is Valencian Paella, a dish of saffron rice with seafood, chicken and sausage.

How did you decide to open a food cart? 
When I arrived from Spain three years ago, I was talking with some local friends about opening a venue to serve traditional Spanish cuisine. We started tossing around which cities would be most open to try uncommon fare. Ann Arbor came to the top of the list. The food truck trend is a perfect match with the spirit of Spain–open air, good food, and an informality to allow clients to just relax and enjoy.

Strangest food cart experience?
Something pleasantly unexpected is that some clients from India tried the paella and loved it. They told me the only thing missing for them was a little spice. For them, I now keep spicy sauce in my cart.

What makes A2’s food cart community unique? 
Each cart offers different fare. There is something for each craving. The people who prepare their foods do it with the same gusto as I do.

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