The Upper West Side has long been home to great Jewish smoked fish, via Barney Greengrass, Murray’s, and Zabars, and – now – brings some down home spicy southern cooking to the mix. Jacob’s Pickles is a sprawling, brick walled restaurant on the UWS. It specializes in homemade pickles, artisanal beers and cocktails, and good old-fashioned southern food. Expect to see groups of girls there for girls night out, friends coming out after studying at grad school, even families with young kids. This place really runs the gamut – more family oriented earlier in the evening, and a place to grab a few beers and get a little rowdier later and on weekends. It is ideal for either date night or a group event.
The extensive beer list offers something for everyone, even self-proclaimed beer-o-phobes. Allagash White is crisp, light, and extremely food friendly. It has enough of a yeasty, wheaty taste to stand up to spicy, hearty dishes, but is not so strong as to bitter or overly heavy. This is a winner among beer experts and novices alike.
Home-made Pickles are the best way to start the meal here. Go for a sampler with the spicy Hot Sours, sweet Candy Red Beets, Moroccan-influenced sweet and spicy carrots, and pickled Thyme Jalapenos. The pickles are all made in house, and come presented in fun mason jars, perfect for sharing.
Orange zest country sausage, freshcut fries, braised cabbage, and spicy brown mustard is an outstanding entrée. This sausage is coarsely ground and really eats like a pork chop. It is rustic and hearty with a strong porky taste mixed with bright orange and a few licorice-y fennel seeds strewn without. The fries are exemplary – fresh cut, skin on, and crispy, but even better is the cabbage. A soft mound of it, sweet and juicy, lays under the fries. So delicate and fresh tasting, it is like sauerkraut’s more genteel sister. Delicious and perfect to cut through the fat of the sausage. Eat it with some of the accompanying mustard for a bracing punch of flavor.
Shrimp and bacon grits, made with whole wild shrimp, continue the traif dining affair.
These shrimp are cooked with the head, then deveined and shelled for your dining pleasure. Briny and full flavored, these taste overtly like seafood - a bit muddy for me, but my companion wolfed them down. They are served in a garlicky, savory broth and ladled over smooth, creamy grits strewn with crisp bacon and redolent of smoky pork fat. Pork and shellfish have a natural affinity for one another; the sweetness, saltiness, and smokiness balancing each other out, and when combined with luscious polenta, the combination works well yet again.
Service here is fast and friendly, the vibe is relaxed, and the seriously long beer and cocktail list is worth coming back for alone. But the food is so delicious and fairly priced, you won’t be able to deny ordering some pickles and a pork product – always the best follow-up to some great Jewish deli food.