My search for the best pickles in New York continues….
There was a time when the Lower East Side was intoxicating with the smell of pickle brine. Originally, pickle vendors would hawk their bites from pushcarts along Orchard and Hester Street. At that time, pickles were a more common food than hot dogs. Today, it’s unfortunate that only one pickle business remains in an area that used to be known as “pickle alley.”
The Pickle Guys stands on Essex and Grand Street in the former home of Guss’ Pickle (who now operate under a different name in Brooklyn). Owner Alan Kaufman oversees the operation and all the pickles are made on-site.
I’ve been here many times and I find the little shop truly overwhelming due to the huge number of choices. Sure, you can get a variety of pickled cucumbers, but there’s also pickled okra, mushrooms, pineapples, olives, etc. You name it, odds are they pickle it.
It’s hard for me to come by here and not get one of their pickled cucumbers. They’re the easiest to eat on the go and for the purposes of this journey, it’s the ones I’m concentrating on. Plus, it’s definitely the most traditional.
I can’t imagine the peddlers of pickle alley were selling pickled mangos. But who knows?
Their cucumbers range from new pickles all the way up to full sours. Like a wine taster, I started with the most tame. The new pickle is almost like a true cucumber with a bit of salt. It’s fresh and crisp with a mild flavor and major juiciness.
From there, I moved on to the half sour, which hasn’t been fermented for too long. Amazingly, it seemed just as crisp as the new. It was a great pickle with some acidity and funk, but balanced by the salty and slightly sweet brine.
The full sour is the most traditional (because it has been preserved the longest and it complements the fatty notes of a deli sandwich), but I found it overly salty. Biting into it felt like I took a glug of seawater, but I have to give them huge credit for the intact crispness.
Usually the longer it ferments, the less crisp the pickle becomes. Here it stayed lively and strong on the bite with a soft center. And I did like the intense sour notes, but I couldn’t get past the salt lick aspect.
I saved the three-quarter sour (most places don’t offer that “in between” option) and the horesereadish pickle for another time. But I know based on these three tastings that these guys are pickle kings. They’re keeping the tradition and the crispness alive. Their pickle vendor descendants would be mighty proud.
Does The Pickle Guys have the best pickles in NY? They are in the neighborhood that started it all and they offer an authentic taste of history. Despite the overly salty full sour, they get a 9 out of 10 since this is the place to go if you’re a pickle connoisseur or newbie.
|THE PICKLE GUYS|
|49 Essex Street (between Grand and Hester Street),
Lower East Side