A little more than a month ago, this salt lover found a new guilty — and greasy — pleasure. From the moment I saw them at Boston Beer Works, nestled in a metal basket and glistening against a piece of wax paper, I knew fried pickles and I would make a good match. They’ve been a popular snack in the South for ages; Elvis, king of rock and fried foods, is said to have loved them. Since my own pickle awakening, I’ve hunted down other Boston-area establishments that serve the delicious dills. So far, I’ve found three, and at each of them, the pickles offer an amped-up alternative to favorites such as French fries, onion rings, mozzarella sticks, and chicken fingers.
At Boston Beer Works, they’re served as spears. Let’s call these the mozzarella sticks of the bunch. A traditional crispy, brown-beer batter encases the sour dill pickles, which are piping hot but still crunchy and juicy on the inside. The accompanying ranch sauce, served on the side, provides some sweetness to temper the spears’ punchy mix of salty and sour — but who needs that?
The version at Joe Sent Me is similar, but hints of cayenne pepper in the batter create a spicy-salty-sour flavor triad. Here, the starter seems slightly more substantial — maybe it’s the thicker spears, or the fact that they’re served piled on a plate with a honey-mustard dipping sauce. Substitute them for chicken tenders and you’ll be more than satisfied.
The folks at Redbones have decided to highlight the sour-spicy match. Here, you’ll get a plate heaped with equal portions of crinkle-cut pickle disks and sliced jalapeño peppers, with a tartar sauce that holds its own. I loved the disks versus the spears — the circles have more surface area and crinkly crevices to catch the clam batter — but found the jalapeños overpowering. Good thing, then, that you can ask for only pickles on your plate. You’ll keep popping them into your mouth like French fries or onion rings until they’re all gone.
Crunchy, cold, still-dripping pickles, fished from the jar on a summer’s day, may offer the ultimate bite. But until summer rolls around, you can relish this alternate route to pickled perfection.
Available for $6.50 at Boston Beer Works, 112 Canal Street, Boston, (617) 896-BEER, and 61 Brookline Avenue, Boston, (617) 536-BEER; for $5 at Joe Sent Me, 2388 Mass Ave, Cambridge, (617) 492-1116; and for $3.99 at Redbones, 55 Chester Street, Somerville, (617) 628-2200.