I love the Upper West Side of New York City. I really love it. However, I will admit that I haven't explored the food of the neighborhood as much as I should. Sure, I've ventured out a little and had my share, but there's so much to offer up there that I need to be more diligent. I came across Jacob's Pickles a few weeks ago by pure accident while wandering the streets with a friend. Our dinner was amazing and I knew I had to come back for a proper review. This review will be a combination review of sorts, as I will include some thoughts from the first time I went along with my impressions from today's visit.
The sign outside states simply: BEER - BISCUITS - PICKLES, and boy howdy do they mean it. The restaurant was started by owner Jacob Hadjigeorgis in 2011 and the name doesn't lie. They are known for their delicious and inventive pickles. The menu boasts eight different pickled veggie options as well as pickled eggs. These delicious ingredients are incorporated into many of the menu's dishes and can also be ordered as an appetizer (1 type for $4, 4 types for $11, and 8 types for $16). Once you find some that you're in love with, you can also buy a jar to go.
I started my meal today with an order of the Candy Red Beets. On my last visit, my friend and I had the beets as well as the Big Dill Kosher Cukes. These pickled treats do not taste like anything you buy at the store. The restaurant pickles everything in house using a variety of vinegar and spice options and the effort really shows. The beets were sweet and tender with just a little bit of a crunch in them when bitten. They were delicately sliced super thin and had a beautiful deep blood red color that stained my napkin in a very satisfying way. While the natural sweetness of the beet was there, there was also a delightful bite of spice and tanginess to them that you won't find in commercially pickled beets. The spice combo had a very complex layered flavor. There were warm notes of cloves and others that I couldn't put my finger on. The portion was very generous for $4 and I couldn't finish them all, due to my amazing entree.
I ordered the BBQ Smothered Pepper Jack Chicken Southern Biscuit Sandwich, served with a side of organic cheese grits. Tender and cooked to perfection, two nice-sized buttermilk fried chicken tenders were piled over a split biscuit. The sandwich was covered in a house made creamy BBQ sauce and topped with shredded Vermont pepper jack cheese.
The last time I visited, I ordered a different biscuit sandwich (the Southern B.L.T., which included a fried green tomato, pickle slaw and bacon). It was so good, I went for a sandwich again. I know should have picked one of the entrées from the menu for diversity sake, but I couldn't resist.
The house made creamy BBQ sauce is rich with a good dose of smoky flavor to it. I tend to prefer a richer smoky BBQ sauce rather than a super sweet one, and this one hit all the right notes. The generous portion of cheese topping it all meant that every single bite of chicken had cheese and creamy BBQ. It was magic in my mouth. The flavors are a great combination.
The biscuits at Jacob's Pickles are not like the typical southern style biscuit you might be thinking of. They are square and appear to be baked as a big sheet and cut up into individual servings. The biscuits have a light and fluffy consistency while managing to stay nice and chewy inside. The closest thing I can compare them to are english crumpets. While the inside stays silky and chewy, the outside retains a crunchy, flaky and buttery texture that's closer to that of a traditional biscuit.
Now, on to the side of grits. Grits and I don't tend to get along. I think I like the romance and the idea of country grits, but any time I've ever ordered them I've found myself disappointed. That has all changed here at Jacob's Pickles. They're cooked to a wonderful creamy consistency with the right amount of cheese to actually give them a really great flavor. I doubt I'll order grits anywhere else now that I've had these.
I have only brushed the surface of what Jacob's Pickles has to offer. On my last visit, we enjoyed some of the amazing cocktails from their full bar menu as well as fried Oreos for dessert. (Which were ridiculous in the most amazing way). I'm told their brunch is even better than the lunch/dinner menu, and that doesn't surprise me. If you're a beer fan, their selection is enormous and from my observations sitting at the bar today, the staff knows their way around all the beers and can make the perfect suggestion for you.
The decor has a very artisanal Brooklyn type feel to it and the dining room is large and not very cramped. A thoughtful amount of work went into decorating the place and outdoor seating in front allows for some great people watching up in this beautiful New York neighborhood.
Keep your eyes posted for some follow-up visits. This is not the last time I will be at Jacob's Pickles!
Sum it up
What I got: Appetizer of Candy Red Beets, A BBQ Smothered Pepper Jack Chicken Southern Biscuit Sandwich with a side of Cheese Grits
What I paid: $19.60 + tip
What I thought: Home-cooking comfort food that you'll keep coming back for.