Fried Pickles: A Vegetarian's Solace in a Meat-Sodden City

Dallas, I've been feeling a little bit left out. You've been great to me so far: The bars are plentiful; my rent is cheap; my boss sent me on assignment to a strip club. Everything should be awesome, right? 

Not quite. 

Frankly, eating's been a little bit of a problem. Here's the thing about dining in Dallas, in case you didn't know: You guys like meat. Tacos al pastor, brisket, burgers -- for somebody who's enthused about cow, it seems there's no shortage of cheap, delicious dining options. But I stopped eating meat a really long time ago, and sometimes, honestly, lunchtime's a bit of a struggle here. I have one super sweet coworker who always invites me to Chick-fil-A or Maple & Motor, then stops suddenly and gets really embarrassed, as though he's just remembered I've had a death in the family: "Hey, did you want to come with us to grab some -- oh, I forgot. I'm so sorry." 

It's not that I feel deprived or anything. Spiral Diner is amazing, Cosmic Café is tasty and really close to the office, and I've heard there are a few other great vegetarian-friendly spots I haven't even hit up yet. But it's still been an adjustment. I was feeling a little down about the whole thing the other day, and then I suddenly remembered two glorious words: fried pickles. Vegetarian. Delicious. Patently unhealthy. Everything I've been craving. I rounded up some other people from the office, and we headed out on a fact-finding expedition: Where's the best place to find fried pickles in Dallas?

Almost immediately, we got lazy and decided to go to three places, in three different parts of town. Fried pickles, they're a little tough on the digestive system, you know? Also, when I asked on Twitter and Facebook where I should go for the best ones, numerous people told me to hit Square Burger in McKinney. That's ridiculous, dudes. I'm not driving 40 minutes for a fried pickle unless it also sings to me, does my taxes and tells me I'm pretty. We decided to hit Jake's in Uptown, Snuffers in Lower Greenville, and Twisted Root in Deep Ellum. I took some pre-emptive Pepto Bismol, and we set out.

1. Jake's

We ordered both fried pickle chips and mozzarella cheese wedges here, in a bid to feel horribly unwell as quickly as possible. Both of them came to the table remarkably, almost unsettlingly uniform in shape, size and color. But as beautiful as they looked, the pickles tasted straight out of the jar, the batter was nothing to write home about, and the ranch dressing tasted like Hidden Valley. Also, I think they were playing Hootie and the Blowfish. I want to make a joke about how these pickles' beauty and boringness are a metaphor for all of Uptown, but it's too early for me to judge that yet. I'm gonna make it anyway, though: These pickles were boring! Just like Uptown!

2. Snuffers

Why are the tables so sticky here? I had to pry my notepad off the wood with both hands when it was time to go. Also, the whole place smells faintly like kitty litter. Not that I give a shit, because these pickles were amazing. We ordered a batch, plus some cheese fries with chives and jalapenos, and then proceeded to hardly speak to each other for the next 10 minutes. The pickle slices were really thick and tasted fresh, and the batter was less greasy, more bready, and didn't fall apart at all. Our service was kinda surly, but in a good-natured way. "What kind of beer do you have?" one of our party inquired. "What kind of beer do you want?" the waitress replied, sounding sort of world-weary and philosophical.

At some point, someone said something in terribly bad taste (probably me), and we all looked around to make sure the mom and kids sitting next to us weren't offended. They didn't seem to hear. "Nobody's listening!" somebody chirped cheerfully. "We're in Snuffers!" I would go back there right now for some more damn pickles, I'll tell you that much.

3. Twisted Root

At this point, I was starting to seriously doubt I could cram any more fried food in my gullet. But people had spoken highly of Angry Dog's pickles, so we headed over there. Then they were closed for a private party (it looked lame), so we opted for Twisted Root, and, unfortunately, the worst fried pickle experience yet. The good side: The ranch was excellent, zingy and homemade-tasting. But the pickles were unbearably salty. Like, inedibly salty. "These taste unloved," a coworker said mournfully.

At this point, I was feeling rather pukey, so I did the only reasonable thing and ordered an Oreo milkshake. It was excellent. If this were a milkshake review, Twisted Root would get nothing but love from me. Maybe next time we should try the pickles earlier in the day. It was nearly 10 p.m., and the batter tasted a bit like it had been hanging around since lunchtime.

So: Did we miss any really amazing ones? As I said, I'm not driving an hour for fried pickles.  But feel free leave me some more suggestions in the comments, and I can try to get to them, as part of an ongoing series that I'll call "Holy shit, my stomach is killing me and I can't understand why."

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Anna Merlan
Contact: Anna Merlan