There are many characteristics that make up a unique community. Whether it’s the diversity of people, varied beliefs or a wide range of cultures, there are countless ways in which communities differentiate themselves from one another.
As a student from California, I am constantly searching for new and affordable food unique to Madison. Through my exploration, I decided to sample the majority of restaurants relative to campus in order to better understand where I can access healthy, affordable and ultimately tasty food.
Upon my food tour, I noticed there were various aspects of a restaurant, other than the food quality, that are pivotal in an enjoyable restaurant experience. For example, the service and whether or not the waiter knows your name after becoming a regular customer becomes an important aspect of going out to eat.
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I have found that a specific part of the Madison community that separates itself from other communities are the countless food trucks that line Library Mall. This area has become a communal space where people are able to gather and eat a variety of different meals. I believe the “Fresh Cool Drinks,” cart encapsulates all the important qualities that makes up a successful meal experience.
The first time I went to the cart, my friend exclaimed, “You have to get the spring roll.” I looked at her confused as I thought we were in line for “fresh cool drinks.” To my disbelief, this cart not only sells delicious smoothies, but also spring rolls filled with veggies, your choice of protein, rice noodles, a mysteriously delicious sauce, all wrapped in rice paper. I trusted her word and adventurously ordered an avocado spring roll with tofu, salad, rice noodles, and of course, the magical sauce.
Originally, I thought the spring roll would be similar to the appetizers I would order at home — small, fried, with a little sauce on the side. Contrastingly, this was an un-fried spring roll, that had to be eaten like a burrito. For a student on the search for healthy foods, this meal was not only delicious, but also provided me with a source of greens, protein, and undoubtedly a full stomach.
Another aspect of the spring roll cart (I recently discovered no one actually abides by its true name) that is not often recognized is the customer service. Tsui, the owner of the cart, is the only one inside making the meals as she produces every spring roll and smoothie custom to the consumer’s order. What separates Tsui from other vendors is her willingness and desire to give the clientele what they want.
It is more difficult to make individualized spring rolls vs. all of them the same, she provides her customers with any specific order and always does it with a smile on her face. This allows for buyers like me to want to continue to purchase her products. Another key quality about Tsui is she makes an effort to know her market. Last week, I went up to the cart to order my usual: an avocado spring roll with tofu, salad, rice noodles, and of course the magical sauce.
Before I could even get a word out Tsui enthusiastically reminded me how often I order from her cart: “Hi Julia, how are you today, would you like your usual?”
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This simple interaction makes clients like me feel important and want to continue to support her business. Her ability to know her customers on a personal level allows buyers to further enjoy the meal experience that she provides.
To top off nutritious food and excellent customer service, the spring roll cart is one of the most affordable meals in Madison. For us college students on a tight budget, finding inexpensive healthy options can be difficult. But one spring roll from Tsui is only $3.50! I apologize for my enthusiasm, but as a broke college student, I am still in awe at the fact that I am able to have a filling and healthy lunch for under $5. Additionally, you can purchase a smoothie for only $3 — a complete meal for $6.50. With this option, I have been able to eat healthy and save money — two actions that do not often go together.
Though I may seem biased about the spring roll cart, I know that there are several drawbacks. Specifically, the line is always long. Due to its popularity, I believe there is no solution to this problem, but I am now aware that if I do want a spring roll, I must be patient and plan accordingly. Another aspect that may seem like an inconvenience is the fact that it can often become a messy meal.
Eating with your hands often causes ingredients tend to spill out. Tsui is generous in her napkin accommodations that, to me, it is never a real problem. In all, affordable, enjoyable and healthy food outweighs a small mess and a line.
Overall, after my food cart expedition, I have learned that there are many more qualities that comprise an enjoyable meal experience other than delicious food. Customer service and creating relationships with clientele, have been several factors that encourage me to go back to a specific restaurant or food truck in this case.
I believe that Tsui’s unique spring roll, a meal that is solely unique to Madison, has attributed to the enhancement of the community. Her devotion to her buyers has made me want to continue to support her business and it’s simply impossible to deny that the affordability of her food is a relief to broke college students like me. Tsui may offer the ideal meal experience and truly makes a lasting impact on her customers, allowing her business to succeed within Madison.