Dave Reid

Street Food… Finally.

By - Jul 28th, 2009 11:02 am
Pita Brothers

Pita Brothers

Great cities have great street food.  It is plays a role in the activation, the vibrancy, of the street life.  The vendors themselves play a role in encouraging and supporting this vitality by becoming a part of the culture, and the community.  The “Hot Dog Guy,” who operated on the corner of Wisconsin Ave. and Water St. for many years, created a bit of a spectacle on the street, a line thirty people deep formed, he banged away preparing their food, and there was constant chatter on the street.  Essentially, he has become a character in the downtown story.  It isn’t just about the convenience of grabbing a quick slice of pizza or a hot dog, on your way home from work, or after the bar, it’s about the interaction, the exchange, and the shared experience.

As great as the “Hot Dog Guy” was, for too long it seemed that all you could find in downtown Milwaukee was a hot dog stand, but things are changing.  Recently, Pita Brothers and Street-Za arrived both on our streets and on our computers.  These vendors can both be found on twitter (http://twitter.com/streetzapizza, http://twitter.com/pitabros) which allows them to notify customers where they will be setting up each day, or even minute-by-minute.  This added twist of connecting to the community through social media isn’t just good business, but it actually ties these vendors into the city more tightly by taking away the uncertainty of mobile food.

These street vendors also connect into neighborhoods, because they are small local businesses, not a formula chain food.  A look at Street-Za’s menu reveals that it includes slices targeted at specific neighborhoods, and other slices named after the people they’ve meet in-person and online.  For example, Street-Za has “The Walker’s Point Slice” that features salsa like sauce, chorizo sausage, and tortilla chips from BotanasPita Brothers quickly established themselves as a staple in the Third Ward by setting up daily for lunch service in Catalano Square.  Additionally, Pita Brothers connects to the larger “green” community by serving food from their electric powered, zero emissions vehicle.

These two are just a couple of the new street vendors operating in Milwaukee, and hopefully they will be just two of a growing number of street vendors adding to the vibrancy of our neighborhoods.

UPDATE Another great new street vendor, Satellite Crepes, can be found on twitter as well: http://twitter.com/satellitecrepes

Categories: Business

10 thoughts on “Street Food… Finally.”

  1. Jim says:

    Sidewalk dining is daily in the south side. Our soon-to-be-famous taco trucks in particular add much to the Milwaukee street flavor. Two favorites are the Damiani’s Taqueria truck which parks at the corner of W Lincoln Ave and S 10th Street every day at 11 am and Taqueria Arandas which parks at S 7th St and W Becher. Visiting a taco truck for the first time is intimidating to most gringos, but the experience is inextricably linked to the urbanity of Milwaukee’s south side. The frequency of popsicle and corn fruit carts similarly cannot be omitted from the sidewalk dining scene. These vendors may seem lackadaisical, even surly, though their fares (fresh fruit juice popsicles and corn on the cob covered in mayo and chili powder) build the uniqueness of our dining identiy, to say the least.

  2. Dave Reid says:

    @Jim I’ve heard much about the South Side vendors, and definitely want to get out and try a few out, sounds excellent…

  3. Doug G says:

    Your spot on about great cities and street food. Watch any of those travel/food shows and its hard to not become jealous of what cities in Asia or Latin America offer in the food department.

    Nice seeing it catch on here in Milwaukee (at least away the Southside)–offering more than just hot dogs.

  4. Dave Reid says:

    @Doug G What’s important is that recently the number and variety of street vendors has changed in Milwaukee, for the better. I hope this trend continues.

  5. Tholkie Reeno says:

    Slightly different concept, but is Pepperoni Cannoli still roaming around? That guy was the epitome of urban street food in my opinion!

  6. Dave Reid says:

    @Tholkie Yup Frank is still out selling his Pepperoni and Cannoli, though I haven’t seen him in sometime.

  7. Mike says:

    I am so very excited to see these vendors making their way around Milwaukee. I too have been jealous of the countries and cities that I have visited that had this as a viable option for a meal on the run. I recently saw a crepe vendor in the Thidr Ward for Gallery Night. Do you have any info on them?

  8. Dave Reid says:

    @Mike Here is their website: http://www.satellitecrepes.com/ I haven’t had a chance to check them out yet… but will soon.

  9. Ron says:

    Does anyone know how to contact some of the street food vendors? I have a suggested location for someone to visit, I think it would be benificial to the vendor and the folks at the location, currently their food source is limited.

  10. Jeramey Jannene says:

    @Ron – You can find a lot of them on Twitter. I would start with Streetza Pizza which is available at twitter.com/streetzapizza

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