Workin’ the Gherkin

Written by Gwen Ashley Walters Category: Three Bites Issue: April 2015
Group Mid-Level
Character count 2500

As a burger topper or all by their lonesomes, fried pickles put the thrill in dill.

Armadillo Grill
1904 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix,
It is no secret Southerners will fry anything: okra, green tomatoes and yes, dill pickles. While frying a pickle sounds like something a pregnant woman might dream up, the crunchy, mouth-puckering treat is trending with modern chefs, too. Armadillo Grill, known to fans as the ‘Dillo, is a favorite haunt of restaurant industry folks, and here’s an insider tip: Though he typically serves them as spears, Chef Azael Becerra is happy to slice the pickle into “chips,” too (pictured). Many places start with a freezer bag of pre-cut pickles, but Becerra starts from scratch. A kosher dill pickle is sliced – into spears or chips as you wish – and dusted with seasoned flour before getting a dunk in an egg wash and a roll in panko bread crumbs. He fries the pickles to dark golden brown and serves them with a tart ranch-style dipping sauce. ($7.99, plain or Cajun-spiced.)

Relish Burger Bistro
6000 E. Camelback Rd., Scottsdale,
Chef Alex Curtis has a secret ingredient in his fried pickles ($8) and it gives the spears a noticeable crunch. “We add a little cornmeal to the beer batter, just enough to give it texture,” he says. He uses a local brew – the floral, hoppy Phoenix Pale Ale – in the batter, and a healthy pinch of cayenne gives the spears a throat-warming kick. The buttermilk ranch dipping sauce is also made in-house, and if you really want to kick it up a notch, ask for the jalapeño ranch sauce.  

Charr, An American Burger Bar
777 E. Thunderbird Rd., Phoenix, 602-993-2427,
When asked why the burger bar’s fried pickles ($6.50) are so darn tasty, cook Joshua Meek winks and says: “Love and care.” With special, loving attention to the details, Meek starts by slicing a whole dill pickle into 1/4-inch chips and coats them in a garlicky Bud Light beer batter the kitchen crew has perfected over the years. Fried to a pale golden brown, the chips make a delightful audible crunch when biting into them. Instead of a ranch-style dipping sauce, these habit-forming chips get revved up with a smoky chipotle-spiced mayo.