Review: Nosh Pit beats Hamtramck’s meat 

click to enlarge The Karen.

Tom Perkins

The Karen.

Hamtramck is about as much of a meat town as they come — a burg full of kielbasa, polish sausage, haneeth, city chicken, chicken 65, NY-style gyros, doner kebabs, cevapi, Motor City burgers, etc., etc.

But these days, there's a counterbalance. At Nosh Pit's small restaurant on Yemans Street across from Polish Village and Polonia, the hot dogs are made out of carrots, and the corned beef is actually corned beet.

The restaurant is the brick-and-mortar home of a business that grew out of chef Karen Schulz's vegan and often gluten-free food truck of the same name. It opened last year, and is largely a lunchtime operation that focuses on sandwiches, though the soups, salads, beverages, desserts, and a rotation of specials provide the menu with some depth.

In fact, among the best dishes at Nosh Pit isn't a sandwich, but the vegan wings. The restaurant doubles as the commissary kitchen for Chef Bee of Sisters on a Roll, who mixes and forms seitan and jackfruit into wing-shaped nuggets that are deep-fried and achieve that crispy chicken wing texture that's part of the reason so many carnivores love chicken wings. It's then doused in a Buffalo sauce made with Frank's and vegan butter, and it's excellent. That's served with a cup of "green ranch" composed of sour cream, a little bit of mayo, and a "custom blend of fresh herbs." Killer.

Among the best sandwiches is The Iris, which comes with a potato latke patty packed with carrots and beets that's topped with thousand island, mustard, and pickles on a bun — a comfort food treat. The Karen is slightly more sophisticated with roasted red peppers, pesto, aioli, and vegan cheese. All the bread at Nosh Pit is made by the Rising Stars Academy, a Warren program for developmentally disabled kids who are training for jobs.

You'll see some imprints of Jewish cuisine in the Nosh Pit's dishes because, Schulz says, she's a Jewish mom, but she doesn't consider Nosh Pit to be a vegan Jewish deli. It's a vegan restaurant, first and foremost. But both identities are found in dishes like The Larry, a vegetarian version of the Reuben made with beets instead of beef. How does one corn a beet? Much the same way one corns beef, it turns out: Schulz wraps up spices in cheesecloth, puts it in a tub of water, then puts in the sliced beets for a three-day bath. Nosh Pit adds sauerkraut, thousand island dressing, and vegan cheese, and it's one of the better vegan editions of a meat-based dish that I've ever encountered.

Another interesting option is the coney carrot dog, which is a "hot dog" formed out of carrots and topped with lentil chili, mustard, and onions. Nosh Pit pierces whole carrots, then marinates them for more than 24 hours, then slow cooks them until they're "dogs." This isn't like the vegan coney dog at Chili, Mustard, Onions, which in many ways resembles a meaty coney dog. It's coney dog-esque, but it's its own thing.

Also solid is The Denise, a lentil-based sloppy Joe in which the lentils lend themselves well to the sloppy Joe's mission, and Nosh Pit tops it with crunchy, salty potato chips. The OG, Nosh Pit's grilled cheese, is solid, and the Follow Your Heart smoked gouda vegan cheese is good, but it seems a little plain when there's an Iris or Larry to be had. The Jonah was an odd one — smoky marinated mushrooms with banana jam and vegan cheese. All these components are awesome on their own, and I'd love to try those mushrooms in an all-savory package.

Another of Nosh Pit's non-sandwich hits is The Amanda — a flavorful salad with lentils, hummus, collards, pickled carrots, roasted red peppers, and roasted beets — so many complementary flavors and textures that manage to complement instead of compete. Nosh Pit also prepares shakshuka, a tomato-based Israeli soup that's aromatic and heavy on cinnamon and cumin, and is generally a bit spicy, but that's balanced by brown sugar.

There isn't any booze at Nosh Pit, but the restaurant offers a solid beverage selection, including awesome housemade pops with flavors like elderberry and ginger. There's Detroit Bold Coffee, Eli teas, Neu Kombucha, and floats.

Though vegan desserts aren't usually a thing I find worth ordering, Schulz's chocolate cupcake can hang with most "dairy" cupcakes in town. The only real big bummer at Nosh Pit is its hours. It offers dinner on Friday nights, and it has brunch service on weekends, but if you're looking for a veg fix in Hamtramck, your small window is from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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