The oven, Wilkinson tells me, weighs 650 pounds. “I got it in Chicago and brought it over in a borrowed pickup truck,” the slim twenty-something explains with a shy smile. “They loaded it with a forklift.” Except for that and the trailer frame, Wilkinson built just about every part of his cart himself, including the housing, plumbing, and electric wiring.
While we’re talking, Ceresnie walks over and hands us samples of a new menu item: a mac-and-cheese sandwich. The quarter is so unbelievably rich and creamy I can’t imagine eating more—especially after the chocolate cake.
Next I head to Mark Hodesh’s upstairs office at Downtown Home & Garden. He explains how the idea for Mark’s Carts came to him: “I visited my daughter in Brooklyn, and she took me to a flea market where I saw two people selling street food, one with a pizza oven on wheels and another roasting Mexican corn. I didn’t think any more about it. Then when I got back—I remember it was a Saturday in August 2009–-I looked at the dirt patch I’d just purchased from the city, and at the time I didn’t have a tenant for the [building that’s now the] Union Hall Kitchen, and it probably took all of a nanosecond.”
Hodesh says Mark’s Carts is only the start for the chefs. “The owners aspire to open their own restaurants, and this is a good way to get their foot in the door. Eat [one of the original carts last season] has already graduated to its own restaurant.”