If the name Wicked Good Eats wasn’t a solid hint of this restaurant’s theme, then this menu item should be: Lobster rolls.
OK, OK, for you Maine-blivious folks, those are sandwiches stuffed with simply dressed chilled lobster meat and little else. And they’re probably Maine’s most famous export besides the phrase wicked anything.
If in Maine, it’s “lobstah roll,” by the way.
The county’s first (that I know of) Maine-themed restaurant is beyond the Purdy Spit in a tiny roadside building on state Route 302.
It opened July 9 and serves lunch and dinner Tuesdays through Sundays.
Michele Key is the matriarch and Maine native. She grew up in Gardiner, Maine. Her husband, Patrick Key, is a naval officer and his job brought the family to the South Sound in 2004.
When it came time for the family to move back to Maine, two of the daughters stayed and mom and dad went back — and then returned. Daughters Danyale Morado and Sarah Webb share management responsibilities. Another daughter, Megen Key, still lives on the East Coast.
“I miss eating lobster and I miss eating food from back home,” said Michele Key, noting that both were the reasons she opened her restaurant. “We’ve got the authentic lobster rolls here. And you can’t find those rolls here (in the stores). I get them from Maine. My first order was 20 packages for $680 as a shipment. I’ve got that cost down now. Lobster is a much bigger expense. It’s $50 a pound. People like it and they come and buy it. They complain a little bit (about the cost), but we can’t change the price of lobster.”
The sandwiches, $15.99 each, are buttered, toasted and stuffed with chilled lobster drizzled with creamy dressing and chopped lettuce.
The rolls might look like regular old hot dog buns, they’re actually different in texture, said Key.
“You know how your hot dog rolls have crust on both sides? Ours don’t. They look just like bread on the sides.” That bread texture means crunchier toasting, she said. “It’s all about the texture. The inside is nice and soft, outside crunchy.”
On my visit, the roll was quite different because they were out of the regular rolls and substituted (with ample warning) a roll typically used on the Italian sandwich.
The Italian is another Maine specialty that’s a deli meat sandwich with cheese and dressed with oil, pickles, black olives and bell peppers ($6).
Key said she’s sorting through the supply problems now. Family members and Maine friends overnight supplies to the restaurant, and they’re improving their forecasting about when to place orders.
How about those other specialties? I bit into a steak bomb ($8) and thought, “Isn’t this a Philly with American cheese in lieu of Cheese Wiz?” Yes, yes it is. It’s a widespread regional New England sandwich, though, not a Maine-only specialty.
So what else is from Maine? The Whoopie Pies ($3.50) are from Wicked Whoopies in Maine (there’s raspberry, strawberry, red velvet and chocolate chip). They’re dense, cakey discs sandwiched with a sweet filling.
There’s also fried haddock and fries ($15.99). And, yes, they have salt-and-vinegar fries ($3), “which are huge in Maine,” said Key. The fries are supposed to be a bit soggy because they’re coated in vinegar, she said, the way they’re always served in Maine.
Wicked Good Eats
Where: 11717 State Route 302, Gig Harbor; 253-313-5265 or facebook.com/michelemkey.
Hours: 11 a.m-7 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays; 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays and 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Sundays.