Tapping into the nostalgia of camping with family and a childhood spent outdoors, Jamie Scholl thought the pudgey pie (sometimes spelled pudgy or pudgie), a campfire meal staple, might just be the perfect food truck food for Madison.
Based on how quickly his event schedule has filled up, Madisonians agree. Despite being new to the mobile food cart circuit, Pudgey’s has already found success drawing on those flavor memories by providing savory and sweet goodies in a quick and easy fashion.
Made in a cast iron cooker that’s filled and sealed before being placed over the flames of a campfire, these toasty sandwich pockets are sometimes known as hobo pies, pie irons and mountain pies in other parts of the country. The all-in-one meal-maker makes use of limited resources to create hot, delicious meals.
As a campfire in a food truck wouldn’t exactly pass code, Pudgey’s pies are created in a panini press to simulate the melty, toasty feeling a campfire pudgey pie would have. Savory sandwiches run from $6-$8 and sweet options start at $5 for a fruit pie, up to $7 for the Nutella, peanut butter and banana filling.
“We’ve gone from start-up to regular vending in a very short period of time. I don’t necessarily know that we expected to be this busy from the get-go, but it’s a good problem to have,” said Scholl. “In terms of nostalgia and the memories you had with your family around the campfire, that’s what we’re excited to bring.”
On a recent stop at Hop Haus in Verona, Pudgey’s was serving up a number of savory and sweet options. For savory, there was a pizza pudgey and a Monte Cristo (turkey, ham and Swiss). On the sweet side was peanut butter and jelly, peanut butter and Nutella, and apple pie.
Scholl doesn’t serve the same menu at every event, tailoring the offerings to the expected crowd of customers. Since his is a new truck, they’re also still trying new menu items. A Reuben and Rachel that were recently added have been popular, as has a S’mores option featuring peanut butter, chocolate chips and marshmallow fluff pressed between slices of bread.
The Itzza Pizza pudgey pie ($6) contained the flavors of piping hot pizza pie in a nice little pocket. The Monte Cristo ($7) had a light touch on the mustard, letting the flavors of the meat and Swiss cheese come through.
Both were filling enough that sharing a sweet pie was a great way to finish off the meal. The Classic Apple Fruit Pie ($5) was finished off with a cinnamon sugar sprinkle, a perfect complement to the warm fruit filling.
Breaking into the competitive food cart market in the Madison area is no easy task. According to city of Madison street vending coordinator Meghan Blake-Horst, about 100 carts are licensed by Public Health Madison & Dane County, though not all of them vend in the city. Some carts only do special events, like Taste of Madison, the Willy Street Fair and Shake the Lake.
Still, the University of Wisconsin-Madison Library Mall and Capitol Square have carts by the dozens during the weekend lunch hour and weekend farmer’s market. New carts have found opportunities at business parks, breweries and taverns in Middleton, Verona and Belleville who want to provide meal options to their customers.
Pudgey’s plans to be a part of a number of downtown Madison events this summer, like the Madison Night Market (next on Thursday, June 13) and Concerts on the Square, starting June 26. In the meantime, Pudgey’s is finding its place at places like Hop Haus Brewery in Verona, Dot’s Tavern in Belleville and Capital Brewing in Middleton.
Scholl, a natural extrovert who’s a real estate agent by day, sees the food cart as a new way to be involved in the community.
“We never really had the ambition to get down on (the) Capitol or Library Mall and compete with those vendors in that high density space there,” Scholl said. “We love finding the niche of the special events and business partnerships.
“We want everybody to have the opportunity to experience the food cart community that Madison has to offer,” he added. “Not everyone has the opportunity to get (downtown) on a regular basis.”