Deliciously Cheap Visits Picklesburgh


Vikram Mangalmurti

The giant Heinz pickle balloon floating above Roberto Clemente Bridge.

Daevan Mangalmurti, Editor

Readers, your eyes are not fooling you. After more than a year of its author lazing around and not eating food, Deliciously Cheap is back with a vengeance. Will it stay? Probably not. The author of this column is notoriously spotty when it comes to reviewing new cheap food, mostly because he can’t afford the time or money to eat anywhere besides Noodlehead and Bird on the Run. But he’s going to try to stay hungry enough, and keep his wallet full enough, to keep the articles coming. At least one more. Before he graduates. He hopes. 

Alright! With all that out of the way, let’s jump into the first person and turn to the main attraction: Picklesburgh. If you know me, you know I prefer my summers spent in the very cool, air-conditioned confines of my own home. Only one thing is capable of luring me out of that haven: food. In this case, Pittsburgh’s largest (and only?) pickle-dedicated festival, held from July 26-28 along the Roberto Clemente Bridge. Of course, the venerable pickle isn’t the only attraction: you can relish local bands, ketchup with friends, and enjoy some dill-icious pickle-related food. (Sorry about all the puns- I know they’re a little (kim)cheesy.) Now you may be asking yourself: what makes this particular event deliciously cheap? Well, a couple things. First off, enjoying the festival itself is free. Second, the very tasty food is very often reasonably priced (a first for Pittsburgh festivals). Third, the quantities of free samples are enough to make a meal on their own. 

Speaking of free samples, I had a lot of them. Free hot sauce, free pickles in bread n’ butter, jalapeño, and campfire flavors, free spicy pickle popcorn, free mustard, free kimchi, free pickle cashews, free fermented garlic honey, free cookies, free snapdragon cheese dip- the list goes on. But I’ll be honest. At a certain point, it gets hard to distinguish between the many pickles you might try, if only because different vendors often have the same flavors, just made differently. So if you have a hankering to expand your pickled horizons beyond your meal of pickles in 10 different flavors, take a second to stop by a booth selling food and open your wallet a tad to get a taste of what pickles can do when you’re paying for them. Here are some of the most interesting things I tried and saw:

  • Pork butt tacos: pulled pork with pickles, cilantro, and cotija cheese on a corn taco, these were $6 from täkō’s booth but filled your stomach quickly. They would have benefitted from a little sauce at the base of the taco, but the pulled pork was cooked perfectly.
  • Elote: a time-honored Central American dish made with corn off the cob, chili pepper, cheese, and white sauce, this is simple and delicious. Possibly the best thing I tried, coming in a large cup for only $4, again from täkō. The freshness of the corn in such a warm, slightly spicy dish makes this one of my favorite comfort foods. 
  • Fried pickle chips: it’s all in the name. These came piled high in a fairground container for $10 from Simon’s Concessions near the Downtown entrance. The quantity got to be a little much, but the mix of flavors was perfectly briny and crunchy. 
  • Boba tea: sold by Bae Bae’s Kitchen in milk tea, Thai iced tea, passionfruit, taro, and strawberry lemonade flavors. It was a little expensive at $8, but the tea came in a glass jar that could be brought back for refills. The refreshing taste of taro or passionfruit made the price worth it, especially with the sun beating down at noon. Be aware that the stand may run out of the actual boba- the drink is just that popular. 
  • Pickle-brine fried chicken: coming in at $9, $10, or $11 from Coop de Ville’s stand, these fried chicken sandwiches came in country-style, hot, and K-town flavors, all of which looked delicious. The sandwiches were about twice the size of a Bird on the Run chicken sandwich for the same price. 
  • Porchetta and pickle sandwich: $10 at the DiAnoia’s Eatery stand, these porchetta (pork roast), giardiniera (pickled vegetable relish), and pickled hot pepper sandwiches on focaccia bread were piled so high they seemed at risk of falling out of the flimsy cartons they were served in. 
  • Scotch pickled eggs: the dish I most regret not trying, these sausage encrusted pickled eggs with a spicy relish dip for $6 from Choppin’ Block’s stand looked absolutely delicious. 
  • A variety of pickled drinks, from pickle brine slushies to pickled watermelon juice for $3, that were potentially disgusting but also potentially incredible.

This is just a small selection of the many foods and goods on offer at the festival- I counted 101 stands and vendors all along the bridge and Fort Duquesne Boulevard. Besides food stalls, these included vendors selling pickle-pun t-shirts, pottery, and a variety of alcoholic drinks not meant for law-abiding under-21-year olds. All in all, the festival has enough on offer to keep you there for a couple hours sampling and buying pickle products. But get there fast! Today, July 28, is the last day, and the festival is only from 12-6. Pick(le) up the pace and go enjoy some gherkins.