If you’re into deep-fried preserves, pickle-flavored ice cream and street fairs, the venn diagram of your interests probably has an intersection waiting to be labeled “Pickle Day Festival.”
New York City’s Pickle Day festival can be traced back 20 years, originating with a handful of street vendors in a parking lot on Broome Street. Fast forward to last Sunday, and the fair extended across three city blocks, located on Orchard Street between Bowery and Houston Street. Lined with stalls selling everything from brine slushies to dill pickle sandwiches, it is a celebration of all things pickled and preserved.
I arrived early, hoping to catch some of the vendors before they got too busy. But this effort was in vain because at 11:30 a.m., half an hour before the festival was scheduled to begin, the lines at most stalls were already serpentine. It didn’t take long for me to realize why: almost all vendors at the fair follow the customer-friendly marketing practice of giving out free samples. Sweet, sour, spicy — I sampled every type of pickle in existence, and then some, for free! Some highlights included the kimchi-flavored pickle that made my tongue burn for hours and the preserved mango-flavored sorbet.
Further into the fair, the spread transitioned from literal pickled cucumbers into offshoots of pickle-themed foods: cinnamon apple jam, kimchi dumplings, preserved mango segments and so on. Among the more left-field creations, macaroni and cheese with pickle bits and peanut butter-pickle ice cream exceeded all expectations.
Perhaps Pickle Day’s most popular product, its pièce de résistance, was the deep-fried pickle on a stick — the stickle, if you will. For $10, those so inclined can get a spiralized, deep-fried pickle with a choice of dipping sauce. I went with ranch, and let me tell you, it changed my life (and burnt my lip).
For those not as interested in the more niche parts of Pickle Day, the festival also checks all the boxes of a standard New York City street fair — music, merchandise, a wide variety of lemonades and, of course, perogies from Veselka. A solid Sunday afternoon, regardless of whether you’re passionate about pickles, or just need a pick(le)-me-up.
Email Aastha Vij at [email protected]