Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Review: Brooklyn Pickle (Far West-Side)

Name: Brooklyn Pickle (Far West-Side location)
Address: 1600 W Genesee St, Syracuse, NY
Phone: (315) 487-8000
Neighborhood: Far West-Side
Website: www.brooklynpickle.com
Menu: View Menu
Cuisine: Sandwiches, Soups
Restaurant Hours: Monday to Saturday 9 AM - 7:30 PM.
Parking: Private lot
Accepts Credit Cards: Yes
Take-Out: Yes
Outdoor Seating: No (Yes after Spring '12)
Delivery: No

The Brooklyn Pickle franchise is one of the longest running deli operations in Syracuse and has been serving up hearty sandwiches since appearing on the deli scene in 1975. Opened two years after its predecessor in Eastwood, the Westside location first opened at the current Byrne Dairy building along W Genesee St only to move kitty-corner to its present location a couple years later where it's sat since 1984.

Perhaps more so in its heyday than now, "Brooklyn Pickle" is typically mentioned within the same sentences as "Dinosaur", "Heid's", and "The State Fair" whenever the topic of local food is brought up around out-of-towners. Still, the local chain has rolled through the decades and continues to be a popular sandwich destination for Syracuse lunch and dinner goers.

The Westside location is general small inside. Roughly 10 booths or so round out the seating. Orders are placed and picked-up at the counter.

I'm partial to the atmosphere of the Burnet Ave location to this one, but that's not to say it's bad. It's small and cozy enough for a quick meal alone or with the family. They're also expanding very soon, with a large patio deck out front facing W Genesee St which will be nice for the warmer months (I believe a sign on door said ready by Spring 2012, unless I'm mistaken).

On the menu: salads, homemade salads, coleslaw, baked beans, pickles, knish, soups, cookies, puddings, cookies, chips, and plenty of sandwich and sub choices like roast pork, pastrami, capocollo, seafood salad, liverwurst, and meatballs, as well as all of your traditional delicatessen meats.

The order...

Neptune Stew (cup): $2.80
Sour Pickle: $1.35
Brooklyn Pickle Special (half): $4.35
Total Money Spent with Tax & Tip: $9.18

From the looks of the handwritten sign below the menu, Neptune Stew appeared to be one of their specialties. It contains shrimp, clams, onions, mushrooms, green peppers, and tomatoes*. So, as an avid seafood lover, you can't go wrong, right? ...Right?

Quite the rich color for a busy soup (or stew), but I found the whole thing to be fairly unappetizing and essentially a giant mess. The stew had a slightly peppery flavor and was mixed with flavorless veggies, scraps and shreds of leftover pasta noodles, a few tiny shrimp that were saturated, rubbery, and lacked any seafood taste, and a tomato broth that was very close to concentrated tomato juice rounding everything out.

*Also not listed on the menu is that it contains carrots and pasta.

I mean, I know we're in upstate New York here and really good seafood-style soups may be hard to come by, but would it be so much to ask for a bold, maybe spicy tomato broth, with fresh onions and peppers, a couple plump shrimp, littlenecks (maybe a few still in the shell), and maybe some chopped celery? (in other words, fresh, minimalist, and nix the carrots, pasta, and mushrooms?).

It's very possible I got it on an off day, but at least judging from this experience, I wouldn't order it again.

The sour pickle, pictured to the right of the soup, was indeed sour but I found the brine to be a little unpleasant and even a bit metallic in some hints. Fresh and colorful from the outside, but not much snap, crunch, or good flavor to it.

On the other hand...

Pictured above is the Brooklyn Pickle Special, garnished with pickle slices and along side a sour pickle.

I picked the Brooklyn Pickle Special blindly, not knowing exactly what it was. I could've asked, but figured if it's a house special and at the top of the menu, it's worth a shot in the dark. Tomatoes, lettuce, and onions were added upon request.

I'll be the messenger here since I wasn't able to find information about this sandwich online. Essentially, it's corned beef and Swiss with a Miracle Whip style dressing. Which leads me to something that I can't believe I've never mentioned on this blog before...


Ahem. Yes, it's true. This may not have been the exact brand, but it was a slightly tangier and vinegary version of mayo perfectly dressed on white bread (I think I asked for this too, but in hindsight, probably should've ordered it on rye) with Swiss cheese and plenty of delicious corned beef stacked in the middle. The lettuce, tomato, and onions were nice additions (especially the onions), but this could hold its own without them, I think. Definitely the best sandwich I've had at Brooklyn Pickle and something that I'd return for.

As for the little additional pickles on top, presentation-wise, they look good and even the novelty of getting a few free pickle slices with your order at a place that has "pickle" in its name is fun, but I just wasn't hooked on them like I wanted to be. Very lightly brined for the most part, but taste-wise, they were flavorless and kind of detracted from the sandwich.

A bad review is tough here because I remember loving Brooklyn Pickle when I was a kid. I even have a T-shirt from one of my first visits. I know my taste buds weren't lying to me then (I loved the food at Dinosaur too). I think the franchise could use an overhaul of their menu, try to simplify things, and focus on what tastes best. Sandwiches seem to be AOK for the most part and who's going to complain about getting a pretty hefty one for about $4, but I think quality, which is a major factor, really isn't hitting the mark like it used to.

Return for sandwiches: Probably.
Return for anything else: ...that's a tough call.

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