Plenty Of Dogfish, But No ‘Dogs or Fish: Pickle Shack

01/01/2014 4:00 AM |

Photos by Austin McAllister

Pickle Shack
256 Fourth Avenue, Gowanus

It’s worth making a trip just to try a bowl of fried pickles. Pickle Shack is a collaboration between Brooklyn Brine and Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales, and its fried Hop Pickles, brined in Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA with a touch of habañero, make a fitting signature dish. The hoppy, tangy, slightly spicy pickle chips are battered in a crisp cornmeal batter, which sticks to the pickles—this isn’t your typical fried pickle spear that slides out of its encasement after you take your first bite—while the lemony aioli dip is tart and rich. You might wash them down with one of the Dogfish Head selections from the well-curated list, or go with one of the more esoteric options like the Crooked Stave Vielle, a sour, funky and yeasty saison. Priced at $15 for 375mL, it’s not cheap, but the beer connoisseur at our table thought it was a fair mark-up for a limited-edition brew. On the lower end, you can get a bottled Bitburger Pilsner for four bucks.

You might expect an elaborate menu of brats to pair with all these fancy beers, but Pickle Shack is no sausage party. In fact, as you read through the menu of snacks, salads and sandwiches, you’ll notice there’s not a morsel of meat on there. The house burger is a thick, hefty, earthy patty of beets and mushrooms, topped with bread and butter pickles, creamy aioli and housemade ketchup; crispy, salty, skin-on fries come on the side. The banh mi is even better: a generous pile of fresh-yet-funky house-fermented kimchee, bright cilantro leaves, crunchy pickled carrots, creamy avocado and garlicy aioli complement the deep flavors of smoked tofu. The hearty rustic loaf that served as its vessel made it a little hard to eat—a lighter, crispier baguette might have improved the experience—but we’ve tried a lot of vegetarian banh mi and none have been nearly as good. A warm farro salad with a crescent of sweet, roasted winter squash, some slightly bitter grilled kale, walnuts, apples and whole-grain mustard made a pleasantly wintery vegetable side. For dessert, they offered a quince hand-pie with chai-spiced caramel and a choice between bourbon-vanilla ice cream and a non-dairy vanilla scoop, but our resident beer nerd just wanted more beer.

At a glance, a restaurant for beer-obsessed vegetarians would seem to target too limited a demographic, but when you think about it, Pickle Shack’s niche marketing may be a boon. After all, craft beer and heirloom vegetables—many a Brooklynite will proudly admit to loving at least one. Here, you get the best of both. Just taste those fried pickles!