At 3rd Street in Detroit, Street Beet's chicken is crispy, juicy and fake
A fake fried chicken sandwich was one of the best things I ate last week.
I'm nowhere near vegetarian, let alone vegan, but upon learning that plant-based junk food mavens of Street Beet were actually staying in one spot for a second, I made it a point to pay them a visit.
Known for popping up and causing a frenzy at places like PJ's Lager House and Nancy Whiskey's, Street Beet has planted roots at 3rd Street Bar in Detroit this fall. Chefs Nina Paletta and Meghan Shaw and their team have been slinging fake chicken sandwiches there for a few weeks now and will continue Friday through Sunday through Dec. 22.
Shaw said they've been selling 400-500 fried tofu sandwiches each weekend in the back of the Cass Corridor bar. While it's certainly been busy, it's not a madhouse like their pop-up services are known to be.
At a recent visit during peak hours, I waited only a few minutes to place my order and by the time I was done with my drink from the bar, my order was ready. Because Street Beet has counter service and they're visiting for an extended period of time, the demand is more manageable. Those worried about lines can order in advance at streetbeetdetroit.com.
I love real fried chicken sandwiches. It's a guilty pleasure because you've got juicy, fried meat but also carbs with the bun, and usually mayo as well. I do occasionally eat vegetarian, but I'm not a huge fan of the plant-based meat substitutes out there.
The Street Beet fake chicken sandwich, however, is unlike any fake chicken I've ever had. The fried tofu patty tastes chicken and the crispy batter has flavors of sage and black pepper. The best part is that it's actually juicy.
The "chicken" is sandwiched with house-made pickles and a vegan sauce inside a super-soft brioche bun from Brown's Bun Bakery in Detroit. There's a gluten-free option, too. Street Beet is as allergy-conscious as it is committed to serving a menu that is 100% free of animal products.
Besides the "fake chicken sando" as they call it, Street Beet is also selling fake chicken by the bucketful with its own version of ranch and barbecue sauce for dipping, or get the fried stuff served on a Caesar salad with vegan dressing. Sides include garlic mashed potatoes, creamy coleslaw, cornbread or macaroni and cheese made with cashew cheese sauce and topped with Better Made potato chips.
Main items are $9 with sides running $3-$6. Plop a couple of extra bucks into the crowdfunding pot, too, or visit Street Beet's indiegogo.com page. Shaw and Paletta are trying to raise funds to open a permanent restaurant.
They came close to winning $100,000 from the Comerica Hatch Detroit contest in October when they made it to the final five out of around 450 submissions. That prize went to 27th Letter Books, but it sparked Street Beet to start its own crowdfunding campaign.
Seriously, where are the restaurant investors? These women have created a unique, modern concept that has proved to be very popular in the Midtown and Corktown areas.
Find Street Beet at 3rd Street, 4626 Third at W. Forest, 3-9 p.m. Fri.-Sun. through Dec. 22. Visit streetbeetdetroit.com for more information.