Food News

Pickletopia: An Old-School Specialty Store Stays on Top of the Latest Trends

Barrels of pickled vegetables
Barrels of pickled vegetables Kristina Rowe
You can’t see Pickletopia from Bryan Street, so you need to know it’s there to find it. It’s worth finding, though, so drive through the parking lot accessible from North Fitzhugh Avenue, and you can park right in front of it.

Pleasant aromas greet you when you walk into the space filled with barrels of pickled vegetables. The barrels might remind you of dill pickles you ate as a kid, but the pickled vegetables here will delight more mature palates, too.

Say yes to the samples co-owners Lee Theilen and Rick Canady offer from the dozens of offerings in the barrels. Sure, there are cucumber pickles, but there’s so much more, starting with the sauerkraut, which Theilen started making at home before opening the store in December 2018.

Theilen's traditional sauerkraut has a more complex flavor profile and significantly more crunch than you get from canned products. The shop also offers Russian kraut, which includes grated carrots and a slightly sweeter taste.

If it’s sour you’re after, cucumber pickles are offered in full and half-sour as well as horseradish, spicy and garlic pickles. Mediterranean pickles and more round out the pickle menu, and the bread-and-butter pickles are a must-try with a splendid blend of spices amid sweet and sour flavors. These might be the best bread-and-butter pickles you’ll ever eat.

click to enlarge
Pickletopia co-owners Rick Canady and Lee Theilen
Kristina Rowe
Everything in the store is made with non-GMO ingredients and is certified kosher. While the certification is largely about food preparation, “there’s also a taste profile that’s expected in kosher foods,” Theilen says.

He credits Rabbi Sholey Klein and Rabbi David Shawel of Dallas Kosher for helping him incorporate this into his recipes.

Pickle shops Theilen visited during his travels to Manhattan’s Lower East Side also shaped his vision for the specialty store. He was convinced that the food scene in Dallas would support and benefit from a pickle store and came out of retirement to open Pickletopia.

Dallas used to have more specialty stores, but as the population shifted to the suburbs in the 1970s, “there was less demand for specialty stores like mine,” Theilen says.

“People just started going to the grocery stores.”

Still the time seems right for a store like this. Creative blends of spices and brines make veggies more appetizing for those who don’t love them in their raw states but want more plant-based food in their diets.

We’re learning more all the time about the health benefits of fermented foods and probiotics, and demand for them is high.

While business has slowed during the pandemic, there’s still a stream of restaurant chefs, caterers and home cooks looking for these vegetables that are showing up in some very popular food trends.

Pickled tomatillos, onions and jalapeños are in demand as taco garnishes, and escabeche — a mix of pickled vegetables — pretties up any plate of Mexican food. Pickled okra and green beans add something special to your brunch bloody mary.

Giardiniera will spice up your sandwiches while a selection of olives presents multiple options for simple snacks, tapas plates and charcuterie boards.

click to enlarge
Pickletopia has been open in East Dallas for just over two years.
Kristina Rowe
Demand for meat and cheese boards rose in 2020, and the trend shows no signs of slowing down. Pickletopia’s delicious pickled beets and mushrooms add color and texture to your selections with flavors that complement a wide variety of board provisions.

Pickled turnips are one of the shop’s standouts and should be sampled even if you’ve never liked (or never tasted) turnips. Like all of the vegetables the store offers, you can purchase them in half-pint or pint sizes as well as quarts, half-gallons and gallons.

A whiteboard displays the newest items and off-menu items including special hot sauce blends.

Pickletopia, 4812 Bryan St., No. 102 (East Dallas)
Open 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.
KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
By day, Kristina Rowe writes documentation that helps users navigate software, and as a contributor to the Dallas Observer she helps people find their way to food and fun. A long-time list-maker, small-business fan and happiness aficionado, she's also been an Observer reader for almost 40 years.
Contact: Kristina Rowe