Who would have thought to put one of dining's pricier delicacies on a food truck? Nick Wilson and his partner and aunt, Kathryn Wilson, did it in 2018. Improbably, a $35 lobster roll is their best-seller when the truck makes its weekly rounds of various gyms, a sneaker store, and a dispensary in the metro area. At their new carry-out-only storefront in Dearborn, people are ordering an $18 half-roll plus "something else," says Nick Wilson: "We have so many ideas and people want to try a little bit of everything."
I'm here to testify that those many ideas — the selection is far greater in the storefront than on the truck — are good ideas, if some are not in most folks' price range. The sweet, nutty lobster seamlessly makes the transition from the Atlantic waters off Maine (Wilson won't name his purveyor, to flummox competitors). And the Pitstop's cheesy grits, roasted vegetables, even a humble fried fish are superior to just about anyone's.
There's a reason lobster costs a claw and a leg. Prices hit record highs last summer, which the industry attributed to "supply and demand," aka "because we can." Supplies were fine, they explained, but more people wanted lobster — those recently returning to restaurants — or they wanted it more badly. Therefore suppliers could charge more to the restaurant owners, and they, reluctantly, to us. The New York Times reported some restaurants taking lobster off their menus, to avoid patron sticker shock.
But high prices haven't stopped hungry Detroiters, fresh from their workout at LA Fitness, from wanting a lobster roll, lobster mac and cheese, or fried egg rolls, Wilson says.
I adored my garlicky, buttery hot lobster roll, though the half-size was gone in a few bites, almost too soon to register on the taste buds. The cold roll is different, not garlicky, with mayo and a summer feel and stuffed very full. The cold roll especially lets the delicate lobster flavor shine through. Both come with a huge mound of creditable fries, as if to make up for the sandwich's tininess.
I liked just as much a dish called "Butter Shrimp, Fried Fish, Cheesy Grits." The shrimp are plump, the generous grits are creamy and very cheesy, no skimping there. The day I ordered, I'd just come from a weekend on Lake Erie, where the fried fish were hard and tough. Wilson's was tender; he says the secret is a milk-and-spices marinade.
In crabcake fettuccine, the pasta is firm, the cheese sharp, the cakes soft and spicy. Roasted vegetables — garlic, cauliflower, broccoli — were a welcome surprise, crisp and firm. Kathryn Wilson is a pescatarian and Nick is a former pescatarian, so they are not ones to treat vegetables as an afterthought. A Caesar salad with housemade croutons was normal and good.
I'll admit I've never understood lobster mac and cheese. The delicate flavor of the lobster is always overwhelmed by the cheese; it's like "let's sprinkle a down-home dish with gold dust because we can." Still, the Pitstop's mac and cheese is firm and tangy, a fine dish even if all you notice of the lobster is fleeting, a couple bites of chewiness.
I was less impressed with a corn-shrimp chowder, offered one Tuesday (soups rotate, with lobster bisque and clam chowder also possible). There was little shrimp and the soup was mushy, though the flavor was fine.
The Pitstop offers specials including crab eggrolls and $3 fish tacos Tuesday through Thursday 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
Other Pitstop dishes are fried lobster bites for $15 or $40, a grilled cheese sandwich with crab and shrimp (hopefully the two together can out-compete the cheese), a basket of deep-fried shrimp with waffle fries, a seafood boil bag, a fried shrimp quesadilla, seafood pasta with Alfredo, pesto or butter sauce, a sandwich with that great fried fish I raved about, and fried seafood tacos (fish, shrimp or lobster, two for $15, $17, $20). I didn't try the tacos, since I'm not a fan of flour tortillas, but they might be the most cost-effective way to get your lobster fix.
The brick-and-mortar Pitstop will be switching to a summer menu and summer hours soon, 3 p.m. to midnight, and Wilson hopes his location across from the Ford Drive-In will be a plus. Smuggling lobster into a drive-in, there's a real neck snapper.