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SF Dish of the Month (Sep 2012) - Cucumber Pickles

Announcing the September 2012 San Francisco Bay Area Dish of the Month: Cucumber Pickles

Link to Voting Thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/865719
Link to Nomination Thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/865006

The goal is to collectively try as many versions of cucumber pickles as possible during the month of September! So let's start exploring and eating—report back with reviews and photos.

Looking forward to seeing what people try!

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  1. Kicking off a months worth of salty goodness, I stopped by some Eastern European / Russian markets on Geary. I was looking for  what delis in NY call half sour pickles, but I've seen then described as new pickles too. These are pickled only in salt and must be refrigerated. On the pickle spectrum, I like the ones that are more towards the cucumber side, but with some spicing. 

    Europa Express on Geary didn't have any today. The last time I was at their location near Ocean Beach, they had them in barrels from Brooklyn. 

    New World Market's are made in house. They come in quart size containers, and there's parsley, dill, and tiny amounts of red pepper. These were a little bit too salty, and you couldn't really detect any spices. They were slightly more pickled than I like, but for that exact reason, my friends preferred this one. 

    Royal Market & Bakery's are delivered from LA and are  prepackaged in quart size plastic containers. There only visible herb was parsley. They had a lot more red pepper flakes than those from NWM, but the flavor didn't come through that much. These were very salty, and pickled to the level I enjoy most.

    Both place's pickles were very fresh tasting. They are bright green, with some yellowish streaks.

    As an aside, RMB has raw marinated quail for $2.29/lb and they're delicious. They also have fresh puri, Armenian bread, for $.75. 

    5 Replies
    1. re: hyperbowler

      I've had the half sours at Moishe's Pippic (but not recently)
      425 Hayes St
      (between Gough St & Octavia St)
      San Francisco, CA 94102

      today's pickle was a bite off my neighbor's plate at Wise Sons. good-sour-crunch

      1. re: Cynsa

        Here's the photo of the Schlubby Joe at Wine Sons deli. It came with two spears of dill pickle. Wise serves full sours and what it calls 3/4 sours. I think the piece you cut off was from the 3/4 sour. That term captures the point where I like my salt-pickled, lacto-fermented dills. Still very crunchy, but more character and tartness, not just salty.

        Has anyone ordered the Wise Sons pickle plate, described on the menu as assorted vinegar and salt fermented vegetables?

      2. re: hyperbowler

        The New World Market "half sours" I bought about six weeks ago were too cucumber-y for me at the time, but are good now. I don't see any red pepper, but there are some big hunks of jalapeno in the container.

        1. re: hyperbowler

          Europa on Geary gets them from LA. I don't know if they're from the same place RMB gets them from. The full sours are salt brined, and through the power of malolactic fermentation and no visible spices, don't have the most complex flavor beyond salt. Good crunch though and fully pickled yet fresh.

          I also picked up a jar of Zergut brand Russian Style Dill Pickles in a jar. They've got a nice kick from hot pepper and garlic, but the jarring process has left these salt brined pickles without any crunch.

        2. Oooh, you picked something I can really get into! I had some really good pickles from Sonoma Brinery (purchased at Whole Foods) a couple of months ago. Some of the best I've had (unlike hyperbowler I like them slightly more toward the "pickle" end than the "cucumber" end, and these were just right).

          2 Replies
            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              I picked up some Sonoma Brinery bread-and-butter pickles from Berkeley Bowl recently ($3.29 for a 16 oz. tub, in the bottom shelf of the case where they have packaged deli meats at the Oregon store). I like them, too. The cucumber slices retain a nice crunch, and have a have a bit of chile heat in the background. Thin strands of onion are mellowed by the brine.

              They also make a spicy bread-and-butter pickle with (presumably) more chile, plus garlic and red bell pepper in the mix. I'll try those next.

            2. I got a sandwich at Bar Tartine (the lentil patty) and to my happy surprise there were a few thin slices of pickle! These are full sours and some of the best I've eaten. The colors ranged from spotty yellow to dark green, and they were crunchy throughout. They weren't especially salty, and they left a pleasant burn on the tongue. I was told that the chefs don't have a regiment for the pickles, and throw in what strikes their fancy. These were flavored with dill, serrano peppers, mustard seeds, salt, pepper, and a few other things. It would be a sin not to return for their evening pickle plate and see how these are pre-sliced.

              1. came across pickled cucumber spears in a plastic jar @Dickey's bbq, livermore.

                pickles were crunchy but otherwise not noteworthy.
                -not sour, no other flavors, fresh though. assumed pickles made in house per food items claimed to be made in house.

                1. Gotta give a shout out to the tartar sauce at The Monte Carlo in SF's Bayview, just off the Third Street line. In my original post, I described it as densely pickled. I'd say it had about 4x the normal concentration of minced pickle.


                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    I love the pickled veggies (incl Cucumber) that come with your sandwich at Barbacco. I always ask for more pickles and they are really nice about it too.

                    Next on my list are the pickles from Brooklyn Brine.


                  2. At a gathering Sunday I had a chance to try Lay's Dill Pickle potato chips. Pretty salty and very thin like regular Lay's, these are strongly flavored with dill extract and pickle seasonings and taste just like dill pickles.

                    1. We ordered the "pot of pickles" tonight at Jasper's Tap Room. For $4, this was a huge serving, with 5 or 6 different types of pickles (including pickled rhubarb). The mix included both full-sized pickled cukes and little cornichons. Very vinegary tasting (in a pleasant way), good texture and a great deal for a plentiful serving, more than adequate when split three ways.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: pane

                        I was also there for these pickles, and I took a picture. The cucumbers were good, but in my opinion not the highlight. I liked the carrots, string beans, and onions best....but there was also cauliflower, pepper, rhubarb (which I thought was too sour), radishes, cornichons, and cucumbers. Like pane says, a good deal for $4

                        We also had an order of the sausage bites, from the snacks menu, and this was *not* a good deal considering it was $5. By "bites" they apparently meant "slices of kielbasa," of which there were exactly 5. All together, they would not have even made up a whole sausage.

                      2. We ended up at Lark Creek Steak, where I ordered a hamburger that arrived with house-made pickle slices. The burger was quite salty and very good, but the pickle slices were a revelation. There was something strange, yet pleasing about the spice mixture, so I asked the waiter, who identified the not-secret secret ingredient as cinnamon. First reaction: gross. And yet it was awesome. A+ for hamburger pickle at Lark Creek.

                        1. The full sour at Beauty Bagel's weren't very good. They use big fat cucumbers that are so over pickled and soft you can almost gum them. The pickling solution is a mixture of salt and vinegar.

                          As an alert, Plum Bar's current pickle jar doesn't contain any cucumber, but has pieces of peeled eggplant that look deceptively like cucumber spears.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: hyperbowler

                            A tip from another thread indicated that they have a different pickle supplier now. Today, the chunk of pickle that came with my sandwich had a nice pep and was very crunchy. The whole dill I picked up was also very good and fresh.

                          2. If and when I recover from this head cold and have taste buds intact, then I will be at Pauli's

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: Cynsa

                              I quite like the pickles that you can get as a condiment with the burger at Super Duper burger. Some of my friends think they are too sour but I think they are really tangy and complement the juicy fatty burger perfectly.

                              1. re: osho

                                not too sour! I think it adds a lovely counterbalance to grease. uh, juicy fatty burger. : )

                                1. re: osho

                                  Love those pickles! They use an herb or something that I recognize, but can't ever put my finger on.

                                2. re: Cynsa

                                  here's a fine pickle at the National Heirloom Exposition in Santa Rosa September 11-13
                                  I didn't want to carry the jar of dill pickles all day and planned to stop on my way out of the exposition to purchase a jar to take home - my bad - sold out.

                                  1. re: Cynsa

                                    The sign says Wild West Ferments of Point Reyes Station.

                                  2. re: Cynsa

                                    Pauli's pickles are $1 at Jersey's on Sixth
                                    the weekly special was a tasty meatloaf sandwich and the pickle is lovely.

                                  3. We had some delicious bread & butter pickles at Dempsey's Restaurant & Brewery in Petaluma. I usually don't like bread & butter pickles because they can be cloyingly sweet, but these were just wonderful, tangy and a bit sweet with a mustardy finish. We liked them so much that we got some to go.

                                    1. the melt (berkeley) includes a full length split spear with their sammie..
                                      -very good crunch
                                      -not too sour.....
                                      -better than the oversalted chips...

                                      1. the pickled onions that are served with nopa's burger always make me happy

                                        1. I'm surprised that no one's mentioned Jerk'N Pickle in San Mateo yet... I like everything I've tried from their FM stand. If you go to the College of San Mateo Market on Saturdays, you can try all 7 kinds of their cucumber pickles... I especially love the tarragon chips and my DH loves the barrel fermented...
                                          Although off topic a bit, I really love their picked green beans too (the picked beets are great as well).
                                          Btw, Pickles are the perfect diet food... I stock up anytime I need to loose weight, so my fridge is currently filled with pickles!

                                          1. Happy Girl Kitchen Co. is at eat real 2012 now 9/21-9/23
                                            seling pickled cucumbers, veggies in bottles, boxes.
                                            -picked up a "pickle box " (5) with lots of different pickled veggies.
                                            pickles not so sour but other veggies were.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: shanghaikid

                                              I tried Happy Girl pickles this afternoon at Eat Real. While the woman in the pickle suit was a kick, the cucumber pickles were not so good. Too soft and mushy.

                                              More about the Eat Real Festival

                                              1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                yep, the big one mushy and soft, small one crunchier more sour. not enough eats to judge...

                                            2. Saul's doesn't automatically give you pickles, but if you request them, you get a few for free. For two people, we got four quarter spears. The half sour was so tiny, I can't really offer an opinion. The dill was a tiny bit soft but otherwise perfect-- not remarkable, not fancy, but the exact flavor of the pickles I grew up with in NY.

                                              1. Also tasted at the weekend's Eat Real Festival . . .

                                                Sinto Gourmet's Spicy Cucumbers are great. A pickle slice Korean-style, they're not listed on this kimchi specialist's website even. Ingredients are cucumber, jalapeño, yellow onion, garlic, ginger, water, rice vinegar, soy sauce, sugar. Not shy with samples, these pickles demonstrated a solid crispness in three different bites. Intensely flavored, they're spicy, savory and salty with a rounded acidity mellowed by a touch of sweetness that's just enough to soften and balance out the hot/tart elements but not really register as sugary. With the ginger, onion and soy sauce permeating the cucumbers, these offer the illusion of eating an umami-laden meal instead of just acting as a palate cleanser.

                                                A reminder that there's a much bigger world of cucumber pickles out there than just dills.

                                                Studebaker is better known for pickled onions and haricot verts. The dill cucumber pickles are vinegar-based with a bright acidic treble note, quite plain, and showing but modest dill intensity. The small sample I had was too mushy for my taste.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                  I also tasted some pickles at the Eat Real Festival, from the Grilled Cheese Guy stand. Chunks of cucumber and garlic, in a brine of vinegar and lots of mustard seeds. I found these pickles almost too powerful..each bite made my mouth pucker up and made me almost cringe when I was eating...but after I swallowed, the aftertaste was great, and I found myself wanting to eat more. These went well with the grilled cheese, but were a bit intense on their own.

                                                2. A recent order from San Francisco's Mission Chinese Food was a chance to try its version of Szechuan pickles. Salt-cured, the pickles included Napa cabbage, red chili, cucumber, peanuts with skin on, the ubiquitous fresh slivered ginger, and chopped cilantro. Medium sour and quite salty, the pickle blend had some red chili oil for extra bite. The cucumber part of the equation was cut into thickish chunks, fairly well saturated with the brine, and on the soft side. But the whole was greater than the sum of the parts and I enjoyed the pickles in total.

                                                  More about MCF:


                                                  1. Jack's Prime in San Mateo serves deep-fried pickles. They're featured in the Great With Beer Burger, $10.45, slipped in between the bun or as a side order served with smoky Russian dressing. The thin beer batter fried up to a golden, grease-less crunch. Compared to my previous experience with fried pickle spears, using long slices of dill pickle is a much superior geometry with greater adhesion of the batter. Loved the crunch and juiciness the fried slices added to the mouthful of burger and the zing of dill-ish tartness. Didn't think I'd want to eat anything deep-fried after August's fried chicken binge followed by last month's bhaturas, but these pickles woke me up again. Worth it.

                                                    More about Jack's Prime here,

                                                    1. Last cucumber pickle report for the month: Hapa Ramen's homemade pickles. A friend was a backer for the recent kickstarter campaign and gave me her funding gift.

                                                      The pickles were fermented with Sake kasu (酒粕) and also flavored with kombu (kelp). Some of the organic cucumbers were peeled, others left skin on, which made for an attractive appearance and different textures. The acidity's quite mild and gentle. Less salty than I expected, these had a slightly wine-y or maybe I should say sake taste, as well as a bit of sugar rounding out the aftertaste. Though packed in a Mason jar, these were not processed for shelf-stability and need to stay refrigerated.


                                                      Really enjoyed this traditional style of Japanese pickle and will learn how to make them myself next season.

                                                      1. Bona in Menlo Park serves a nice pickle cream soup. Creamy, potato thickened, and lots of tasty shredded pickles. Pic and more Bona details here: