BY HELEN KLEIN & HEATHER J. CHIN
If you’ve never thought about pickles and poetry simultaneously, then a new restaurant in Park Slope will have you rethinking your entire approach to those sour tidbits too often treated as add-ons.
The Pickle Shack is one of the most exciting launches the borough’s dining scene has seen recently, pairing artisanal pickles with craft beers from Delaware-based Dogfish Head Brewery.
Launched by Brooklyn Brine owner Shamus Jones with long-time friend chef Neal Harden, the Shack features a carefully curated all-vegetarian menu of sandwiches, small plates and desserts.
The concept was a natural, noted Harden, because “People love pickles and beer.” The pickled vegetables at the Shack are especially fantastic, reflecting the skill of picklers in-house and at Brooklyn Brine.
The Seasonal Pickle Plate ($7) is an elegant selection of five different vegetables, which change often. We sampled Sauerruben (rutabagas prepared like sauerkraut that was light and surprisingly delicate); “Spanish style” pickled okra enhanced by smoked paprika, thyme and cumin; crunchy fermented fennel whose licoricy taste was perfectly complemented by a touch of lemon; delightfully sharp lime radish kimchee; and little rounds of hop pickle whose brine includes one of Dogfish Head’s signature beers.
We also tried Fried Hop Pickles with preserved lemon aioli ($6), which took the fairground favorite to a whole new level, and Cornmeal Battered Oyster Mushrooms ($8), whose similarity to seafood was enhanced by homemade cocktail sauce.
Another choice appetizer is the Warm Rye Berry Salad ($11), a virtuoso example of the Shack’s way of combining and contrasting ingredients, the nutty rye berries studded with chopped walnuts, and topped with slices of buttery Macoun apple, a crescent of sweet acorn squash and spears of smoky grilled kale, bound with spicy whole grain mustard.
We also sampled two sandwiches, both accompanied by a pickle spear. The Aged Cheddar ($9) combines Vermont farmhouse cheese with house-made chutney-like Branston Pickle and grilled onion, cradled by a baguette from local bakery Runner & Stone. The cheddar is made with vegetable rennet, making it suitable for vegetarians; there’s also a house-cultured cashew cheese for vegans.
The grilled bread holding together the sandwich of Charred Eggplant with Capers and Mint, Grilled Baby Artichokes and Harissa Pickled Carrot ($11) also comes from Runner & Stone. It’s a perfect match for the succulent filling which showcased individual flavors while allowing them to harmonize in a most satisfying way.
Drinking a glass of craft ale or beer is key to enjoying the full Shack experience. There are around 25 different ones available at any time, representing an impressive range of light and dark varieties. On the lighter end, we enjoyed the Namaste ($6), a wheat beer brewed with lemongrass. The Dogfish Head 60 minute IPA was like liquid amber, a classic and still relatively light beer that when drunk alongside the Hop Pickles brewed with it, brings out the pickles’ tang and slightly spicy notes. On the darker end, the Palo Santo is a dark stout that tastes faintly of caramel and vanilla. Draft beers run $6-9, bottles run $4-28, and wines are sold by the glass ($6-9).
There’s always room for dessert at the Shack. We tried Blueberry Hand Pie with bourbon-spiked vanilla ice cream ($9), which was indulgent without being cloying. The ice cream was rich and cool, providing a delightful contrast to the pie’s thick, comforting crust encasing a filling of tiny, sweet Maine blueberries.
It was a satisfying conclusion to a fabulous meal, prepared with passion and precision.
We will definitely be back.
256 Fourth Avenue
Brooklyn NY 11215
Monday-Friday: noon-11 p.m.; bar till 1 a.m.
Saturday: Brunch, noon- 4 p.m., dinner till 11 p.m.; bar till 1 a.m.
Sunday: Brunch, noon- 4 p.m., dinner till 9 p.m.
Call for delivery information.