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The rise of the frickle

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Scott Hume

(Read caption) An advertisement for deep fried pickles on the menu at the Harvey's burger chain in Canada.

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Long dill pickle slices have been something of a signature on burgers served at Canada’s Harvey’s chain. But now its customers have a new topping/side option: deep-fried dill pickle spears.

Sometimes called “frickles,” deep-fried pickles aren’t new, especially on Southern and Low country menus where they’ve long been favorites. Now they’re appearing more often on burger bar menus, where they pair nicely with burgers.

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“We are well known as a chain for the pickles we top our burgers with, so it was a natural transition to offer a great deep fried pickle as well,” says Ken Harrison, brand manager for the 55-year-old, 250+ unit chain.

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You can’t just rush into the world of frickles. There are questions to be asked and answered first:

  • Pickle spears or pickle chips?
  • Dills or bread & butter pickles?
  • Battered or breaded?
  • Served with the traditional side of ranch dressing or something better?

“We debated going with a spear versus a chip,” says Harrison. “We tried a number of different recipes and what we settled on delivers on the crisp, juicy pickle that our guests have come to love topping our burgers.  We also felt that the spear was a more filling eat that fit in well with snacking occasions.  Finally, we just generally have seen more prominence of the pickle spear on Canadian restaurant menus versus the chips, so it was something that our guests were already searching for.

“We tried a variety of different options on the coating as well, and where we landed was a breading that is nice and crispy but doesn’t outshine the pickle itself.  It has done great on our menu, and we get our fair share of pictures from guests showing us how great it tastes as a topping on a burger, too.”

AJ Bombers in Milwaukee celebrates Frickle Fridays, serving crumb-dusted dill slices. Celebrity chef Richard Blais’s Flip Burger Boutique in Atlanta, Birmingham and Nashville opts for bread & butter pickles. DMK Burger Bar in Chicago deep fries okra along with its pickles. Bill’s Bar & Burger in New York City fries, dill pickle chips plus banana and jalapeňo peppers. GM Burger Bar in Rockville Center, N.Y., does batter-fried jalapeňo slices. SpritzBurger in Chicago goes way out and opts for panko-coated deep-fried beet slices, served with citrus goat-cheese dip..

And the coating? It’s a tempura batter at Abbey Burger Bistro in Baltimore. Many others—including Citizen Burger Bar in Charlottesville and Arlington, Va..—choose a beer batter. For extra crunch, Chef Emeril Lagasse coats his pickles with panko breadcrumbs at Burgers & More by Emeril in Bethlehem, Pa. In keeping with the heritage, Juniper: A Southern Table & Bar in St. Louis dredges pickles in spiced cornmeal.

Burger bars have become masters of condiments so it isn’t surprising that there isn’t agreement on the perfect dipping sauce for fried pickles. Ranch is traditional, but ranch is boring. Town Hall Tap in Minneapolis serves its breaded and fried, cream-cheese-stuffed kosher pickle chips with jalapeňo blackberry chutney. Not boring. Blue Door Pub in St. Paul, Minn., serves the same garlic aïoli it offers with its deep-fried Spam bites. Some other choices: apricot sauce (The Counter); wasabi mayo (Burgers 2 Beer, Highland heights, Ohio); chipotle mayo (Emeril); sriracha sauce (Luxe Burger Bar, Providence, R.I.); horseradish aïoli (Cowfish); curry mayo (Little Goat, Chicago); and garlic-dill sauce (Romers Burger Bar, Vancouver).