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Published May 07, 2012, 11:30 PM

Area restaurants add deep-fried pickles to menus

FARGO – While it might not do much for nutrition, deep-frying a food sure makes it seem that much tastier. Anyone who’s been to the Minnesota State Fair – or any state fair in general – would probably agree after trying memorable greasy favorites like deep-fried Oreos or Twinkies.

FARGO – While it might not do much for nutrition, deep-frying a food sure makes it seem that much tastier.

Anyone who’s been to the Minnesota State Fair – or any state fair in general – would probably agree after trying memorable greasy favorites like deep-fried Oreos or Twinkies.

Now, similar state fair fare is starting to become a staple on menus around Fargo-Moorhead. A deep-fried pickle, of all things, is increasingly common in area bars and restaurants.

Old Chicago, Hooters, Big D’s Bar & Grill and Buffalo Wild Wings all offer deep-fried pickle chips as an appetizer, while the Old Broadway Sports Zone downtown carries a full deep-fried pickle spear.

Jim Coates, general manager of Old Chicago in Fargo, says the pickle chips there have been on the menu for about a year, and are probably the best selling appetizer with customers right now.

Fred Genth, the Old Chicago corporate chef who was responsible for getting the recipe onto the chain’s menu, says he had noticed an increase in the popularity of fried pickles nationwide.

After offering the chips on an interim basis, Genth says, “They took off like gangbusters.”

The appetizer is made of crinkle-cut pickles breaded with a Sam Adams beer batter and tossed in Japanese bread crumbs. Jerk seasoning at the end gives the chips a spicy kick.

Genth is now a deep-fried pickle fan, but he admits he was a little skeptical of the idea at first.

“It was just like one of those things – fried pickles, you have to be kidding me,” he says laughing. “I tried them, and it’s something that’s real tasty.”

Over at the OB downtown, chefs are trying something a little bit different: deep-frying an whole pickle spear.

It’s only been on the menu since fall, but executive chef Daniel Miranda says bar patrons are starting to take notice.

“It’s gaining popularity,” he says. “Word of mouth always spreads.”

Miranda says the idea to put the pickle on the menu came after some employees tried a similar recipe on a trip to Las Vegas. They liked it, and suggested bringing it back here.

And while the idea might seem simple – how hard can it be to deep-fry a pickle, after all? – Miranda says it was actually a challenge to get the taste just right.

“It took me almost three weeks of research to get the pickle to where we like it,” he says, adding that he tried every beer that the OB has on tap trying to find the right fit for the batter.

Now, though, he’s happy with the final recipe, which includes some secret spices, a light beer batter and a flour mix.

“It all matches together,” he says. “It all complements each other.”

Whether it’s the pickle chips at Old Chicago or the spear at the OB, Miranda says the idea is admittedly a bit out there, which makes it understandable if patrons might be skeptical at first.

But, he adds, once people give it a try, they’ll probably like it.

“People have always loved deep-friend foods,” he says. “You can’t beat it.”

Southern specialties

The recent success and expansion of deep-fried pickles and variations thereof to Fargo is no random event, Genth says, pointing to geographical shifts in food trends in the United States.

Before getting to Fargo, for example, the pickles and the appetizers were especially popular and common in southern states.

“That’s pretty much where you’d see it,” he says. “It’s kind of like the Sweet Tea that McDonalds is selling right now – it’s very regional.”

Genth thinks that one reason southern cuisine in particular often tends to make its way to other geographies is because it’s usually a comfort food that everyone can enjoy.

But, in general, it’s not just southern food that can find its way to other parts of the country, Genth says. Rather, that trend is common of cuisines from other geographies as well.

“There is a good geographically shift in a lot of food products,” he says. “Usually it starts on the two coasts and makes its way to the center, but a lot of times it starts in the south and makes its way up.”

In the end, though, all it really takes is a good idea or recipe, Miranda adds, and people will find out about it.

“If it’s a great product, people will try to do their own,” he says. “If it’s good food, we’ll see it.”


Readers can reach Forum reporter Sam Benshoof at (701) 241-5535

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