Let’s face it—fried food tastes really good. Steven Lawrence, owner and creator of Madison’s Fried and Fabulous food cart, certainly knows how to put the love into his fried delicacies. From the super-sweet deep-fried Oreo cookies and PB&J sandwiches to the savory sweet-potato fries and cheese curds, Steven is serving up late-night fried fare to satisfy the belly and the soul. He purports that he is in the business of selling happiness, and you feel his joy every time you visit the Fried and Fabulous food cart.
The bright-red cart can be found all over town serving up his various concoctions, but Thursday through Saturday nights you can usually find him at the top of State and Broom Streets from midnight until 3 a.m. As one can imagine, he has seen (and heard) some seriously hilarious vignettes from the sometimes slightly cocktailed patrons who are out at that time of night. In our interview, he explains how he channels his inner storyteller by posting some of these boozy interactions on his Facebook page, and how many people follow him there just to read the latest drunk stories. I’ve been following him for a while now and entertaining doesn’t begin to describe his posts. But as good as his stories are, it’s his food that has patrons coming back for more.
Fried and Fabulous got its start as Steven was getting close to college graduation (he just turned 25), and he wanted to make a living doing something that he loved. He’d watched friends go into jobs that made them miserable and wanted no part of it. Steven comes from a family of entrepreneurs, and that work-hard-reap-the-benefits spirit has clearly been passed down to him as well. While on a trip to visit a friend in Berkeley in 2008, he stumbled onto a place that was serving freshly fried doughnuts at bar time. “Those doughnuts were magic doughnuts! We went back four out of seven nights to pound hot doughnuts!” he exclaims. And from those magical doughnuts, a seed was planted in his mind to return home and determine whether that magic would sell in Madison. Are you kidding? This is Wisconsin, land of cheese curds, baby! Lucky for all of us, his idea took root and is thriving. I asked him if he had other plans for his business, and let’s just say I don’t have room in this article to discuss them all, but do look for great things in the future from Steven.
One of the primary reasons I was so impressed by Fried and Fabulous was that Steven is not afraid to be an out business owner. In fact, he flew the Pride flag from his cart for the whole month of June to celebrate Gay Pride Month. He hopes that, by his example, other LGBTQ business owners will follow suit. As a lesbian business owner myself, I share his hope. Our communities can only grow and flourish by supporting successful, bright LGBTQ entrepreneurs like Steven Lawrence.
Want to see if Fried and Fabulous will be where you are anytime soon? Follow him on Facebook (facebook.com/FriedandFabulous). He posts at the beginning of the week where he’ll be that week, with hours and other important morsels of information. Oh yeah, and try the deep-fried Oreos—you won’t regret it.
Jeanne Benink is a Madison chef and the sole owner of Simply Served Personal Chef Service. Her friends often call her the soup guru, and she truly does have passion for exploring soups and stews from all over the world. You can find her online at simplyservedpersonalchef.com