I’ve eaten worms, ant larvae, guinea pig, grub worms — hell, I’ll eat moldy bread if I’m hungry enough. One thing I will not put in my mouth, however, is a pickle. While all of my friends love these sour tasting, pimply-looking snacks, I just can’t do it.
That’s why I was amazed at my amazement when I wandered into The Pickle Guys in the Lower East Side. While this New York City neighborhood was once full of pickle shops from the thousands of Jewish immigrants that settled there from Eastern Europe in the early 1900s, this is the only one that stands on Essex Street today. Open since 1981, The Pickle Guys cater to the Jewish community — as well as anyone who is craving something pickled — operating under the Rabbinical Supervision of Rabbi Shmuel Fisheli.
While I don’t like pickles themselves I do enjoy other items that are pickled, which is why I love this shop. I couldn’t help think of the Portlandia skit, “We Can Pickle That” — clip above — where Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen literally pickle everything in sight — shoes, dead pets and used Band-aids included. Okay, so The Pickle Guys aren’t fermenting any leather or furry friends, but they do offer pickled turnips, watermelon, tomatoes, relish, mustard, garlic, okra, string beans, celery, mangoes and more. Of course, they all offer barrel-cured pickles in a variety of flavors like hot, sour, sweet and horseradish.
My favorite: The pickled pineapple! So sweet, sour and juicy.
Even if you don’t want to order anything, it’s worth a stop just to check out the colorful barrels filled with pickled produce and condiments. Feel free to ask staff about how they go about pickling the different ingredients, as it’s quite interesting, not to mention a great conversation starter if you want to get to know a NYC local.
The Pickle Guys are located at 49 Essex Street in the Lower East Side.