Did you know cucumbers, grown just for pickling, once grew all over Brooklyn? Yep. And they were sold from market stalls on Fulton, Canal and Washington Street. Americans consume over 5 million pickles a year, and New York is known for its pickles. While pickles aren’t exactly glamorous, they’re no longer relinquished to delis, sandwich shops and greenmarkets. Pickles of all sorts have come into fashion with all kinds of pickles far beyond cucumbers. There’s McClure’s killer Bloody Mary mix dosed with pickle juice, fried pickles at Tipsy Parson, and even a pickle-inspired restaurant called Jacob’s Pickles. From a spicy brine margarita to pickled asparagus at Mile End, we’ve sampled the city for you and picked a few of our favorite spots that feature pickles in all their glory…
Momofuku Ssam Bar – Seasonal Pickles
Address: 207 2nd Ave., at 13th St.
Phone: (212) 254-3500
David Chang is somewhat of a legend, with three James Beard awards, a Time 100 nod, and two Michelin stars to his name. He’s gotten plenty of praise for his addictive flavor combinations and he’s developed a following for his pork-loving ways, but we’re most interested in his affinity for pickles. At Ssam Bar, you’ll find a seasonal pickle plate with everything from pickled ramps in the spring to pickled watermelon rinds in the summer, and cabbage kimchi in the winter. He’s even been known to throw in some kimchi apples and pickled cherries. No matter what pickled produce shows up on the plate, pair it with a steamed pork bun and call it a night.
Jacob’s Pickles – Spicy Brine Margarita
Address: 509 Amsterdam Ave., btwn. 84th & 85th Sts.
Phone: (212) 392-5407
With a name like Jacob’s Pickles, you know this new Upper West Side eatery is serious about all things brined. Where to begin? For starters, you can create your own pickle plate from an impressive list of offerings, which includes thyme jalapenos, candy red beets, salt and pepper asparagus, and sour green tomatoes. There’s fried pickles witha spicy red mayo, pickled eggs, and homemade hot relishes. Many of the drinks are brine-based here, too, from the “Spicy Brine Margarita” served in a mason jar, to the “Dirty Aphrodite,” their take on a dirty martini made with dill pickle brine. And then there’s the obligatory pickle back, which on their menu is dubbed the “Dickel Back,” a shot of Dickel whiskey followed by a double shot of homemade brine. Oh, and they sell their homemade pickled goods by the jar, so stock up at the refrigerators conveniently located near the exit. Afterall, you never know when the next pickle craving might hit.
Mile End – Smoked Whitefish Salad made with Pickled Asparagus
Address: 97a Hoyt St., btwn. Atlantic & Pacific Sts. (Brooklyn)
Phone: (718) 852-7510
Mile End isn’t just another New York Jewish deli. It’s a Jewish deli by way of Montreal and that means Montreal-style smoked meats, Montreal imported bagels, and of course, cheesy poutine (that’s Canadian for cheese curd-capped fries). The sandwiches are the big draw here, but like any good deli, Mile End pays careful consideration to its pickles. We highly recommend you order the assorted pickle plate with the staple cured cucumber, asparagus spears, bell peppers, cauliflower florets, and mushrooms. And a few sandwiches serve as vessels for the pickled items, like the smoked whitefish salad ingeniously mixed with pickled asparagus, as well as the chicken salad sandwich topped off with a heaping mix of pickles and pickled peppers. If you can’t get to Brooklyn for your pickle fix, head to Mile End’s sister spot, Mile End Sandwich in Noho, and sample the pickled mustard seeds on the smoked mackerel sandwich or the pickled ramps on their fried eggplant sandwich. Either way, you’ll get a taste of your beloved deli pickles, just revamped a bit with some Montreal flair.
Northern Spy Food Co. – Pickled Eggs & Aioli
Address: 511 E. 12th St., btwn. Aves. A & B
Phone: (212) 228-5100
[photo courtesy: Hulya Kolabas]
This low-key spot in the East Village is best known for its locally sourced food and standout brunch. The menu’s refreshingly simple and always satisfying. Take the pickled eggs, for example. It may not sound like much, just a few pickled eggs and a ramekin of sweet and creamy aioli for dipping. Add in a side of duck fat fries and we’d say you’ve got a meal. Oh, and Northern Spy is also home to a general store. When you finish your meal, head to the back of the restaurant and pick up a few jars of locally pickled vegetables to-go.
The Spotted Pig – Pot of Pickles
Address: 314 W. 11th St., at Greenwich St.
Phone: (212) 620-0393
April Bloomfield is the reigning queen of meat in New York, and she’s got two carnivorous shrines — Spotted Pig and The Breslin – to sample her way with head-to-tail eats. But sometimes, you’ve just had enough of pork belly or crispy pig’s ear. (We’re not judging.) To cut through all that fat, try the Spotted Pig’s “Pot of Pickles,” a mason jar filled with pickled vegetables, like turnips, cornichons, red peppers, and green beans. They’re almost as memorable as Ms. Bloomfield’s infamous Roquefort-topped burger. Well, almost…
Lighthouse – The Pickle Menu
Address: 45 Borinquen Pl., at Keap St. (Brooklyn)
Phone: (347) 789-7742
The portions are big, the drinks are stiff, and the flavors unabashedly bold at this Brooklyn bar. While just about everything at Lighthouse is laid back, nothing here is understated. They don’t offer just a plain old pickle plate here. Instead, there’s an extensive pickle menu featuring an array of housemade pickles. And they’re not just your run-of-the-mill pickled offerings either. They go beyond the standard cucumbers and with green tomato, eggplant, rutabaga, and jalapenos. So when you get that urge for a pickle, take our advice and skip the bodega. You can thank us later.
Tipsy Parson – Fried Pickles & Spicy Buttermilk Dressing
Address 156 9th Ave., btwn. 19th & 20th Sts.
Phone: (212) 620-4545
[photo courtesy: Ryan Merillat]
This comfort food joint brings a touch of Southern hospitality to Chelsea. As charming and stylish as Tipsy Parson may look, they’re not messing around the kitchen. They’re turning out fried cheese curds, shrimp & grits, mac & cheese and more. We’ve got two more words for you: Fried pickles (or “frickles” as we like to call them). Theirs are thick and crispy with the perfect ratio of pickle-to-batter. And they’re served with a spicy buttermilk dressing. Consider yourself warned: these aren’t for the faint of heart (or those watching their waistlines for that matter). But hey, even the best-kept Southern girl needs to let loose from time to time.
Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill – The Oshinko Plate
Address: 308 W. 58th St., btwn. 8th and 9th Aves.
Phone: (212) 397-0404
How many restaurants can pull of a menu with sushi and sashimi right alongside fried chicken and fried chicken? It sounds like trouble, but this midtown member of the Blue Ribbon family manages to pull it off seamlessly. Though we mostly come here for the sushi (and the oxtail fried rice), we ritually begin with the seasonal oshinko plate. While many of the pickles depend on the season, you can count find daikon, Japanese squash, sesame-coated carrots and Chinese cabbage on the plate. We think it’s one of the best pickle plates in the city and perfect to nibble as you read over the rest of the menu and decide whether you’re craving pork belly or a blue crab hand roll.