Standing Room Only: Is Detroit’s Hottest New Restaurant a Food Cart in an Alley?

Jesse Knott

The Delhi chicken ($10) at the Skip food cart in downtown Detroit.

Click the audio player to listen. CultureShift airs weekdays at 12 p.m. 

Open six days a week, the Skip food cart is built to serve a wide array of patrons that wander through one of the more engaging public spaces in the city — the Belt Alley in downtown Detroit.

I wouldn’t say that it’s really trying to fit into any sort of label,” says chef-owner Jesse Knott. “The parameters I go with are can you reasonably manage to eat the food while your standing in the alley probably with a drink in your hand with, like, 300 people standing around you? If yes, then we’re putting it on the cart.”

The converted alleyway is a hub for street artcraft cocktails and dishes alike with the occasional massive party thrown in for good measure with patrons standing shoulder-to-shoulder to see DJs and live bands.

There’s a hidden gem of Detroit’s dining scene tucked in there, too.

One of the food items that makes the cut at the Skip food cart is a collard greens grilled cheese. Chef Knott says it’s a sandwich customers are cautious about trying at first but often come back for seconds.

The bread is crisp and the cheese is gooey, but Knott says simplicity is the key.

It’s just a straight forward grilled cheese sandwich with braised collard greens on it,” says Knott. “The idea behind that is you get a little nutrition, the greens are delicious and the collards get nice and tender.”

Jesse Knott

The tiki sticks at the Skip food cart in Detroit.

The menu takes aim at coney island classics like the ubiquitous-but-often-underwhelming Greek salad, too.

I love Greek salads and I think most of them are kinda weak,” says Knott. “They are all just lettuce and canned vegetables.”

Instead of canned veggies, Knott dresses up his version of the Greek salad with fresh roasted candy-striped beets, pickled mustard seeds, arugula and a feta-chive dressing. Many of the items are sourced locally from the Ghost Acre Farm in Detroit.

It’s what I want a Greek salad to be,” says Knott. 

Another diner staple he’s aiming to improve is the pita — and his lamb shank pita is certainly a standout on the small and deliberate menu.

It features braised lamb with a rosé cheese whiz — a combo of sparkling rosé and Gruyère cheese that’s a cut above the canned stuff of your youth — and topped with pickles, lettuce and Chile de árbol peppers to cut into the richness of the dish.

Call it upgraded food cart fare.

That’s the idea — to work within the parameters of what we are as a food cart in an alley in a pretty popular spot,” says Knott. “At the same time, that doesn’t really predetermine that you have to make it a certain thing. It doesn’t have to be frozen chicken strips. You can make nice food at an affordable price for all kinds of people.”

Jesse Knott

The menu at the Skip food cart in the Belt Alley in downtown Detroit.

The Skip food cart

Located in the middle of the Belt Alley in downtown Detroit (theskipdetroit.com)

Open Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday (11:30 a.m. - midnight); Friday, Saturday (11:30 a.m. - 2:00 a.m.) and Sundays (4 p.m. - midnight); closed Monday

Image credit: Jesse Knott

Aired on: CultureShift
About the Author

Ryan Patrick Hooper

Host & Producer, CultureShift

Ryan Patrick Hooper has worked as an arts and culture journalist in Detroit for over a decade.

hooper@wdet.org   Follow @hoopingtonpost

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