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My Grillo pickle mystery

Had lunch at Commonwealth in Kendall Sq. two weeks ago, which I quite enjoyed. My pork belly banh mi came with good steak fries, a small salad and a fantastic pickle spear. Now I'm always on the lookout for a great pickle, my personal definition of which is a very sour Jewish deli-style pickle – and while I think the POE ones sold at Russo's, e.g., are okay, they don't send me over the moon. And that reminds me of the ones I adored, Moonbrine Pickles, which are no longer available since Mr. Moonbrine moved to Portland OR. And while I think Grillo's pickles are excellent, they're not quite sour enough for me.
So, back to the Commonwealth pickle. So good. On the way out, I asked the host where they bought their pickles. Grillo's, he replied. I expressed my surprise. He went to double check with the chef, who confirmed they were Grillo's. And, without my asking, they gave me a pickle in a plastic container to take home for research and enjoyment.
Now I happened to have a container of Grillo's pickles in my fridge, so I compared the two, expecting to find that I was out of my mind and the two pickles were exactly the same. But no, they were not. The Commonwealth Grillo was much better: more flavor, more tang, more sour. Perhaps Grillo's was making a special pickle for Commonwealth?
Well, the other day I was in the Fresh Pond Whole Foods and Travis Grillo himself was there handing out pickle samples. I asked him about the Commonwealth pickle. He said they were the same dills he sells to the public. The only difference, he explained, was that he sells the pickles to restaurants in 4-gallon containers. Maybe, he suggested, the pickle I had at Commonwealth was an aging, soggy pickle that had soaked in more brine.
Maybe it was. Maybe I should buy a container of Grillo dills and leave it in the back of my fridge for a few months.
Anyhow, while we were talking I tried a sample of one of Travis's hot dills, which I liked more than I remembered – not too hot and tastier than the regualr Grillo dills. I bought a container, which I'm digging a lot. But my search for pickle perfection continues.

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  1. I like "old" dills much more than new dills and prefer Ba-Tempte to POE.

    I've left Grillo's in the fridge for a while. It brought out too much sweetness.

    1. katzzz, your post epitomizes why I love chowhound. Excellent sleuthing. I've found variance in grillo's pickles myself, but haven't associated it with "fridge-aging". Some batches just seem tangier.

      1. Maitland Mountain in salem make very good pickles, not sour but tangy and flavorful with a bit of spice.

        1 Reply
        1. re: phatchris

          You can find the Maitland Farm Pickles year round at Milk and Honey in Salem.

        2. They'll keep going as long as you let them, faster at room temp. They probably just don't put them in the fridge at Commonwealth.

          1 Reply
          1. Alas, Moonbrine, what I would give for one of those. I believe he will ship them out here, but the cost is fairly prohibitive.

            1. Have you tried The Pickle Guys in NYC? Their shipping isn't too bad, you get nice glass jars for post pickle use, and I think their full sours are boss. The pickled celery and green tomatoes are also really nice.

              1. What about Real Pickles? Lacto-fermented, no vinegar. They're my favorite since Moonbrine left town. Moonbrine was the best, I agree. So good. I think fermented but with a smidge of vinegar added at the end.


                1. Lergnom: I like Ba-Tempte, too. I'd rate them better than most.
                  Phatchris and Deglazer: Seems like I have more pickle research to do. Will try Maitland and Real Pickle the next time I see them in a store.
                  Luther and Striper: You bring up an interesting point: Do pickles really need refrigeration? Grillo's container says they do. But growing up in Brooklyn a half-century ago, the neighborhood delis kept pickles in big wooden barrels. I actually used to stop at one deli on the way home from school and buy a fat sour pickle (10 cents!) as a treat (no doubt the formative experience behind my current pickle quest). So back to the question: If I leave the "fresh" pickles sold in refrigerated cases sitting on a counter at room temperature, will they become more sour? Or is there a health risk?
                  Jjbourgeois: I looked at the Moonbrine website, no info about shipping. I imagine they would ship, but I'm not keen on paying the freight.
                  Kimfair1: I sampled a Pickle Guy pickle on a trip to NYC a few months ago. It was excellent. I should have bought a container to bring home.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: katzzz

                    So those deli pickles in the barrel of your (and my youth) are turned over pretty fast.

                    No health risk of leaving fresh pickles out, the healthy microorganisms that created the pickle are already well established and have crowded out anything undesirable. That said, if you open and close it a lot, and leave it out, funky stuff will get in.

                    Back to the barrel. If you leave that barrel out at room temp for even a month, the pickles inside will rapidly go to full dill then mush.

                    The conditions vary based on temp, size of the vessel, salt concentration etc, but with fresh cucumber pickles I am thinking a week or three for half dill and a month or so for dill. Then if not pasteurized or refrigerated they have to be eaten. Even refrigeration only slows things down.

                    1. re: katzzz

                      No health risk, they will just get gross eventually. Same as for kimchi, even in the fridge it will go from mild to unpleasantly sour.

                    2. I bought Moonbrine pickles not so long ago at American Provisions- long after Stu moved. Check with them!

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: pang

                        I checked with American Provisions and they no longer carry Moonbrine.

                      2. Have you had McClure's pickles? I see them at Whole Foods sometimes... they're fantastic. And their bloody mary mix with pickle brine is pretty great, too.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: wanderlust13

                          I've had McClure's and they are pretty good. They were my back up to Moonbrine.

                        2. If you are a member of BJ's, I buy the Rosoff Half Sour pickles there, and they are usually delicious. Crunchy and a bit sour, they also are packed with some chili peppers and garlic, so they do have a bit of an edge to them.

                          Once in a while, I get a container that has some soft pickles, or ones that seem hollow in the center, but I guess that's one of the downsides to a natural fermented pickle, instead of a vinegar one.