The Dollar-Wise Gourmet: Food Carts


Any respectable foodie knows that some of the best—and cheapest—food can be purchased from street carts. During the workweek, downtown Sacramento has its fair share of mobile carts dishing up delicious grub at lunchtime. Here’s a sampling. (Word to the wise: Don’t go on a wet or windy day or after dark: The carts are out for only a few hours beginning at 11 a.m., weather permitting.)

Emma’s Tamales 11th & I
This cart serves vegan, vegetarian and meat tamales starting at $1.50. I ordered the seafood tamale ($3), made with shrimp, crab and scallops in a medium-spicy tomato-chili-garlic-herb sauce. Yummy. Emma’s, which operates Tuesdays and Thursdays only, also serves organic Green Mountain espresso and honey-wheat cinnamon rolls.


Hot Dog Lady 9th & Capitol
You’ll find other hot dog stands downtown, but Hot Dog Lady is probably the most popular. Her cheapest offering is the regular dog ($2.70); you also can get hot links ($3.75) and Polish sausage ($3.85). Fixin’s—mustard, ketchup, relish, kraut, chopped red onions—are free; add chili or cheese for 80 cents. My jumbo all-beef dog ($3.50) in a basic white bun was plump and juicy, and Hot Dog Lady wins extra points for her peppy personality.


Happy Go Lucky Veggie Cuisine 8th & I
A vegan food cart? Cool. In addition to a veggie rice bowl with marinated soy “chicken” ($6.50), Happy Go Lucky offers daily specials. I tried the sweet chili tofu with brown rice and fresh vegetables (also $6.50) and loved the slightly chewy tofu texture, the nutty-tasting brown rice and super-fresh broccoli, green beans, carrots, cabbage and onion. The portion was very generously sized—probably enough to share with a friend. 


Señor Burrito 7th & I
The cart’s sign brags “Best Burrito in Town”—and it just might be. There are eight varieties (all $4), from beef ’n’ bean to vegetarian. I was knocked out by the arroz con pollo (chicken and rice): tender shredded chicken and tasty rice and beans wrapped in a thick, lightly grilled flour tortilla. The extra touches go a long way, from the unexpected bag of warm chips and fresh salsa that come with every order to the charming gentleman who runs the cart. (He called me “señorita.”) To Señor Burrito I will return.