Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Pickles Are Disappearing From New York's Lower East Side...But There's Still Hope

Agence France-Presse reported this week that the once bustling retail pickle scene on the streets of New York's Lower East Side is rapidly disappearing, with just one store left to sell the many varieties of pickled cucumbers and other delicacies that have always been part of the Jewish culinary experience.

Writing for AFP, Sebastian Smith reports:
Pickles, dills, gherkins and their cousins still pop up in every convenience store and pastrami sandwich, but these are nearly always industrial versions from sealed jars filled with chemicals, as well as brine.
One of the last places selling real pickles -- the crunchy, hand-crafted, Jewish pickles of New York lore -- is the tiny Pickle Guys store in Manhattan's Lower East Side.
"This is pickle Mecca," said Michael Dansky, 52, who came all the way from Boston with a cooler to stock up. "They are the last of the real pickle people."
The store -- a cave-like space crammed with barrels of pickles -- is all that remains of this once Jewish-dominated neighborhood's pickle industry. A century ago, as many as 150 other pickle places would have been doing business within a short walk.
One of the stalwarts, the venerable Guss' Pickles, closed down just last year.  Many of the staff at Pickle Guys used to work at Guss'. They believe their mix of authenticity and willingness to try new products allows them to hang on.
Check out this video of a pickle eating contest sponsored by and conducted at the Pickle Guys establishment at 49 Essex Street in New York City.